Ten Best Tacos in Broward and Palm Beach Counties

The taco; it's one of the most ingenious expressions of culinary creativity, a tiny conveyor of meat, vegetable, sauce and cheese held together in a small flap of corn or flour.

Across Central and South America the methodology of construction varies from one country to the next -- and here in South Florida, from one establishment to the next. Today, we have more incarnations than we can count.

One thing they all have in common, however: they're cheap enough for everybody to enjoy on any budget.

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No matter where you live, there always seems to be one you have to drive across town to taste. While many of us obsess about the idea of what makes a perfect taco, it's starting to become a battle of culinary expression over cultural authenticity. That means stepping outside the carnitas and carne asada box.

No matter how you like your taco, there's bound to be one in South Florida that will delight your taste buds. So here it is, the ten best tacos in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

10. Rocco's Tacos

By now everyone in South Florida has had at least one Rocco's Tacos taco. This trendy, upbeat Mexican restaurant came on the scene in 2008, a newcomer to the downtown West Palm Beach neighborhood promising plenty of tequila, fresh-made guacamole and -- yes -- meat and veggie-filled tortillas. Six years -- and seven additional locations later -- Rocco's Tacos is now an official part of the South Florida party scene, and owner Rocco Mangel himself is known to perform his special "tequila dance" on top of the bar while pouring guests shots of tequila. And what of those tacos? For the standard taco menu you'll have your choice of hard corn, handmade soft corn or flour tortillas with chicken, pork, steak or "hongos" -- a veggie-based mix of mushroom, manchego cheese, garlic and crema. Each are served with a good dose of toppings including taco sauce, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, pickled red onion and cotija cheese. Needing some more spice in your life? The tacos de calle (street tacos) are just what you're looking for, served in a trio from the Brooklyn featuring pork belly, padron peppers, tomatillo jam, smoky peanut salsa caccahuate, sour orange crema, cilantro and onion to the Quatro Cochinitas with pork belly, smoked bacon, chorizo and pulled pork.

9. Taco Prince

This Boca Raton gem is hidden in plain site, spot on the northbound side of Federal Highway in Boca Raton. The name -- Prince -- is most certainly a harbinger of the food to come, creative menu items that are sure to gain popularity with the masses despite being under the shadow of bigger, nearby king of the taco establishments like Rocco's Tacos and Chipotle. How? A California burrito that's stuffed with French fries, steak, cheese, guacamole and chopped tomato, that's how. But that's not what we're here for. Instead, we're going for the "award-winning" ground beef tacos, a pair of hard-shells lined with a thin layer of seasoned rice before a heaping pile of seasoned beef, crumbled cotija cheese and a splash of chipotle sauce. Despite the few ingredients, the flavor comes from the beef -- cooked almost picadillo style -- with a twang of zest from the combination of spices cooked with pea, green olive and potato. Of course, there's also steak, mahi, shrimp or chicken to satisfy that taco craving.

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8. Oli's Fashion Cuisine

Oli's Fasion Cuisine, with locations in Wellington and downtown West Palm Beach, serves up a wide-ranging, American-style menu that covers everything from pasta and flatbreads, to salads and shrimp and grits. Mexican cuisine? Not so much. However, the small plate ahi tuna taco starter gets a spot on this list because it's so unique, we can't help but love it all the same. What you'll get: three heaping piles of fresh pink ahi tuna stuffed into crispy fried corn tortilla shells. It's accented with ponzu sauce, sesame rice and a spicy aioli for an Asian-inspired taco plate that's worth the $14 price tag.

7. El Camino

Although his family is from Mexico, El Camino executive chef Victor Meneses grew up stateside in New Mexico, cooking alongside his mother learning the family recipes at a young age. Schooled at the L'Acadamie de Cuisine in Maryland, he also spent five years learning from the likes of Michel Richard and Todd Gray cooking everything from French to Italian. Mexican, however, is where Meneses' heart is, and El Camino represents many of the unique dishes he ate as a child, but prepared with a modern touch. Chips and salsas are more authentic, given the proper texture and using ingredients sourced straight from Mexico, from the cactus in his slaw recipe, to the dried passila and morita peppers, árbol and cascabel chilies. Here, the tacos are made in a modern manner, tiny round tortillas coursed out as though they were on a tasting menu on oblong platters, from chili-rubbed skirt steak to crispy grouper. Each features a different type of cheese, sauce, marinade and topping to accentuate the chosen meat -- beer-battered brisket served near alone, while crispy fish is given a citrus-infused sauce with a lime, papaya and jalapeño cilantro sauce. Recently, a veggie taco was added upon request from patrons, and combines mushroom, roasted poblano peppers, pickled jalapeño, red onion and Meneses' fresh-made tomatilla salsa.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Broward-Palm Beach® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

6. Alegria Tacos

You won't find mariachis, oversized margaritas, or stuffed chihuahuas at this tiny taco restaurant, but what Alegria lacks in style and size, it makes up for in authentic Mexican eats on the cheap. This husband-and-wife operation is friendly and traditional: they cook their tacos on a hot griddle in the quaint kitchen behind the order station, doubling-up corn tortillas to hold plenty of meat, tomato, chopped cilantro and onion. They usher in a devoted neighborhood crowd daily thanks to affordable prices, like tacos at just $2.75 a piece. We envy the people living above the small corner store; they probably get to lounge in the few patio-style tables outside the front door any time they like, enjoying intricately-seasoned chorizo, chicken, steak, carnitas (even lengua i.e. tongue) tacos whenever they please. Ask for avocado and the extra-hot sauce for more layered flavors.

