Across South Florida, chefs sell tacos in every imaginable setting: out of fancy kitchens at well-known establishments, from food truck windows and pop-up tents, and casual taquerias where Spanish is the language of choice. And that makes for quite a variety, a number of takes that aren't necessarily authentic — or even traditional.
But when Americans have been wrapping meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato in tortillas for decades, pretty much anything beats some store-bought ground beef and a box of plastic-wrapped, bright yellow corn taco shells.
Luckily, we Floridians don't have to settle. As many of you already know, there are quite a few places in South Florida that deliver the real deal. We gave you a list of the best tacos in Broward County last week, so now let's see what the best tacos in Palm Beach County look like.
10. Boss Tacos
206 Federal Hwy., Boynton Beach. Call 561-577-7843.
Ten years ago Brian Nickerson moved to South Florida to be a heavy metal drummer. Today, he is living out another talent and passion: cooking up some pretty darn good nachos, rice bowls, quesadillas, tacos, and taco salads. His shop is located off Federal Highway, just before Ocean Avenue in Boynton Beach. From a bright blue building Nickerson peddles his most popular item — fresh-caught mahi tacos — available to order through a convenient drive-up window (think old school drive-thru type digs) or in the cafe's small, enclosed seating area. The rest of the taco offerings are made up of a number of tasty twin tacos — a pair of steak, pork, or chicken made with locally sourced ingredients from a nearby butcher, and fresh vegetables from the Woolbright Farmers' Market just around the corner. These aren't your average Tex-Mex or street food style takes, however. Instead, what you'll find is some real home cooking, everything here made with love by Nickerson himself from the flavorful shredded chicken topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese to the tender chunks of rib eye steak stuffed into a grilled tortilla. Go for lunch and score a deal, too — two chicken tacos and a drink for $7, or a sampler of all three with a drink for $10.
9. Taqueria Huetamo
1499 S. Congress Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-274-8112.
By now, everyone in South Florida has had the pleasure of stumbling into a Mexican-style taqueria for a taco or two. These fast-casual Mexican restaurants are typically filled with plenty of Spanish-speaking patrons chugging bottles of Jarritos or ice cold beer, and conversing loudly over a plate of bistek empanizado. That's the type of place you'll get at Taqueria Huetamo off Congress Avenue in Delray Beach. Located smack dab in the middle of a large shopping plaza, it offers a short menu that can be ordered at the counter and eaten at the diner-style booths. And what of the tacos? There's a standard menu of selections, handmade soft corn tortillas with a crumbly chorizo, flavorful chicharron, and tender tangled mass of barbacoa. The server will ask you how you like them, and you should do the usual: chopped cilantro and diced onion, but added toppings include taco sauce, a fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, and cotija cheese.
8. Tacos Veracruz
Food truck. Call 561-727-5901, or visit tacosveracruz.com.
The signature taco on this Boynton Beach-based food truck is dubbed the Barbecue Bandit, shredded flank steak marinated in mild chili sauce. Like all the recipes, it's real-deal Mexican fare originating from Heroica Córdoba, a city in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Additional taco selections include chorizo, carne asada, al pastor (here shredded flank steak with diced pineapple), chicken, and carne molida (ground beef) each prepared using Florida-sourced and -grown ingredients.
332 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-345-3737, or visit jimmychangas561.com.
You won't find oversized margaritas or a huge dining room full of colorful decor, but that doesn't mean this tiny restaurant skimps on flavor or fillings when it comes to its tacos. What JimmyChanga's lacks in size, it makes up for in yummy burritos and tacos on the cheap. Everyone here is friendly and cheerful, and when you order your food you can watch as the staff prepares it in the open kitchen behind the order counter. Thick, soft corn tortillas hold a hefty pile of meat, tomato, chopped cilantro, onion, a soft white queso. During a busy lunchtime rush, the place is known to usher in a devoted neighborhood crowd thanks to its filling fare and affordable prices with chicken, steak, carnitas, veggie, and al pastor for $2 to $2.25 each. Get there early and they may still have their most popular selection available — a ceviche taco — which tends to sell out fairly quickly, a lime-marinated tilapia or white fish served up for just $3.50 each.
