You’re Not an OC Local If You Haven’t Tried at Least 7/12 of These Amazing Tacos
Southern California may be known for its stunning ocean views and breezy lifestyle, but the food scene is in a league of its own! California cuisine is the result of pairing fresh local agriculture with deliciously multicultural roots—and a large part of these roots stem from Mexico and Latin America. Best Tacos Orange County
While we’re huge fans of Mexican food in general, we want to taco ‘bout a dish that’s near and dear to our hearts. Whether you like them doused in salsa or piled so high the tortilla nearly splits, tacos are a quintessential part of SoCal eating—especially in Orange County. So without further ado, here are 12 tacos you have to try in OC!
Best Tacos Orange County
1 | Hermosa Taqueria
Must-Try Taco: Birria and Al Pastor Tacos
These tacos are so tasty, we can’t pick just one! Located inside The District at Union Market Tustin, Hermosa Taqueria is serving up birria and al pastor tacos that will keep you coming back for more. The birria taco features tender Guajillo-braised beef, which is contrasted beautifully by pickled red onions and herbaceous cilantro; the al pastor taco is stacked with a symphony of flavors, including succulent achiote-marinated pork shoulder, Fresno chile, juicy pineapple and a fresh garnish of cilantro to brighten it up. Both are served on hand-pressed corn tortillas and topped with housemade salsas that bring just the right amount of kick.
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Hermosa Taqueria offers $3 off taco combos and $2 off margaritas and beer.
2 | Playa Mesa
Must-Try Taco: Birria Taco
The only thing that could make Playa Mesa’s mouthwatering birria short rib better is by topping it with melty Oaxacan cheese, savory consomme and fresh onions and cilantro. But the restaurant doesn’t stop there—they take this flavorful mix and encase it in freshly made corn tortillas that are still piping hot from the comal. The restaurant is inspired by the flavors of mainland Mexico and coastal Baja, so get ready for a refreshed interpretation of authentic recipes that still respect tradition!
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Enjoy a special menu with tacos for $3.50 and margaritas for $8 all day!5/2
3 | Puesto Best Tacos Orange County
Must-Try Taco: Filet Mignon Taco
Founded by first-generation Mexican Americans, Puesto has rocked the SoCal taco world with its inspired flavors and chef-forward dishes. One taco we simply can’t get out of our minds is the filet mignon taco. It starts with a signature, hand-pressed blue corn tortilla smothered in a layer of crispy melted cheese. The tender marinated filet mignon is then topped with creamy avocado and a spicy pistachio serrano salsa. Are you hungry yet?
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Puesto offers special prices on Tuesdays starting at 3 p.m. for all locations except for Huntington Beach, which begins at 4 p.m.
Must-Try Taco: Volcano Taco
What do you get when you pile sweet agave-glazed shrimp, savory ranchero steak, tres quesos and smoky serrano chiles on top of a blue corn and a flour tortilla, then serve it all with queso fresco, habanero-pickled red onions, avocado toreado salsa and volcano salsa? You get the show-stopping Volcano Taco from Descanso! And while we feel that any dish from Descanso is a total winner, there’s something about this sweet, smoky and spicy taco that always hits the spot.
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Every Tuesday at 5 p.m., Descanso turns its Plancha Room into a streetside taco stand and serves $2 tacos, $3 quesadillas, $4 beers and $6 margaritas.
5 | Taco María
Must-Try Taco: Jardineros Taco
As one of two restaurants with a Michelin Star in Orange County, Taco María is representing Costa Mesa with its incredible “Alta California” taco craft. And with Chef Carlos Salgado at the helm and the Jardineros Taco on the menu, it’s easy to see why! This dish is everything you could ever want from a vegetarian taco: the rich mushroom chorizo brings the heat and is complemented by crispy potatoes and creamy queso fundido. It’s a veggie taco that even carnivores will love!
