The Best Tacos in San Francisco That Aren’t La Taqueria

My latest article for The Bold Italic, was published March 12, 2020, and written before the coronavirus nightmare:

Chuy’s Fiestas
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So as our cherished hole-in-the-walls and deep ethnic communities — including our long-vibrant Mexican community — are hit hardest, I post this article with a heavy heart and below share links to each in my article doing delivery/take-out now so you can continue to support these irreplaceable cultural and edible treasures during this global crisis.

I cherish and am proud of our rich, deep Mexican heritage and population, praying blessings and provisions for them and their families now. I humbly offer a heartfelt (and heartbroken) “salud” to our Mexican sisters & brothers, who not only tirelessly bring us the range of one of the best cuisines in the world, but who have mastered EVERY cuisine of the world as they make up the majority of kitchens in thousands of our restaurants across the US. Tragically, these hardworking people are among those hit first and hardest in a crisis like this.

We love you, see you and are grateful for you.

PREAMBLE to My Article:
No one, least of all me, should dispute the greatness of La Taqueria. Since 1973, this James Beard-award-winning taqueria is not just the ultimate example of San Francisco’s famed Mission-style burritos, but their carnitas rival the best anywhere, which I’ve long preferred in taco form. Owner Miguel Jara’s charming (and tireless) welcome makes it a national treasure. But let’s be honest: it’s not the easiest stop for locals as lines snake around the shop and never let up.

But this is California, after all, so a superb taco lies around most bends. La Taqueria reigns (although that’s debatable among burrito lovers who encamp around numerous SF Mission district legends, from El Faro to El Farolito or Pancho Villa), but excellent, authentic tacos abound across the Bay Area. 

Barrio’s “cheeseburger” tacos

However, this is where it gets complicated: there are tacos… and there are tacos. Fish tacos vs. meat? Baja or Yucatecan-style? Birria or al pastor? Vegans are “out” at traditional Mexican spots where meat is standard and lard a crucial ingredient (enter vegetarian goodness at the original, plant-based Gracias Madre or Chisme’s jackfruit tacos). Oakland (especially Fruitvale) is rife with superb Mexican food. Redwood City, San Jose and other parts of the Peninsula —like the rest of California— hold the Mexican demographic to warrant plenty of credible taquerias. Even Wine Country has a few gems, whether downtown Sonoma’s authentic taquerias (El Molino Central is king, with beer-battered fish tacos and specials like lamb barbacoa) or Napa’s “real deal” Azteca Market in St. Helena. The Bay Area’s endless taco trucks are worth a separate article. Then there are Korean (all hail Tacorea!), Filipino, Indian and other mashup iterations of the great Mexican taco.  

So let’s focus on “big picture” — a few “greatest hits” across taco genres — realizing we can’t encompass the best of every style, but can agree on some ground rules. As we’re used to across California, handmade tortillas and housemade salsas only, thank you very much. These are mostly casual taquerias plus a couple more “upscale” Mexican restaurants that do right by the taco. I also chose places that generally nail more than one kind of taco:

Chuy’s Fiestas’ barbacoa tacos
Tacos Sinaloa, Oakland
Chuy’s Fiestas’ hand-pressed tortillas

**Remember, there is more risk of infection going to a grocery store than in getting delivery. These helpful articles cite CDC, FDA & more around restaurant delivery/takeout in the time of COVID-19 here; here; this handy one-sheet; and this helpful guide.**

WHERE TO ORDER from the Restaurants/Taquerias Featured in My Article During COVID19 Lockdown:
La Taqueria: tragically, not seeing any options yet for our great legend; God preserve Miguel Jara and team!
— Barrio: DoorDash
— Padrecito: takeout, Caviar, DoorDash
— Chuy’s Fiestas: Clover, UberEats
— Nick’s Crispy Tacos (The Taco Shop at Underdog’s): DoorDash, Caviar
— Taqueria Cancún: sadly, not available
— Taqueria Vallarta: UberEats, DoorDash
— Garaje: UberEats
La Oaxaqueña: sadly, not available
— Taqueria Sinaloa, Oakland: sadly, not available
— La Guerrera’s Kitchen, Oakland: takeout/pick-up only; also support via gift cards