Being only a few miles from the Mexico border, it should come as no surprise that San Diego has an excellent Mexican food scene. Tacos are in the blood of San Diegans and you can find taquerias, mezcalerias and all sorts of other Mexican restaurants all around the city. Nearly every menu has a taco on it, including what may be some of the best and most interesting tacos I’ve ever eaten.
I tasked myself with a DIY taco crawl of San Diego, hunting for recommendations of the best and most interesting spots to chow down on a taco. After researching the options and chatting with locals about their favorites, I created a list of several taco spots to try. I didn’t make it to all of the restaurants, and on a future return visit, I will definitely be seeking out more amazing tacos so comment below if I missed any of your favorites!
Below is my list of the 5 taco restaurants you need to try on your next visit to San Diego!
Carnitas Snack Shack — 2632 University Ave
With a few locations around the city, Carnitas offers lots of pork-centric dishes besides just tacos, but their carnitas taco is definitely a solid choice. The North Park location has a walk up window with a beautiful side patio to eat in. What I appreciate most about these tacos is their simplicity. The meat is prepared perfectly, aka super juicy, flavorful and well shredded, and the Snack Shack lets the meat speak for itself. There are minimal toppings and no fancy flairs, allowing you to eat a street style taco just as you would on the streets of Mexico.
Galaxy Taco — 2259 Avenida de la Playa
While not technically in San Diego, Galaxy Taco in La Jolla is absolutely worth the drive to enjoy some of my favorite tacos that I tried in SoCal. The airy, relaxed hangout has papel picado flags decorating the colorful space (see the cover photo of this post!) which is also well known for an impressive tequila selection. I loved this place, and if I had to choose only one taqueria to go back to, it would probably be this one. The flavor combinations were interesting and the menu was diverse, but what stood out to me most about Galaxy’s tacos were the blue corn tortillas. They were perfectly balanced, absolutely fresh, and the exact right texture. Overall, just a damn good taco at Galaxy!
SALUD! — 2196 Logan Ave.
Of all the taco shops people recommended to me, SALUD appeared to be the most popular as lots of people had mentioned it. Located in the traditionally hispanic Barrio Logan, SALUD is a rowdy and busy restaurant that feels perfectly California with it’s tattoo inspired interior decor and dog friendly vibes. You will probably wait in line for the tacos, so come prepared. The tacos are fairly traditional, like carne asado, lengua or carnitas, with a few eccentric flairs like the breakfast taco. Although I really enjoyed what I ate at SALUD, I thought the hype was a little overblown. Definitely worth a visit and definitely delicious, but not the “best taco I’ve ever had” as people had raved.
Lucha Libre Tacos — 3016 University Ave
Definitely the most colorful and fun taco shop on this list, Lucha Libre Tacos is located in the North Park neighborhood in a brightly painted and appropriately themed restaurant. The walls are decked out in Lucha masks and there is even a small lucha ring in the back of the shop! It’s a fun spot to grab a bite! These tacos are more of the late-night variety with crave worthy combinations like the Tap Me Out or Queso Taco, whose shell is literally a fried cheese “tortilla”. The flavors aren’t flashy and can get muddled, but for late-night, I couldn’t think of anything better. The salsa bar near the counter offers a bunch of varieties and it is serve yourself so you can choose as may toppings as you like.
City Taco — 3028 University Avenue
Recommended to me by a local taco expert as the “best tacos in San Diego”, City Taco is just a few shops down from Lucha Libre (listed above) making it easy to try a few spots at once. Much less showy than its neighbor, City Taco offers traditional and unique taco options, priding itself on being the “craft taqueria” of San Diego. I loved that the menu was sorted by category, including meat, fish and vegetarian and they even offer a dessert taco. The tacos here are excellent, mostly thanks to the flavorful meat and unique combinations, but for me the real star of the show was their salsa bar. City Tacos had excellent salsa options, including spicy tomatillo, avocado cilantro and a hot habanero.