6. Tacos Al Carbon
4420 Lake Worth Rd., Lake Worth. Call 561-432-8474, or visit tacosalcarbon.com.
A dusty lot off of Military Trail and Lake Worth Road is home to Tacos al Carbon, once a place we called the top spot for authentic Tex-Mex fare served all day long, all week long. Owners Eloise and Hugo Gonzalez — originally from Texas — began peddling their fare from a truck in 1998, and have since made a fanatic following, expanding to a open a second location and opening a small restaurant next door to the permanently stationed food truck. There are more than a dozen varieties of tacos in all, from a spicy pork al pastor and chewy nibs of chicharron, to tender pulled chicken. They're inexpensive and served with just the basics: cilantro, sweet onion and tomato in a fresh corn tortilla, all made on-site. Splash a dash of the complimentary (and ultra hot) green salsa on your plate, and your late-night taco binge will be complete.
5. Lupita's Tex-Mex
301 N Dixie Hwy., Lake Worth. Call 561-533-0933, or visit lupitastexmex.menu.
A new location to a spot with a bigger kitchen was just what Lupita's in Lake Worth needed to match the demand for their Tex-Mex style fare. They only moved a few doors south on Dixie Highway, but already patrons are enjoying a roomier dining room (with inside and outside seating), as well as a beer-and-wine license that allows them to offer more in the way of beverages. Other than that, it's the same food, same staff, and the same prices. That includes a dozen different types of tacos — from an intricately-seasoned chorizo, and tender chicken, to steak, carnitas (even lengua, i.e. tongue) — all served up for just $1.85 to $2.25 a piece.
4. Taqueria Jalapeños
Food truck. Call 561-281-7950.
For 18 years this food truck has been serving up some of the most authentic Mexican street tacos around. Their secret: simplicity. The meats are flavorful, so you don't need cheese and sauce to do any of that for you. You can find the truck during lunch hours parked on the side of the road off Atlantic Avenue just past 441. The truck peddles all sorts of Mexican fare including burritos, quesadillas, and tortas. The tacos have some of the most authentic flavor going on, meats seasoned to perfection, and garnished with the simple cilantro and onion accoutrement. Try the al pastor and chorizo — both homemade and flavorful examples of the best fare this truck puts has to offer.
3. El Rey Del Taco
4040 S. Military Trail, Lake Worth. Call 561-531-7349
When you drive up to El Rey Del Taco, you might have second thoughts. By now, anyone who is anyone who loves tacos knows about their neighbor, Tacos Al Carbon. The two permanently stationed trucks are so close to one another, they might as well be hitched up in the same parking lot. But the tacos they are producing are nothing alike. Here, you'll get more authentic — and less Tex-Mex-style — fare, tiny tacos chock full of diced cilantro, onion, lettuce, and your meat of choice. There's no cheese or salsa (you can ask for it if you must, but you won't need it) but instead tender slices of sautéed onion and crisp radish. All you need is a squeeze of lime, and you're good to go.
2. El Camino
15 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-865-5350, or visit elcaminodelray.com.
Die-hard taco fans know about the awesome late night eats at Delray Beach's El Camino. All day — and far into the evening hours — the restaurant offers a taco Tuesday deal that trumps just about all others. While most TT deals limit the type of taco you can order, El Camino does no such thing. From open to midnight on Tuesday, you can order up any of their gourmet tacos — each served on homemade corn tortillas — for just $2 each. That includes the crispy fish tacos with chipotle crema, cucumber pico, and arugula; chili-rubbed carne asada skirt steak with ranchera salsa and queso fresco; chorizo with Oaxaca cheese and salsa verde; or achiote-spiced chicken with cotija cheese. Even pork belly and Gulf shrimp. Once the clock strikes midnight, you're forced to choose, however: it's either barbacoa or the gringo (ground beef served on a soft flour tortilla) until close at 2 a.m.
6250 Lantana Rd., Lake Worth. Call 561-223-3033, or visit guacamolebychefomar.com.
Hailing from Mexico City, Guacamole owner Omar Covarrubias doesn't just prepare Mexican cuisine. He prepares authentic Mexican cuisine using traditional recipes and the correct (and often Mexican-sourced) ingredients. Covarrubias will be the first to admit that most Mexican food outside of Mexico is a sham, watered-down versions of the country's northernmost cuisine, served stateside as chicken-topped nachos, flavorless fajitas, and overfried chimichangas. Not so at his Lake Worth Guacamole, where the tacos — served three at a time — are among the best you'll have north of the border. Several chef's specialties include the chorizo con papas, corn tortillas packed to the brim with a crumbly, flavorful chorizo made fresh by a local Mexican market and paired with cubes of soft roasted potatoes. The pork pibil tacos — named for the Mayan word pib, or oven — pop with a combination of citrusy marinade and earthy achiote paste. If it's your first visit, however, your server will undoubtedly recommend the Tacos Locos, a brilliant combination of ancho-marinated pork, carne asada, and chicharrón topped with ripe slivers of avocado and bright pico de gallo.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.