My Definitive Orlando Taco Guide
An influx of tacos hit Orlando this year with a mighty and often season-less punch. Why are taco joints so popular? My guess would be that if they are made with poor quality (aka cheap) ingredients, the profit margins are cushy (if your overhead stays in check), while the demand is already cemented in our weekly eating habits.
What happens though when your city is hit with a wave of average tacos? We just can't spend $4 on a bad taco; not with rents skyrocketing, salaries remaining stagnant, and new coffee shops draining our wallets. Now, more than ever you need to know where your best bet for a satisfying taco Tuesday will be.
This list encompasses my personal favorites that find themselves in my regular rotation, with no disrespect to any taco spot not listed. As time progresses I can only hope more will be added to my list. We all have different palettes, so I would encourage everyone to find the spots that make them do their happy taco dance at the table.
Taste of Yucatan - update permanently closed
Taste of Yucatan has been kind enough to indulge me in one of the best delicious fast-casual Mexican meals in the city. It's not nestled in the "cool kid" part of town, which is kind of great because you can go there not worrying about bumping into people or getting insta-worthy shots; you can just eat.
Why I like this place: Besides being clean, with friendly staff, all of the meat I tried was juicy and flavorful. They do not skimp on their portion sizes and there are several additional sauces and fresh toppings to add to any dish to cater to your own palette.
Fan favorites: The Mayan pork taco, and the freshly made guacamole.
IMPORTANT: They are closed right now for renovation, so keep an eye on their social accounts for their reopening.
If you grew up in Winter Garden like I did, you already know it's been a hub for family-owned authentic Mexican restaurants for a long time. It's those places that can sometimes get ignored as glitzier eateries open, but they should absolutely be added to your list. Not to mention, Winter Garden is a great place to have a Taco Crawl.
La Perla is small and quiet, the main ambient noise coming from the televisions. No designer tile or trendy trimmings, just a wall painted with festive south of the border decor.
The menu is pretty expansive if you feel like going outside your normal taco comfort zone (try the torta), but the average taco is easy to load up on at around $2 each.
Why I like this place: They forgo the toppings bar and bring you bowls of fresh ingredients to your table. All meats were flavorful, especially the chorizo which is always my go-to and I hate being disappointed when it's weak. Somehow, it's not very greasy either which I appreciate. Grease drips down the arm while you eat are not cute. It's very affordable, so you can feast with friends and barely spend $20.
Fan favorites: DON'T YOU DARE NOT GET THE HORCHATA AND GUAC.
Kai Asian Street Fare
If I'm going to take a chance on unconventional tacos, the restaurant cannot miss a step. I love a taco with a burst of unique flavor, and that's what I found at Kai Asian Street Fare. I wouldn't say that tacos are their signature item, so there is plenty to try when you visit, but I would absolutely add a taco or two into your tasting.
The fried fish on the Dude where's my Ca tacos had a nice light crispness from the breading, and the Shrimpnado tacos blended different flavors nicely. I'm pretty sure that was my first taco with mango as a topping, and it was something I would surely try again.
Why I like this place: The atmosphere is not pretentious or trying too hard. That partnered with good food make it a place I'm much more likely to visit on the regular.
What if my dining partner isn't into tacos: The Garlic noodles look like a simple dish but they are a force to be reckoned with.
Taqueria El Gordo - update under new management
Taqueria El Gordo is a colorful hole-in-the-wall over in Casselberry. The tacos are cheap, with generous portions of meat (depending on the protein they start at .99 cents) and they have been pretty consistent with great flavor thanks to their marinating process. If it's slow and the owner is in, he will more than likely pay you a visit to chat briefly about your meal and answer any questions you have.
Why I like this place: The decor is so bright and happy it sets the mood right away for a fun meal. There is a plentiful toppings bar with lots of sauces, as the tacos authentically only come with onions and cilantro. Bonus points for Selena playing on our last visit.
Fan Favorites: The horchata which is served in a large frosty mug has just the right balance of sweetness. The elote ($2.95) is some of the best I've found in the city; served hot and juicy, slathered in cojita cheese and spices.
