We asked chefs: What’s your favorite taco in Tucson?

Last modified on April 13th, 2018 at 9:22 am

Utilizing the salsa bar at Tacos Apson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What’s your favorite taco in Tucson?”

We asked 16 Tucson chefs this question and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted. Here are their responses.

Ben Caballero

HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

“So many different kinds that are all so good in their own unique way. The crispy pork tacos at Pasco Kitchen & Lounge were the jump-offs to go visit for. But if I had to choose one, it would have to be one that I had never tried before. Always love trying new tacos.”

View our August 2016 Nine on the Line with Ben Caballero.

Ryan Clark

Casino Del Sol Resort
Executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Casino Del Sol Resort executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“This is certainly a hard question for me being a Tucson native and living off of humble Sonoran Mexican food my entire life. With that said I would have to say my current favorite taco in Tucson comes from Tacos Apson. It’s their rasurado, costillas asada or roasted beef ribs. The meat is roasted on the bone and flashed over the mesquite wood grill which creates crispy and fatty bits. They then shave it onto a warmed tortilla and serve it with roasted onions and grilled jalapenos. And of course they have a kick-ass salsa bar. I have to throw a shout out to Trevor who took me here and changed the taco game forever.”

Riley Chandler

Barrio Sandwiches
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“This is one of the toughest questions. It’s a firm tie for me between Tacos Apson and BOCA Tacos y Tequila. I’d honestly love to see Maria’s Don Pancho versus Apson’s Lorenza go head-to-head in a blind taste test. They are both to die for.”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Michael Elefante

Mama Louisa’s
Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa's (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa’s (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Any of the tacos at Carniceria El Vaquero right next door to me. They are all fantastic but the tripas are the best.”

View our November 2016 Tools They Use with Michael Elefante.

Tyler Fenton

Reilly Craft Drink & Pizza
Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Oh man, this is the hardest question yet. I love tacos, and Tucson has so many amazing spots for tacos. I generally crave a straightforward taco like the cabeza from Tacos Apson, but the taco that holds a special place in my heart is the carne seca from El Minuto.”

View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.

Hannah Houlden

Prep & Pastry
Pastry Chef Hannah Houlden at Prep & Pastry (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pastry chef Hannah Houlden at Prep & Pastry (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Definitely tacos at Tumerico. Beyond the taco — the rotating chalkboard menu, homemade soup with each plate, scratch local and healthy delicious food — it really checks all the boxes for me. I can overindulge in a giant plate of vegan jackfruit al pastor tacos on house-made tortillas (that wont split!), with beans, rice, salad, and soup without a glimpse of guilt — sourcing, health, financial. I can’t say enough about how much I love this place, there’s real heart in the food.”

View our September 2016 Tools They Use with Hannah Houlden.

Doug Levy

Feast
Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“For al pastor: Taqueria Juanito’s. For shrimp or cabeza: Taqueria Pico de Gallo. For everything else under the sun: BOCA Tacos y Tequila.”

View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.

Matt Kraiss

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery
Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“The best tacos I have had in recent memory — the tacos at American Eat Co. on opening night. I was with Devon Sanner and Mat Cable and all our kids, toddler rodeo in the chaos, I don’t even remember what was in the taco. Just that it was juicy and the shell was fried and crunchy and the salsa had some heat to it — pretty much all I need out of a taco to be happy.

Obviously Tacos Apson is my go-to taco spot. And the grilled mahi tacos at Blanco Tacos + Tequila are always on point!”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Matt Kraiss.

Renee Kreager

Renee’s Organic Oven
Renee Kreager of Renee's Organic Oven (Photo credit: Steven Meckler)

Renee Kreager (Photo Credit: Steven Meckler)

“Did you say favorite taco? This is going be a list I read and save for sure. BOCA Tacos y Tequila on Fourth Avenue serves up one of my favorites.

Sometimes being a restaurant on the east side makes the growing downtown feel a world away, I am always grateful for all those that travel to make their way to us — there is one spot I want to visit much more than I get to and it’s BOCA Tacos y Tequila. I love her AM Taco. So much greatness, nice salty crunch from the hash brown, perfect heat from the jalapeño cream and that fried egg brings it all home. Having a basket of beautiful salsas to explore on every visit is certainly all the extra one needs to remember a visit to chef Maria.

