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21 Orlando tacos you must try

Until you’ve eaten every one of these, you can’t consider yourself a true taconaut

Monivette Cordeiro, Faiyaz Kara, Jessica Bryce Young and Colin Wolf Jul 11, 2018 1:00 AM

There's no denying Orlando is still in the grip of taco madness; we've always had authentic taquerías hidden away if you knew where to look, but now it seems like yet another trendy new taco joint has popped up every time you log onto social media. As for the actual tacos, some are testaments to real taculinary skill. Some are what you might call "stunt tacos" (more about "can we?" than "should we?"). But all are part of the taco fabric of Orlando. Wave that flag!

Black Rooster

Black Rooster Taqueria

Hear us out: You gotta try the off-menu pork fat taco at Black Rooster. No, no, if you're picturing a big lump of jiggly fat in a tortilla, you've got it all wrong; the cubes of fat filling this taco are crunchy and soft at the same time, savory, almost bacon-like. Wash it down with a Jarritos for a true Mexico City experience. 1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-601-0994; blackroostertaqueria.com

Chela Tequila & Tacos

The new kid on the block serves a bevy of noteworthy tacos, but it's the plush skirt steak taco with pineapple pico de gallo and salsa verde that we pick clean off the serving tray. Pro tips: Flour tacos are used by default, corn by request; and the sweet habañero salsa will lace every beefy bite with a fitting fuego. 183 S. Orange Ave., 407-985-5272, chelatacos.com

Cilantro's Taqueria

Cilantro's al pastor is somewhat untraditional, thanks to our state Department of Health's restrictive regulations on pork, which outlaw the trompo – or vertical spit – that is customary in Mexico City. For the same reason, chef Eduardo Hinojosa skips the pineapple that is also a traditional part of al pastor; it doesn't taste the same cooked on the griddle, he says. So, it may not be the tipico al pastor, but this combo of braised pork, onion and cilantro on a corn tortilla is good eating, particularly slathered with the house-made salsa verde. 1427 S. Bumby Ave., 321-247-5665, facebook.com/cilantrostaqueriaorlando

Gringos Locos

It's not what you'd call an authentic street taco experience, but Gringos' Double Ds are their most popular item – a double-decker treat consisting of queso spread on a soft tortilla and wrapped around a crunchy shell. What's inside doesn't matter, but it's your choice of meat, more cheese, lettuce, pico and sour cream. Multiple locations, gringoslocos.net

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Another unconventional but undeniably tasteful choice: Hawkers' East Street Tacos, which wrap five-spice-dusted, flash-fried fish fillets in a flour tortilla and top with red onions, cilantro, cucumber strips and a creamy sauce. Multiple locations, eathawkers.com

Hunger Street Tacos

Hibiscus flowers – known as jamaica (pronounced ha-mai-kah) – are a popular ingredient in central Mexico, especially in Mexico City, where tart, fuchsia hibiscus tea and aguas frescas are peddled in every bodega. Luckily, Florida is full of the flowers too, and Hunger Street Tacos in Winter Park has embraced this dual citizen for their guacamole and hibiscus flower taco. It's a conversation starter. 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-444-6270; hungerstreettacos.com

Market on South

Dixie Dharma's Tiki Tacos are the closest thing we have to San Antonio-style puffy tacos: barbecue pulled jackfruit or smoked tempeh topped with purple kraut, pineapple salsa and coconut creme served in a puffed-out, chewy-crispy fried shell. 2603 E. South St., 407-613-5968, marketonsouth.com

Mi Gordita Loca

When a tortilla gets a little chubby and then gets split open into a pocket like a pita, it's a gordita. These fried masa cakes stuffed with whatever you like (but we like the rajas, a creamy, cheesy sauté of mild pepper strips) are a fun spin on the street taco, plus ever so slightly less messy. 1615 Lee Road, 407-930-6670, lagorditaloca.com

The Ocoee Taco Co.

