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The taco takeover: Where to order tasty filled tortillas

It’s no wonder the taco is elbowing out the sandwich on menus around the country. Crunchy or soft outer shells, filled with different textures and flavours, all wrapped up for easy eating – what’s not to love? Whether you prefer the satisfying crunch of a crispy corn shell filled with contrasting melt-in-your-mouth ceviche, or a bite of a soft flour tortilla bursting with luscious pulled pork, these Mexican morsels are impossible to resist. Open wide – we’ve tracked down the tastiest tacos in your ‘hood.

 

Johannesburg

Baha Taco (Norwood)

David and Katrin Smale are your go-to people when it comes to the making, marketing and selling of tacos. They’ve been operating from a mobile unit for the past two years, but are putting the last layers of paint on their new brick-and-mortar premises on Grant Avenue in Norwood. This will be a fully green establishment, operating completely off-grid with solar systems to provide all cooling and power needs, with wood-fired ovens for cooking. Enjoy the slow-roasted pork shoulder (cooked overnight) in one of their signature tacos. The name of their business derives from Baha in California, which not only evokes fond food memories for the couple but also served as the inspiration for their fish taco (R40.60) made from sustainable fish. They use hand-pressed flour tortillas made from non-GM South African corn for their tacos, and David plans to go even more traditional by making flour in his imported flour mill as soon as he can lay his hands on enough blue corn.

Café Mexicho (Melville)

The crunchy taco salad (R56) is made with corn chips, savoury mince, avocado, cheese, olive oil, lime and chilli, all tossed together to allow the chips to give a crouton-like crunch to the salad. Their hard-shell tacos are made from deep-fried corn tortillas, and filling options include prawn (R105), beef (R92), chicken (R88) and vegetarian. All feature accompaniments of lettuce, tomato, onion, olive oil and lime dressing, fresh coriander, and salsa munchu, a chilli-laden tomato salsa. The soft-shell tacos with blackened fish (R105) show off the fish of the day, while the pico de gallo pulled pork taco is served with salsa made from imported tomatillos and fresh coriander.

Mama Mexicana (CBD)

The tacos at Mama Mexicana are made from 100% gluten free hard or soft shell tacos. They offer a variety of fillings, including fish, chicken, beef, barbeque pork, and a vegetarian option as well as an authentic bean option. All the tacos are served with homemade salsa flavoured with lovely spices, fresh coriander, guacamole and sour cream (R55 to R65). Here they pride themselves on upping the health factor of their fish tacos by grilling the fish rather than deep-frying, as is so often the case.

The interior at Mama Mexicana. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at Mama Mexicana. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Mexico Flame Grilled Foods (Roodepoort)

This small establishment on Ontdekkers Road sells simple grab-and-run versions of the taco. Their taco shells comes from Asteca and they serve a generous three shells filled with 200g of either chicken (R72.90) or beef (R82.90) with tomato and onion salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

Mmojo Amexicano Food Truck

The Marthas Mojo food truck business specialises in high-end tacos. Locate them online to see where next they’ll be serving their delicious tacos. Their signature drunken chicken taco is made from chicken breasts marinated overnight in a mixture of Mexican beer, tequila, spice mix and lime juice and then fried on order. They are a bargain at R60 a piece, and comprise soft, steamed tortillas with the chicken filling, lettuce, avocado cream and an authentic Mexican homemade sour cream, sweetcorn relish, pickled jalapeños and fresh coriander. In addition to their vegetarian option (filled with refried beans) they also sell two other popular beef tacos, all at R60. The taco de picadillo consists of a beef mince mix, olives, capers, raisins and chilli, slow-cooked with tomatoes, similar to the chilli con carne. Their pork carnitas (R75) are made from slow-cooked, pulled pork shoulder that’s fried again for crunch and served in an open taco. Customers should rest assured that in an authentic taco the heat comes only from the chilli salsa and never the meat, so that you can regulate the heat yourself.

Mmojo Amexicano Food Truck. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

Mmojo Amexicano Food Truck. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

Pablo’s Mexican Cantina (Northmead)

Here you can order simple, unadorned tacos that are handmade in Midrand. Choose between mince, chicken and pork as the main proteins, all served with the standard lettuce, tomato and a mix of mozzarella and cheddar, together with guacamole and sour cream (R42.50). They also have a taco basket that could be enjoyed as a main course, comprising a tortilla basket filled with spicy ground beef, refried beans and cheese, topped with guacamole and sour cream for R88.50.