Must-Try Taco: Crispy Taco
You simply can’t go wrong with a crispy taco from Avila’s El Ranchito! Each is made with your choice of shredded chicken or beef, freshly shredded lettuce, a sprinkle of cheese and chunky tomato salsa encased in a perfectly crunchy tortilla—a total classic! Speaking of classics, Avila’s has been an OC staple since 1975, and with 12 locations in Orange County alone, you’re sure to have one to visit near you. Want to take the crispy taco to the next level? Order a Tacotini for a delicious surprise.
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Avila’s El Ranchito offers specials on Taco Tuesday, but be sure to check your favorite location for all the deets!
Avila’s El Ranchito
Locations: Corona Del Mar, Costa Mesa, Foothill Ranch, Huntington Beach, Lake Forest, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach, Orange, Santa Ana, San Clemente and Seal Beach
7 | Urbana Best Tacos Orange County
Must-Try Taco: Lobster Taco
Located inside the Anaheim Packing District, Urbana is serving up some of the most delicious Michoacan-inspired food this side of the border. And oOne star of the menu is none other than the delicious lobster taco. Made with tender lobster, fresh avocado, queso fresco and a chipotle aioli sauce that brings just the right amount of heat, this dish will have you feeling like you’re on a (much-needed) tropical getaway!
Must-Try Taco: Spicy “Popcorn” Cauliflower
Looking for a crunchy, fried delight without feeling too heavy? This spicy “popcorn” cauliflower is just what you’re looking for. Sol Mexican Cocina is always pushing the envelope when it comes to creative Baja-inspired cuisine, and these tacos are definitely a crowd favorite. They’re packed with spicy beer-battered cauliflower, shredded cabbage, coconut-avocado salsa, fresh pico de gallo, onions, cilantro and lime—AKA everything you need for an indulgent, not-super-sinful treat.
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Every Tuesday starting at 3 p.m., you can indulge in taco specials, $5 margaritas and live music at every Sol Mexican Cocina location.
Locations: Irvine, Newport Beach
9 | Wild Taco
Must-Try Taco: Wild Fish of the Day Taco
After a long day of soaking up the sun, every OC local knows that the best post-beach pick-me-up is a fresh fish taco! When we’re so close to the beach, there’s nothing tastier than sinking your teeth into the catch of the day, and Wild Taco shares that sentiment! Served with your choice of handmade flour or corn tortillas and topped with whatever best complements the fish, this menu staple is anything but a dish out of water.
Locations: Laguna Beach, Newport Beach
10 | Great Mex Grill
Must-Try Taco: Crispy Potato Taco
With three locations in Orange County, Great Mex Grill has been filling happy bellies for over 16 years with delicious food at affordable prices. If you’re looking for the ultimate comfort food, the crispy potato taco should be your next order. There’s something about the mix of flavors and textures that really makes it so mouthwatering. The melty cheese and soft, warm potato contrast beautifully with the cool, crisp lettuce and the crunchy taco shell—while it’s probably not great for the waistline, it’s definitely good for the soul!
11 | El Toro Bravo
Must-Try Taco: Carnitas Taco
When you bite into one of El Toro Bravo’s carnitas tacos, you might wonder what makes it so delicious. Here’s a hint: it has to do with how the restaurant sources and prepares their quality meats. El Toro Bravo only gets their meat from known suppliers, and their cooking process consists of a 24-hour marinade before they grill it up to juicy, succulent perfection. So the next time you’re enjoying the delicious carnitas, remember that it was made with passion, patience and tenderness in mind!
🌮 Taco Tuesday: Head to El Toro Bravo for $3 beers and street tacos for $1.50 (or get four for $4.99)!
12 | The Taco Stand
Must-Try Taco: Nopal Taco
A San Diego favorite, The Taco Stand’s Orange County location has become fast friends with the locals! And that’s partially thanks to one of the eatery’s favorite dishes: the nopal taco. A common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, nopales (cactus) is a delicious vegetarian option. In this taco, tender and slightly tart cactus is topped with tomato, avocado and melted cheese and then drizzled with cilantro sauce. Watching your dairy intake? No worries—The Taco Stand can substitute the cheese with beans.
Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.