There are tacos … and then there are fiesta-worthy tacos. Fortunately, Memphis is full of great eateries — some expected and some hidden gems — that serve outstanding tacos. Our list will lead you to seven restaurants and one food truck whose tacos will make you shout olé!
Some of the spots serve up authentic Mexican fare, staying true to the Latin cuisine of their heritage. And others put their own unique spin on this crowd favorite, allowing their Southern roots to influence the flavors and fillings of their signature tacos. Our tried-and-true piece of advice when eating tacos, whether they are authentic Mexican or fusion-style: Always order more than one!
Memphis’ Best Taco Joints
2115 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 274-0100
6450 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38119 • (901) 644-7026
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Overton Square is hoppin’, and a big part of that fun is thanks to the tapas-inspired Babalu. We go for the tableside-prepared guacamole, cocktails, and of course, the tacos. Served on corn tortillas made in-house, the tacos at Babalu are smaller than normal tacos, making them perfect for enjoying more than one. “A huge part of the Babalu dining experience is sharing,” says Lindsey Miller, Babalu marketing manager. “Family-style dining is a staple of Latin culture, and we really wanted that to carry over into Babalu. So we have smaller tacos to hopefully encourage guests to order multiple orders, share and maybe try a dish or item they may have never tried otherwise.” Each order comes with three tacos that you can mix or match. Two of our favorites on the menu are the Carne de Vaca, smoked pork belly with jalapeño BBQ sauce and roasted peanut slaw, and the Ostra, fried Gulf oysters with hot sauce slaw and comeback sauce. “Each taco is Latin and tapas-inspired with a little Southern flare, so it tastes exotic but familiar at the same time,” Lindsey adds. That translates to yum! in our book!
1215 South Germantown Road, Germantown, TN 38138 • (901) 751-1200
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed on Sundays
This little gem in a Germantown strip offers some of the freshest and most authentic Mexican food this side of the border. With almost 20 different kinds of tacos served each day, along with other authentic menu items that are constantly changing, there is always something new to try. “This is the style of taco you would find in Mexico City,” explains owner Jonathan Magallenes of his fresh and tasty fare. To ensure the best quality and freshness, Jonathan uses local and organic foods when possible. “We butcher whole pigs from Newman Farms and use beef from Claybrook Farms and Home Place Pastures.”
And what kind of tacos will you find on their extensive menu? “We offer taco options in everything from Alaskan king crab to chicken in pumpkin-seed mole to spicy chorizo sausage to filet mignon.” Try the fish tacos garnished with their signature spicy avocado sauce or the al pastor, which is a house-marinated red chile pork tenderloin, which is then roasted and finished with fresh pineapple. We recommend ordering one of the refreshing fruity agua frescas to wash it all down. And if in East Memphis, stop by the new Las Tortugas at 6300 Poplar Ave. In January, Jonathan’s dad, Pepe, opened this new spot that offers a similar but slightly smaller menu.
4818 Summer Ave., Memphis, TN 38122 • (901) 685-6857
5848 Winchester Road, Memphis, TN 38115 • (901) 365-4992
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
La Guadalupana has been the go-to spot on Summer Avenue for authentic Mexican fare since 2000. You know the tacos are good when over half the clientele on a busy night is Hispanic. Each taco at this family-owned establishment comes on two handmade soft corn tortillas and is topped simply with minced cilantro and diced white onion. A lime wedge comes on the side for a squeeze of extra flavor. With finely chopped steak, the carne asada taco is a popular classic. For a kick, try the al pastor spicy pork taco. And if you are feeling adventurous, order a goat, tripe or tongue taco!
1761 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 725-9025
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed on Sundays and Mondays; check Twitter @FuelFoodTruck for the food truck’s location
“I put tacos on the menu because they’re awesome and they fit with Fuel Café’s casual Americana-meets-natural food concept,” says Owner Erik Proveaux about the tacos that have become one of the most popular items on his menu. Fuel’s menu is known for using all-natural ingredients and being vegan-friendly, so it follows that their tasty tacos fit that bill. The three choices are bison, chicken and veggie. “The vegetarian ‘meat’ we use in our veggie tacos is our homemade black bean burger made into crumbles, browned in olive oil and seasoned with taco spice. It’s a complete protein and is pretty substantial. It won’t leave you starving 30 minutes later,” adds Erik. It’s one of those vegetarian dishes so delish you never miss the meat! All of Fuel’s tacos are garnished with shredded lettuce, cotija cheese, organic salsa, onions, cilantro and lime crema, all served on fresh gluten-free corn tortillas from local tortilleria La Unica. Fuel’s tacos are available at both the restaurant and on their food truck.