Summer coming up is the perfect opportunity to get dropped off walk and drink your way through less crowds, and I’m going to throw it out there, Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar has some excellent tacos. They were perfect little things and they are right across the street from BOCA. Hit up some pinball at D&D, shoot a game a pool at Surly Wench Pub, and you have a perfect amount of activity to move you through all the tacos, beer, and tequila you wish to explore. Can you tell I’m dreaming of my next day off? Tilt your head and taste them tacos, Tucson.”

Maria Mazon

BOCA Tacos y Tequila
Chef and owner Maria Mazon at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef and owner Maria Mazon at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Scary and silly question. Well, BOCA tacos LOL, but when I eat tacos, I usually eat Tacos de Cabeza. It’s a truck on Grant, love them! And of course, when I go to back home to Navojoa, Sonora.”

View our August 2017 Nine on the Line with Maria Mazon.

Kyle Nottingham

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I have to give some love to Seis Kitchen for this one. They do an incredible job over there: the handmade tortillas, fresh produce, and classic flavors are my go to on a Sunday afternoon.

I also really love the Slow Cooked BBQ Pork tacos at Blanco Tacos + Tequila. Consistent and very reliable when you’re on that side of town.

The tacos are always incredible at the Flying V Bar & Grill. Chef Ken Harvey and his team are always super creative and their house salsa is delicious.

There are so many talented chefs doing fun things with tacos in this town and it’s hard to hit them all.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Travis Peters

The Parish
Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I’ve seen fistfights break out over this question here in the Old Pueblo. Hell, I’ve even had fistfights over this question (sometimes against zombie monkeys!), and I look forward to having more fist fights over this question while eating my favorite tacos. Crunchy corn tortilla, soft tortilla, soft corn tortillas? Beef, fish, pork, chicken, potato? Traditional, non-traditional? There are infinite choices because tacos are so diverse.

I absolutely love the cabeza and carne asada tacos from Taqueria Juanito’s, they are amazing. I also freak out about any taco from Birrieria Guadalajara, they will kick you in the face full of flavor and taco love. I’ve been eating at both of these places since I can remember and don’t plan on ever stopping.

But if I really have to pick my favorite tacos ever, it would be my nana’s good ol’ ground beef tacos with corn tortillas pan fried in lard with fresh cilantro, onions, cheese, and hot sauce. That brings back so many memories from being a little boy in Tucson. 520 TACOS FOR LIFE!”

View our April 2017 Nine on the Line with Travis Peters.

David Solorzano

Ume at Casino Del Sol Resort
Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef David Solorzano (left) plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Different taquerias have their own preparation methods based on where their family is from, even though there are gems all over town. In my opinion, the best is the carne asada taco from Birrieria Guadalajara. They don’t burn their steak and it stays really juicy. When I lived in the Five Points neighborhood, I used to go there four to five times a week. They eventually started to recognize my car and started making my order before I walked through the door.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with David Solorzano.

Nikki Thompson

Nook
Nook's Matt & Nikki Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Nook’s Matt & Nikki Thompson (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

“Everyone loves tacos and Tucson is notorious for perfecting the handheld meal. Personally, I like the barbacoa and the birria tacos at Taqueria Pico de Gallo, but you can never go wrong with one of their bean tacos either. They make their tortillas to order and stuff them full of homemade goodness, oh and don’t forget their amazing hot salsa. These tacos are what dreams are made of.”

View our September 2015 Nine on the Line with Nikki & Matt Thompson.

Marcus van Winden

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge
The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I love cabeza tacos. BK Tacos is not too far off my drive home, so it’s a great stop when I am craving a bite on my way home from work.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.

Janos Wilder

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Janos Wilder at DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Hands down, the bone-in beef rib taco at Tacos Apson on South 12th across from Pueblo High School. They grill them over mesquite right in front of you, behind the counter, and season solely with sea salt. They’re meaty, sinewy, and chewy. Fat drips down your chin and gristle gets stuck between your teeth. It’s a commitment and well worth it. Get them with a couple of corn tortillas, pile on the salsas and condiments, a side of beans, Mexican Coke, and lots of extra napkins. Yummy! Don’t wimp out and by halving them chop your meat of the bone — it’s just not the same.”

What’s your favorite taco in Tucson?

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
  • Jobe Repola

    Apson by FAR and away was the most mentioned… L O V E that joint!

  • Elaine Cummings

    Wow! I just ate dinner … WTH? Why am I hungry again! (Some dangerous reading here!)

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