5. BC Cafe and BC Taco Food Truck

BC Cafe, named for owner Brett Chivari, is the brick-and-mortar spinoff of the caveman-themed BC Taco truck. And yes, he's changed the world -- one taco at a time. Both the cafe and truck specialize in Neolithic-named dishes, with proportions to match. BC Tacos offers up 10 different types of gourmet tacos, served to you in fresh-made hard corn or soft flour tortillas, with your choice of one of their many homemade salsas from pico de gallo and tomatillo to habanero or avocado. They are best-known for their specialty taco, the Caveman, a combination of burger, steak and braised short ribs with lettuce and cheese, sandwiched between two halves of a hard taco shell, then wrapped in a flour tortilla. For the more traditional there is steak, chicken, mahi and pulled pork -- even a vegetarian choice with fried avocado. What taco stop wouldn't be complete without taco dessert, here known as the "Dino Delight" with S'mores in taco form.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Broward-Palm Beach® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

4. El Jefe Lunchador

The creation of chef Mike Saperstein and partner Evan David -- the pair behind Charm City Burgers -- El Jefe Luchador offers "hard-core Mexican street food" in a fun environment. Tables and chairs wear primary colors, while brightly-hued lucha libre wrestling masks are mounted on one wall. Plates are equally colorful, and have names like "Vampiro" and "Dos Locos Gringos." Here, the menu pays homage to traditional street food style with tacos that sport simple topping of sweet onion, cilantro and tomato. Just choose your own meat, preparation style, and toppings -- and enjoy. The biggest seller is the steak and chicken, traditional and simple. But the most popular? The barbacoa takes the taco, a whole beef brisket dry rubbed and left to marinate overnight, then charred on the grill and braised in a tomato-flavored beef broth with roasted chili, onion and garlic. For that alone El Jefe will go through 400 pounds a week. For the more adventurous, however, there's the chef-driven side, where executive chef and co-owner Mike Saperstein has his fun. "It's definitely a fusion of Mexican preparation, with global ingredients for people looking for something different," he told Clean Plate Charlie. Looking for the most outrageous? Try the hamburguesa taco, taking the best of Charm City burger -- their sister establishment -- and fashioning it into one hell of a specialty quesadilla-hard-shell combo. And almost as important as the meat? The tortillas, made fresh by a local purveyor, stored in a humidity controlled environment for no more than a day, and routinely blind taste-tested to ensure freshness and quality.

3. JoJo's Tacos

JoJo's Tacos creates flavors you'd never think to find pocketed into a fresh corn tortilla. It's a prime example of Mexican dish extorted into blasphemy that's sinfully right in every way. Owner Joseph Parsons opened JoJo's Tacos in the touristy Lauderdale-by-the-Sea district, just steps from the beach, in a small corner spot off Commercial Boulevard. Despite its quaint exterior and slender interior space, you'll find bold flavors at this taco joint, and no surprise -- Parson's food has a famous foundation, no doubt learned from time spent with renowned Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, or perhaps Mark Miller of Santa Fe's Coyote Cafe. The menu offers standard picks and specialty tacos, chef-driven ingredients and pairings rebellious enough that they bear absolutely no resemblance to a true Mexican taco. Picks like the Shrooms and Asparagus and Peachy Pollo replace meat with vegetables, and chopped onion and tomato with sweet, succulent fruit. We can't help but order up the Blue Cow, sweet chunks of marinated beef buried under a pile of thin, crispy-fried onions. flavored enough to feel a bit transgressive. Need more flavor? Here, condiments are just as stellar as the tacos, changing frequently and optional for $1 extra each.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Broward-Palm Beach® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

2. Tortilleria Mexicana

The metal and glass door -- even the windows -- are littered with stickers, photos and pastings, now worn and sun-faded. Inside Mexican souvenirs hang from the ceilings and walls, and specialty grocery items line the shelves. Here, you'll find a butcher, baker and tortilla maker -- or tortilleria, as its name suggest. The back is reserved for eat-in patrons, several tables set up for those ordering straight from the kitchen, where a large conveyer belt churns out fresh corn tortillas that supply not only the market, but neighboring restaurants, as well. Soft, pliant and slightly sweet they are served two at a time to hold large, greasy portions of chorizo, carne asada or carnitas. Each taco is served with a side of bright red, spicy sauce that balances the flavors perfectly.

1. Tacos Al Carbon

A dusty lot off of Military Trail and Lake Worth Road is home to Tacos al Carbon, Palm Beach County's No. 1 spot for authentic Mexican food served all day long, all week long. Owners Eloise and Hugo Gonzalez -- originally from Texas -- began peddling their top-notch Tex-Mex from a truck in 1998, and have since made a fanatic following for their fare. Served from a small storefront restaurant -- but mostly ordered from the large (now stationary) yellow truck on the west side of the lot -- are more than a dozen varieties of tacos, from a spicy pork el pastor, to chicharron and a tender pulled chicken. They're inexpensive, and served with just the basics: cilantro, sweet onion and tomato in a fresh corn tortilla, made on premise. Splash a dash of that ultra hot green salsa on your plate, and your late-night taco binge will be complete. They're also just as good during the day, when the outside lot set up with picnic tables and umbrellas hums with activity as people order, wait, sit and eat.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Broward-Palm Beach® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.

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