Midtown: 862 South Cooper, Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 725-0722
East Memphis: 4720 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38117 • (901) 590-0323
Germantown: 3160 Village Shops Drive, Germantown, TN 38138 • (901) 755-6988
Hours vary according to Soul Fish Cafe location.
Tacos and catfish, you might quizzically ask?! If you haven’t had tacos made with the Mississippi Delta’s favorite fish, head to Soul Fish Cafe right now to give them a try. Choose from fried, blackened or grilled catfish. “The fried catfish tacos are definitely the most popular, but the blackened catfish taco is really awesome too,” says Regional Manager Chuck Smith. So how did tacos end up on the menu of this Southern cafe? “Some of our Hispanic cooks were already making the tacos for themselves, and so we decided to try them on the menu,” explains Chuck. Soul Fish serves their tacos on soft flour tortillas with picante sauce, guacamole and your choice of a side. They also offer blackened or grilled chicken tacos, blackened shrimp tacos, and fried crawfish tacos. Delicioso!
East Memphis: 4770 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN 38117 • (901) 730-0763
Germantown: 6641 Poplar Ave., Germantown, TN 38138 • (901) 737-2088
Hours vary according to Swanky’s location.
With four locations and counting, Swanky’s prides itself as an upscale, quick-service restaurant specializing in what they like to call Tenn-Mex cuisine. “We pride ourselves on being one of the first fast-casual Mexican models to include a full bar,” says Owner Matt Wilson. While we obviously “respect the margarita,” as they say, at Swanky’s, where the iconic Mexican cocktail is made fresh, we can’t get enough of their “Build to Taste” tacos! Create your own signature tacos from six filling options — ranging from fajita steak to spicy shredded chicken to mixed vegetables, your choice of crispy or soft tortillas and over 20 choices for toppings. “People love customizing their own meals. We have offered a strong line up of ingredients on our build-your-own line that includes our house-made guacamole,” adds Matt. And if you want extra guacamole, no worries! This locally owned chain doesn’t charge for extra.
105 South Second St., Memphis, TN 38103 • (901) 522-8228
Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Most places serve their fish tacos on soft flour tortillas, but if you are a fan of crispy corn tortilla tacos, then head downtown to Flying Fish. “Our tacos are super popular because they’re delicious! The combinations we use and the crispy corn tortilla shell really complement each other and blend into a unique taco that you can’t duplicate anywhere,” says Mike Lestingi, Flying Fish director of operations. For fish tacos, Flying Fish offers either fried catfish or grilled tilapia. Either way can also be made “Snappy,” which is a spicy version with a kick we just love. “We top the fish with a special sauce called Papou’s ‘comeback’ dressing, which is similar to a remoulade sauce. Then we add cole slaw and pico de gallo to top them off.” With that yummy sauce, we keep coming back for more!
It’s no surprise that El Mero Taco won the People’s Choice Award at the MidSouth Food Truck Festival last year. Owners Clarissa and Jacob Dries serve up some of the best tacos in town. “My wife was raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, while I was raised in Memphis. We feel that our food is a representation of our two cultures colliding,” explains Jacob of their taco offerings. Obviously influenced by Jacob’s Memphis roots, the Southern fried chicken taco is stuffed with crispy fried chicken, queso blanco, in-house pickled jalapeños, tomato and cilantro. More traditional authentic Mexican fare from Clarissa’s heritage, the Oaxaca chicken mole taco is loaded with pulled chicken tossed in Oaxacan mole and topped with Mexican crema and pickled radishes. Clarissa and Jacob use only local farmers such as Hannah Farms, Wilson Farms and Woodson Ridge Farms. “We try and support the local farmers when we can,” says Jacob. “The quality of product is much better and of course grown with more care.” And if you want to have tacos at your next fiesta, the El Mero food truck can be rented out for private parties.
Sounds like it’s time for us Memphians to go on the Taco Cleanse! Olé!
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