The spot is off the beaten path, but the tacos are worth beating a path to. These are the tried-and-true truck tacos you grew up with, if you grew up on the West Coast, and if you didn't, just trust that you need to eat them. Everything is fresh and house-made, without being fussy or "gourmet." Chomp the carne asada with its blanket of cilantro and side of radish slices. 40 Taylor St., Ocoee, 407-614-2990

Photo by Jessica Bryce Young
Pig Floyd's

Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa

Two words here inspire fervor – butter chicken. The vibrant orange Indian stew is a flavor-full fat bomb, and when stuffed into a flour tortilla with basmati rice, pickled jalapeños, toasted pepitas and a cooling dollop of crema, the combination is spicy, soft, savory and sweet all at once. 1326 N. Mills Ave., 407-203-0866; also 9680 Narcoossee Road, 407-730-7376; pigfloyds.com

Reyes Mezcaleria

It's a tough call between the wild shrimp and the fried Chesapeake oyster with Veracruz salsa, but we gotta go oyster since it's so unique. If they're out when you visit though, go for the shrimp, tingled with pickled tomatillo and lime aioli. 821 N. Orange Ave., 407-868-9007, reyesmex.com

Saint Añejo Mexican Kitchen

Try the trio of mole tacos, which the menu calls "fork tacos" (LOL). Three corn tortillas are topped with marinated chicken generously slathered with a reddish mole, sprinkled with queso fresco and chopped scallion, and sided with a bowl (not a few – a bowl) of blistered jalapeño slices. 5248 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs, 407-636-3600, saintanejomexicankitchen.com

Tacos El Rancho

Say yes to lengua tacos: buttery-soft cubes of beef tongue with onions, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream layered atop two soft tortillas. Multiple locations, tacoselrancho.com

Tako Cheena

While we patiently wait for the new location down the street to open, we'll munch on one of the innovative fusion-flavor folds Edgardo Guzman's team has dreamt up. Late-night patrons happily scarf the spicy-sweet Korean beef taco, filled with bulgogi, kimchi and cilantro. 932 N. Mills Ave., 407-757-0626, also 4241 N. John Young Parkway; mytakocheena.com

Taquería L.A. Tacos

"Califas-style" street tacos have never looked better. Taquería L.A. Tacos fills up the gas station parking lot where they stay by serving tacos with carne asada, chorizo, lengua, tripa, buche and our favorite – sweet, red-tinged al pastor pork with onions, cilantro and a tingly lime salsa wrapped up in handmade tortillas. 1404 E. Silver Star Road, Ocoee, 407-715-9496, facebook.com/vamonosreciocompa

The Taste of Yucatan

The Semoran Boulevard stand-alone features all sorts of traditional dishes from the Yucatan peninsula, but the Mayan ancestor of tacos, called salbutes, are a must-try. The handmade corn tortillas puff in the deep fryer and then are topped with onion and avocado, plus your choice of protein – cochinita pibil strongly suggested. 1375 S. Semoran Blvd., 407-704-2248; thetasteofyucatan.com

Tijuana Flats

It may not be authentic, but Americans love a hard-shell taco. So we're including the best one we know, from Florida-based chainlet Tijuana Flats. That seasoning on the outside, also found on their chips, is weirdly addictive, and $4.99 Taco Tuesdays mean a line out the door on that particular day of the week. Multiple locations, tijuanaflats.com

Tin & Taco

T&T is notorious for its irreverent ingredient combos, topping the proteins with stuff like garlic pesto, potato sticks, crushed Doritos and house-made ranch dressing. We prefer the notoriety of the Notorious P.I.G., which combines shredded pork with beer queso and "boom sauce" along with a salsa roja and tangy cotija cheese. It's a flavor bomb, to be sure. 40 W. Washington St., 407-425-4340; also 419 E. Michigan St., 407-734-5988; tinandtaco.com

Tortas El Rey

Let these double corn tortillas envelop you in their love. Operating out of a remodeled Checkers drive-thru, Tortas El Rey is perhaps best known for their heavenly carnitas torta, but don't sleep on their carne asada tacos. The deliciously marinated steak taco with chopped cilantro and onion is mouthwatering on its own – pair it with the salsa roja for an added kick in the throat. 6151 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-850-6980

Viet-Nomz

Viet-Nomz

Fast-casual eatery Viet-Nomz packs tons of complex flavors into traditional Vietnamese cuisine like pho, banh mi and steamed baos, and their street tacos are no exception. Choose from chicken, steak, pork or crispy tofu as a base, then prepare for layers of slaw, picked carrots and crunchy daikon deliciousness packed into a flour tortilla and drizzled with all the spicy nom-nom sauce you can imagine. 11798 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, 407-601-4113; also 7581 University Blvd., Winter Park, 407-636-6069; vietnomzfl.com

Wako Taco

Right next door to Hourglass Brewing, Wako Taco dishes out crunchy munchies to soak up all that craft beer. End your night with their take on dessert: a fried ice cream taco. The vanilla ice cream-stuffed deep-fried flour tortilla is topped with whipped cream, corn flakes, cinnamon sugar, and homemade guava and strawberry sauce. 480 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood, 407-636-3149, wakotaco.com