Phoenix ranks No. 9 among best taco cities in America
Alongside burgers and pizza, tacos are one of the most popular dishes in the U.S. Mexican restaurants alone are a $77 billion industry, with taco sales making up a significant portion of the revenue. But where did one of America’s most beloved foods come from and what are the best taco cities in America?
People know that tacos originated in Mexico, but many do not realize that tacos were a precolonial staple food with many varieties that multiple tribes and nations cultivated concurrently. Precolonial tacos were typically made with maize tortillas and filled with proteins ranging from turkey and venison to eggs and squash.
Their versatility and convenience are part of why restaurants serving just tacos have become so common in the U.S. Across the top 15 cities in our study, taco restaurants make up 4.4% of all restaurants. That’s a 12.7% higher percentage of taco places, compared to 3.9% in the average city, which is still significant when you factor in all the different types of restaurants there are.
To determine the best cities for taco lovers, we at Clever Real Estate analyzed data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, Roaming Hunger, Yelp, and Numbeo.
Our weighted rankings evaluated criteria including:
5x: Taco restaurants per 100,000 residents
5x: Average Yelp star rating of taco places
5x: Taco passion (Google Trends scores for five taco-related terms: tacos, tacos near me, taco recipe, taco truck, Taco Tuesday)
4x: Percentage of restaurants that are taco places
4x: Number of taco trucks per 100,000 residents
3x: Price of taco supplies (Prices for 1 pound each of cheese, chicken, lettuce, tomato, and onion)
3x: Affordability of taco supplies (Taco supplies cost as a percentage of average income)
Phoenix ranks as the 9th-best taco city in America:
• Phoenix has 2.2 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, compared to Virginia Beach, which has the fewest taco places at just 0.3 per 100,000 residents.
• Of the total number of restaurants in Phoenix, 5.2% are taco places.
• Taco restaurants in Phoenix have an average Yelp rating of 4.28, compared to Buffalo, the city with the lowest-ranking average Yelp score (3.46).
• Phoenix has a taco interest score of 83.4 out of 100, according to Google Trends data for search terms such as ”tacos,” “tacos near me,” and “taco recipes.”
The 15 Best Taco Cities
The top 15 taco cities really stand out by dominating the remaining cities in all of the metrics we used. Unsurprisingly, the top 15 cities have a lot of taco passion. With an average Taco Passion score of 85.7 out of 100 based on Google Trends data for five different taco terms, the top 15 cities have a 31% higher score than the average city in our study (65.4).
Let’s taco ’bout quality: Nothing gets taco aficionados worked up more than discussing who actually has the best tacos. Taco restaurants in the top 15 cities have an average Yelp star rating of 4.15.
Cost counts, too: Taco supplies are cheapest in the top 15 cities. Chicken, tomato, onion, cheese, and lettuce cost around $14.76 in the top 15 cities, compared to $15.37 in the average city in our study. When taco lovers can find a delicious taco that’s also affordable, they’re in heaven.
Tacos also take a smaller chunk out of your paycheck in the top 15 cities. Weekly tacos for three to four people would cost just 1% of the average annual household income. That’s 16.7% less than the 1.2% of the average household income in the U.S.
1. Austin, Texas
🌮 Tacos Over Here, Tacos Over There
Our No. 1 taco city has the highest percentage of restaurants that are taco places than any other metro in our study at 7%. That’s 78.8% higher than average (3.9%).
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever visited Austin that the city doesn’t just have a remarkable amount of taco places but also a population that loves tacos more than almost any other place on Earth.
Austin’s overall Taco Passion score is 95.4 out of 100, 45.9% higher than the average city in our study (65.4). It’s also the No. 1 city for al pastor and breakfast tacos, based on search interest.
This again tracks with Austin having the most taco places per capita out of any other city in our study. At 7.1 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, that’s a whopping 255% more taco options than the average city (2).
2. San Jose, California
💰 More Taco for Your Buck
Buying taco supplies for three to four people weekly costs 0.7% of the annual household income in San Jose. That’s 41.7% in savings, compared to 1.2% in the average U.S. city.
Californians should be proud to have San Jose in our No. 2 spot! It’s known for its plethora of taco stands and trucks throughout the city. Coupled with its affordability, San Jose is a great option for folks who want to do a taco tour on a budget in an otherwise expensive state.
When we say there are a plethora of taco places in San Jose, we really mean it. San Jose has 6.9 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, 245% more than average (2). The city also has an above-average ratio of taco joints to other restaurants: 4.1% of restaurants in San Jose specialize in tacos (4.7% higher than the average city’s).
If you’re also a fan of burritos, you’ll be in good company in San Jose. It’s our No. 2 city for overall burrito passion! Locals tend to be particularly passionate about carne asada burritos, based on local search interest.
3. San Antonio, Texas
😋 Come for Los Spurs, Stay for the Birria
San Antonio ranked No. 1 for birria tacos and quesadillas in terms of residents’ passions for the two dishes. Birria tacos are a Mexican classic but have really taken off in recent years in the U.S.