Perron (Illovo)
This bright and quirky eatery serves a host of interesting plated tacos. Try the slow cooked pork taco with two hard or soft corn taco shells piled with Mexican marinated pork, guacamole and pickled pink onions. For those wanting a bit of chicken, there is the popcorn pollo taco with fried chicken breast marinated in buttermilk and served in two soft shell tacos with slaw, guacamole and a roasted tomato salsa. (R54 for both)

The interior at Perron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at Perron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Grazing Room (Dunkeld West)
At this trendy sibling of DW Eleven-13, guests can tuck into the tapas portion of a beef taco. Wagyu beef, tomato salsa, sriracha mayonnaise and sour cream are enveloped in a soft flour tortilla. (R95)

Pretoria

Tacokombi (Menlo Park)

Serving bright Mexican-inspired dishes at festivals, private events and markets, this taco-mobile is ideal for a quick, spicy bite to eat. The tacos are freshly prepared with homemade soft-shell flour tortillas and highlights include the baja-style fish taco with fresh, deep-fried beer-battered hake strips, crunchy slaw, homemade salsa and their secret mayo.

Tacos from the Taco Kombi. Photo courtesy of the restauant.

Tacos from the Taco Kombi. Photo courtesy of the restauant.

Durban

El Hombré (Florida Road)

For fast and fresh Mexican cuisine, this funky Florida Road eatery has it all. The menu is vast, with the taco section boasting some creative combinations. Opt for the smoked brisket and tomatillo taco, with wood-smoked brisket and tomatillo salsa, cheddar, chipotle crème and guacamole, encased in a crispy corn shell taco for R44.90. For those who want a little taste of everything, there is the option of the mini taco meal for R49.90, which is comprised of a mix of mini tacos jam-packed with fillings such as bacon beans, pulled pork, brisket and refried beans.

The outside at El Hombre. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The outside at El Hombre. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Freedom Café (Greyville)

This hip urban eatery offers a vibrant menu with dishes from all the corners of the world. Their Mexican-inspired pulled chicken tacos feature small, soft flour tortillas, filled with a combination of pulled roast chicken, hummus, coriander and a zippy avocado and pineapple salsa for a dash of freshness (R71).

Pulled chicken tacos at Freedom Café. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

Pulled chicken tacos at Freedom Café. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

Lucky Shaker (Umhlanga Rocks)

This trendy Umhlanga cocktail bar serves up fresh and innovative food to pair with their fun, seasonal drinks. Tacos are served two per portion with the option of a crunchy lettuce wrap instead of a soft flour tortilla. Choices include Greek lamb tacos with citrus mayo, red onion, tomato and a drizzle of cumin and garlic yoghurt dressing (R55). Vegetarians can opt for the crispy falafel taco with cabbage, tzatziki, tahini and a spicy onion relish (R45).

The tacos at Lucky Shaker. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The tacos at Lucky Shaker. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Oyster Bar (Umhlanga Rocks)

This sophisticated seafront venue is the place to sip on a glass of bubbly while nibbling on delicate snacks. The Oyster Box Hotel’s seafood bar serves elegant tacos with a fresh Asian twist. The crispy corn-shell taco is served with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo, pico de gallo and a choice of Mozambican prawns (R180), tuna tartar (R180) or salmon gravalax (R160).

The tacos at The Oyster Bar. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

The tacos at The Oyster Bar. Photo courtesy of restaurant.

Taco Zulu (Florida Road)

This vibey Mexican spot on the bustling Florida Road strip serves up a selection of flavoursome taco dishes. All tacos feature a crisp flour tortilla rolled around your choice of filling, with fresh chopped lettuce, onion and tomato. Tuck into options such as the naughty amigo, which is made up of grilled chicken breast, citrus-chilli, guacamole, cheddar, sour cream and salsa. One taco for R69 and two for R89.

Cape Town

Charango (City Bowl)

One of the latest spots to open its doors on Bree Street serves up unique Peruvian-style dishes. The dirt-rubbed tuna taco (R85) is made up of perfectly seared tuna that’s lightly spiced and enrobed in tangy-sweet guacamole with a hit of wasabi beneath it. A garnish of ultra-fine carrot and red cabbage adds a pleasing crunch.

Dirt-rubbed tacos at Charango. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

Dirt-rubbed tacos at Charango. Photo by Katharine Jacobs.

Cheyne’s (Hout Bay)
This Asian-inspired tapas spot serves up small plated tacos with two unusual and modern options to choose from. The seafood taco is filled with tiger prawns, cucumber and mint noodles, fuji apple tempura and a green chilli caramel (R60). The meat option is a pulled lamb taco served with pickled cucumber, quails egg, crispy seaweed and a hit of sriracha (R70)

Door 221 (City Bowl)

This hot new bar serves soft, fluffy tacos that envelop your choice of three fillings. On offer are the juicy pulled pork taco with cumin and tomato salsa (R45), a tangy grilled fish taco with guacamole, coriander and lime (R45), or a veggie option of grilled mushroom, jalapeño and bean taco with feta and corn salsa (R45).