Truth be told, I'm more of a quesadilla girl when I go to Hunger Street, but they have become a favorite local taco joint in the city, so who am I to argue with the people. I will say, when I have a hankering for a fried avocado taco, they would be the only place I would go as some other local spots that have attempted it and left me saying Avo-ca-DOH!
Fan Favorites: Brisket and the rib taco when it's available.
Necessary add-ons: Make sure you try the Chicharron de Queso ($8) because why wouldn't you want seared Gouda cheese crisp, served with guacamole and salsa or the Esquites which takes all the work out of awkwardly eating elote on the cob. If you drink, try the sangria.
For me, no one can truly match our brightest shining taco gem in the city. It's one of the few places that will pull me away from my beloved hole-in-the-wall spots.
Why I like it: I've never had a piece of dry, unseasoned meat - not once. While in reality, that shouldn't necessarily be something that makes you stand out, it's something to be truly commended for in a city of temperamental tacos. Consistency is one thing, but consistency that actually makes your mouth water is another.
Fan Favorites: The Black Rooster Asada and Crispy Fish tacos are my absolute favorite.
Necessary add-ons: Always chips and guac and the seasonal agua fresca.
You can't miss this spot on Orange Blossom Trail. A huge chili pepper with a sombrero is on the side of the building as you drive southbound. It's a family affair here, and all the tacos are a knockout. This is another no frills place that you might hesitate to stop at, but it's been a staple for me for a few years after an old co-worker and I went for lunch.
My Favorites: Chorizo, chorizo, chorizo.
Why I like it: The prices cannot be beat. They range depending on the meat, but are all around $1.25 - $1.50 each. Don't forget a helping of their freshly made guacamole. Their horchata is a little too sweet for me here, so I usually opt for a Jarritos soda.
This old Checkers building was converted into a small street taco drive-thru palace. They offer far more than tacos including tamales, tortas, and even flan, but I usually stick with tacos and get a variety of meats. Their chorizo packs a powerful kick that isn't for those that can't handle their spice, like me. I finished mine with tears in my eyes, but it was worth it.
Why I like this place: The staff inside is so sweet and patient with questions. Not many of your favorite local spots have a drive-thru as this place does, so that adds to its convenience. It also has a reputation for its authentic style of Mexican food.
What to know: If you pass on using the drive-thru and eat outside just remember, it is on OBT, so you may see a few sketchy looking characters roll by, but don't let that scare you off. Just use your best judgement as you would anywhere else.
Near the top of my list of FAH REAL tacos is Taqueria Ameca on South Orange Avenue. The image below is a platter of four meats, Asada, Barbacoa, Carnitas, and Chorizo. Each one better than the last. The toppings bar comes with a variety of sauces, a mix of cilantro and diced onions, and of course the almighty lime wedge.
Why I like this place: The tacos were $1.25 each and took less than five minutes to get to my table. They also give you extra tortillas to mop up any left over morsels, so it's basically like getting a free bonus taco!
What to know: When you arrive, head straight to the counter to order, and then find your seat eat, and then pay. It's definitely not the cleanest looking spot in town, but the tacos are well worth it.
Since its opening, Reyes has been good to my stomach. I've enjoyed many of their heavier entrees, but I still indulge in the tacos from time to time when a pricier meal isn't in the budget. Your best bet is to go during Happy Hour and get some cheaper appetizers and layer in a few tacos. Or, share an entree with two friends - yes two. It can be done while still leaving you full, I promise.
My Favorites: Crispy line caught fish and skirt steak carne asada.
Necessary add-ons: Always get the chips and elote. Always.
Apopka is actually low-key taco central. You just have to be willing to go into small, not always pretty, authentic spots where there may be a language barrier. One of my favorites is on Orange Blossom Trail hidden away in-between easily missed shops.
Why I like it: Taco Reindo has good horchata, cheap tacos without missing the mark on savory flavors, and a welcoming staff that won't mind if your Spanish is terrible and you are a disgrace to your heritage.