As many Texans know, San Antonio and our No. 1. taco city, Austin, have long been rivals when it comes to which city has the best tacos. It’s also long been documented that the heated discussions about tacos in these cities go much deeper than just how good the tacos are but also into the cities’ histories with racism.
Since the two cities are so close, we’d recommend visiting both to compare the taco scenes (and barbecue scenes while you’re at it). San Antonio has a lot of options, with 4.6 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, 130% more than the average city (2).
San Antonio’s taco places also stack up fairly well in terms of quality to other cities. Its average Yelp star rating for taco restaurants is 4.35, 7.4% higher than the average city’s (4.05). What’s more, San Antonio is also really affordable for tacos. Tacos for three to four people in San Antonio cost just $12.91, compared to the average cost in the U.S. of $15.37.
4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
👌 Taco Truck Lovers Unite!
Oklahoma City is the No. 1 city for taco truck passion! Folks in The Big Friendly search for taco trucks more than any other city in our study.
Beyond taco trucks, Oklahoma City showed the highest overall level of passion for tacos in our study at a perfect 100 — that was 52.9% higher than average (65.4) across the five taco-related terms we analyzed on Google Trends.
Thankfully, those searches lead to a lot of options in the city. OKC has 3.5 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, 75% more than the average city (2). We’d be remiss to not mention that Oklahoma City also has several great options for Indian/Navajo tacos, which are similar to chalupas but made with frybread, as well. If you’re in Oklahoma City and want to give one a try, check out The Fried Taco.
OKC is also pretty affordable for enjoying Taco Tuesday. Taco supplies for three to four people in the metro cost approximately $13.84, 25% less than the average cost in the U.S. ($15.37).
5. Los Angeles, California
🌟 Tacos Are the True Stars in LA
Los Angeles is another city with a high percentage of restaurants that are taco places at 5.2%, 70% more than the average city.
Just how many taco restaurants does Los Angeles have? 3.4 per 100,000 residents! With a population of nearly 4 million people, that’s a showstopping number of taco places from which to choose.
Alongside being a “show biz” city, Los Angeles has rightfully earned a reputation for having some of the best Mexican food in California — just watch LA street food tours on YouTube to see for yourself (sorry for the FOMO). The average Yelp star rating for taco restaurants in LA is 4.34, 7.2% higher than the average city’s (4.05).
Overall, LA residents are also more passionate about tacos than residents of the average American city. LA’s Taco Passion score is 89.5 out of 100, 36.9% higher than average (65.4). LA residents are particularly keen to find the best carnitas tacos, coming in No. 2 in the U.S. for search volume.
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
🃏 A Taco Oasis
Although Las Vegas’ Michelin-starred restaurants get most of the culinary praise, the city also has a thriving taco scene. Vegas is home to 6.3 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, 215% more than average (2).
Las Vegas can also tout that, in addition to so many taco places, the city is above average in terms of quality and popularity. Taco restaurants in Vegas have an average Yelp star rating of 4.16, 2.7% higher than the average city in our study with an average rating of 4.05.
Vegas residents (and its millions of hungry visitors each year) are also very passionate and eager to find out more about tacos in the city. Vegas has a 37.8% higher average Taco Passion score (90.1) than the average city (65.4) across five general taco terms we analyzed.
Taco lovers can also enjoy more affordable tacos on average in Vegas. Taco supplies for three to four people cost only $13.37, compared to the average cost of $15.37.
7. Houston, Texas
💲 Big Savings in H-Town
Tacos in Houston are cheaper than in the average city. Taco supplies for three to four diners cost approximately $12.78, 16.7% less than average ($15.37).
Houston is known throughout Texas for having a diverse array of quality cuisine, most commonly Viet-Cajun, barbecue, Louisiana Creole, and Nigerian. However, Houston’s taco spots fare pretty well compared to the average city. The average Yelp star rating for Houston taco restaurants is 4.15, slightly higher than the average city at 4.05 (2.5% higher).
Solange’s hometown also has a lot of taco places compared to other types of restaurants, with 5.3% of all restaurants in Houston specializing in tacos. Houston has a 35.3% higher percentage of taco spots than the average city (3.9%).
8. San Diego, California
🎉 Best City for Taco Tuesday
San Diego is the No. 1 city for Taco Tuesday, fish tacos, and carnitas lovers based on Google Trends scores.
With all that interest in tacos, it’s good news that San Diego boasts 4.7 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents, 135% more than average (2). Like the other Californian cities in our study, San Diego scored particularly high for fish tacos. Although there are a lot of coastal states, California seems to love fish and other types of seafood tacos more than any other.
A significant portion of restaurants in San Diego are also taco places: 4.5%. That’s a 14.9% higher percentage than the average city’s 3.9%. This proportion of taco restaurants also reflects San Diego’s overall passion for tacos. At 98.8 out of 100 for Taco Passion, San Diego has a 51.1% higher score than average (65.4).
9. Phoenix, Arizona
💎 Another Taco Gem in the Desert
In Phoenix, taco restaurants make up 5.2% of restaurants — 32.8% more than the average city at 3.9%.