Food at Door 221. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Food at Door 221. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

El Burro (Green Point)

A Cape Town favourite for Mexican grub, Green Point’s El Burro serves up a wide selection of spicy, tangy and vibrant taco options. The plated braised lamb tacos (R135) include achiote-braised lamb served with a roasted yellow-pepper salsa and mint-infused sour cream on a bed of three soft blue-corn tortillas. Build-your-own tacos are comprised of three flour or corn tortillas, served with all the trimmings. The line fish filling (R98) is a lightly battered fish with flavours of garlic, chilli and coriander.

El Burro Taqueria (Tamboerskloof)

El Burro’s new taqueria serves up smaller, individually plated tacos that are priced between R30 and R35, with the idea that you try two or three of different flavours. The twice-cooked chilorio pork with chilli and garlic is spicy and tender (R30), and for a vegetarian option, you can opt for a blue-corn taco filled with spicy roasted cauliflower and a chickpea peanut salsa (R30).

Tacos at El Burro Taqueria. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Tacos at El Burro Taqueria. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Fat Cactus (Gardens)

At this popular Cape Town Tex-Mex joint, diners can savour a host of taco dishes. Gluten-free, soft flour or crispy corn tortillas are on offer with fillings such as the spicy country fried chicken strips on coleslaw with chilli pickles, salsa and chipotle (R88) or chipotle-grilled steak with onions, peppers, slaw, guacamole and salsa (R99).

The interior at Fat Cactus Gardens. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at Fat Cactus Gardens. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Mondiall (V&A Waterfront)

This glossy waterside restaurant takes diners on a culinary journey around the world. Enjoy the game fish tacos comprising a soft flour tortilla, pico de gallo, guacamole and smoky chipotle sauce (R80).

A view of Table Mountain from inside Mondiall. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

A view of Table Mountain from inside Mondiall. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Nobu

This plush restaurant offers contemporary and Asian cuisine. The satisfying crunch of the Nobu tacos include fillings such as tuna and salmon (R100), lobster and scallop taco (R150), and the slightly spicier option of lobster and wasabi (R150).

The tacos at Nobu. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The tacos at Nobu. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Pancho’s (Observatory)

At this student favourite, tacos are served D.I.Y, comprised of crispy folded corn tortillas with all the extras and a filling of your choice. Filling options include beef, chicken, mushrooms, chilli con carne, bean, salad or butternut and feta (R82).

People having dinner at Pancho's. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

People enjoying food at Pancho’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Pot Luck Club (Woodstock)

This must-visit restaurant on the top floor of the silo at the Old Biscuit Mill offers a tapas-style plate of famous fish tacos that is hard to resist. Tender, zingy ceviche is sandwiched between two small, crunchy shells and fused together with black bean purée, guacamole and pickles. This dish goes for R55 as a tapas portion.

The Pot Luck Club fish tacos. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Pot Luck Club fish tacos. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

San Julian (City Bowl)

Mexican chef Ricardo Garcia-Aispuro grew up making corn tortillas alongside his mom, which means these are the real deal. Daily ground flour is used to make tortillas topped with your choice of filling, served with guacamole and freshly chopped, roasted and raw salsa. The fillings include braised chilorio (R90) and spicy chicken (R85). Alternatively, diners can choose from the plated taco options such as the tacos dorados of deep-fried tacos filled with mash potato, topped with braised beef, warm tomato broth, red cabbage and avo (R90).

Food on a table at San Julian. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Food on a table at San Julian. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Tacoways (Durbanville)

This little taste of Mexico in Durbanville offers up a wide range of tacos. Choose from two hard or soft tortillas served with a choice of roasted veg (R49), bean chilli (R55), or black bean (R55). The meatier fillings are slightly more hearty and include options like succulent shredded chicken, pulled pork carnitas with citrus infusion, tender beef and chilli, and tangy pan-fried fish (all R55).

Zapata Mexican Restaurant (Claremont)

The corn tacos here are served with a choice of fillings and all the traditional trimmings. Opt for the spicy chilli con carne sautéed with onions, colourful peppers and celery (R92) or the veg option of wholesome, grilled seasonal vegetables (R85).

Winelands

Cosecha (Paarl)

This winelands Mexican eatery offers bold, flavoursome cuisine in a relaxed vineyard setting. The beer-battered kingklip tacos are served with cabbage slaw and citrus salsa in soft homemade tortillas (R80). Pork lovers can tuck into the carnitas tacos made up of shredded pork in homemade tortillas with a bright and crisp apple salsa (R96).

The exterior at Cosecha Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The exterior at Cosecha Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The Thirsty Scarecrow (Stellenbosch)

This buzzing spot serves a range of dishes to partner with craft beer or local wine. The ceviche fish taco is a winner, comprising diced marinated line fish of the day in a refreshing marinade of lime and parsley with lashings of sour cream and guacamole. This dish goes for R52 as a tapas portion.

Please note that while we take every care to get the details spot on, some dishes and prices may change without our knowledge.

Have we missed your favourite taco dish? Please let us know in the comments below. (Sharing is caring.)

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