Although Phoenix has a relatively high percentage of taco restaurants compared to others, per capita, it only has 2.2 tacos per 100,000 residents, which is only 10% more than average. What this does mean, however, is that people in Phoenix really love tacos, given that they make up such a high percentage of restaurants.
This takeaway tracks with Phoenix’s overall Taco Passion of 92.9 out of 100, which is 42% higher than the average city’s passion for tacos (65.4). Phoenix also ranked No. 1 for its interest in carne asada tacos and No. 2 in our study for its interest in Taco Tuesdays!
10. Riverside, California
🌊 Tacos Are Flowing in Riverside
Riverside has the second-highest percentage of restaurants that are taco places in the study with 6.6% of all restaurants in the city specializing in tacos. That’s 68.5% more than average (3.9%).
Although Riverside often gets overshadowed by its larger neighbors, Los Angeles and San Diego, its love for tacos cannot be denied. Residents in Riverside show a passion for tacos, with a 36.9% higher Taco Passion score (89.5 out of 100) than the average city (65.4) across five general taco terms we analyzed.
Despite being in pricey California, Riverside taco supplies for three to four people cost approximately $14.82, which is still slightly cheaper than average ($15.37) by 8.3%.
11. Denver, Colorado
🏅 Mile High Ratings
Denver taco restaurants have an average Yelp star rating of 4.24. That’s a 4.7% higher average Yelp rating than the average metro.
Denver is another city that not only has higher-rated taco places than average but also more taco places than average. In Denver, there are 3.2 taco restaurants per 100,000 residents. That’s 60% more than the two taco places in the average city.
Denver also shows a high passion for tacos, with a 14.5% higher average Taco Passion score (74.9 out of 100) than the average city (65.4). Denver residents are also passionate about margaritas, coming in No. 3 overall in search interest. This may track with Denver’s first restaurant to get a liquor license post-prohibition also being a Mexican restaurant: the historic Blue Bonnet, which shares that fact as a source of pride (and perhaps selling point for their margaritas).
12. Raleigh, North Carolina
🤑 Ballin’ on a Budget
Raleigh might be the most affordable city for tacos overall. It is the second-most affordable city based on the weekly cost of tacos, as well as the second-most affordable based on tacos as a percentage of average income.
Although North Carolina is most known for barbecue (and perhaps Krispy Kreme), Raleigh has a lot going for it in terms of tacos.
Firstly, Raleigh’s average Yelp star rating for taco restaurants is 4.2, 3.7% higher than the average city’s 4.05. That’s nothing to scoff at in an area not typically associated with high-quality Mexican restaurants.
A true selling point for Raleigh is how its taco costs stack up against other cities. Buying taco supplies for three to four people on a weekly basis costs just 0.8% of the annual household income in Raleigh. That’s 33.3% savings compared, to 1.2% in the average U.S. city. Taco supplies for three to four people also cost just $12 all together — 33.3% less than average ($15.37).
13. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
🍺 More Tacos, More Beer
If you thought we were going to talk about Milwaukee without mentioning its myriad breweries or overall love of beer — you were wrong. Milwaukee is the second least-expensive city on our list, which is good news for those who have ever felt like they needed to decide between getting just one more taco or just one more pint.
On a weekly basis, taco supplies for three to four people are just 0.9% of Milwaukeean’s annual income, 25% lower than the average of 1.2%. The actual cost is approximately $11.48, which is also 25% less than the average city’s cost of $15.37.
Folks in Milwaukee are also particularly passionate about taco trucks, coming in No. 3 overall for interest in mobile taco places. Milwaukee also made it in the top 10 cities for shrimp tacos, which may give the city a surprising new food item to be known for.
14. Dallas, Texas
🤠 In Good Company
Like the other major cities in Texas, Dallas made it into the top 15! Dallas scored high for overall Taco Passion with a score of 90 out of 100, 37.6% higher than average (65.6).
Which taco terms, in particular, are Dallas residents most passionate about? Dallas ranks in the top five most-passionate cities for people searching for “tacos near me,” as well as birria tacos, barbacoa, breakfast tacos, enchiladas, salsa, and quesadillas. It’s safe to say Dallas loves tacos.
Tacos are also more affordable in the Dallas metro overall. Taco supplies for three to four people cost approximately $14.20, 16.7% less than the average cost of $15.37 in the U.S.
15. Sacramento, California
🚚 Pull Up for Tacos
Sacramento came in No. 2 for its passion for taco trucks in particular! Based on data from Roaming Hunger, Sacramento is home to 5.1 food trucks per 100,000 residents, making it a top city in California for taco lovers who want food on the go.
Sacramento also has a higher number of taco restaurants per capita than most cities. With 3.2 taco places per 100,00 residents, Sacramento has 60% more per capita than the average city (2).
The Big Tomato also showed more love for tacos in general than the average city. With a Taco Passion score of 83.4 out of 100, Sacramento residents search for taco-related terms 27% more than people in other cities (65.4).