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Quesabirria Ruth Tobias

22 Essential Tacos in and Around Denver

Tacos are more than a trend in this town

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Few foods fuel the fire in the bellies of Denver diners quite like tacos. From the humblest hole-in-the-wall where the carnitas and carne asada fall off the bone to the modern hot spot where the toppings range from seared tuna to teriyaki tofu, the city’s awash in traditional and nontraditional options alike; here are 22 to try from Golden to Aurora.

Note: The map is not ranked but rather geographically organized from west to east. Have another favorite? Leave a note in the comments or send us a tip.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Xicamiti La Taquería Bistro

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This Golden gem doesn’t merely assemble tacos, it composes them with epicurean flair (and a sprinkling of queso fresco): Try the campechanos with steak, chorizo, grilled onion, and chipotle salsa or the grilled shrimp with bacon, onion, tomato, and poblano, washed down with a margarita like the kiwi-infused Catrina.

Tacos campechanos
Tacos campechanos at Xicamiti.
Ruth Tobias

El Consome de Morelos

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Where there’s consomé, there’s quesabirria — and this truck parked on the corner of West Colfax and Xavier does a fine version of both. The broth is light and citrusy, the tacos slightly puffy and plenty cheesy, and the red and green salsas that come with not only these but all the tacos on offer are primo.

Quesabirria
Quesabirria from El Consome de Morelos.
Ruth Tobias

Kiké's Red Tacos

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Speaking of birria, there may be no better outlet for it in town than this West Highland truck. In fact, it has earned quite the avid following, so prepare to wait a bit for those drippingly delicious tacos — with or without cheese — accompanied by gently smoky and sweetly spicy consomé as well as cucumber and radish slices and a blistered jalapeño.

Takeout quesabirria
Quesabirria at Kiké’s.
Ruth Tobias

Combining Filipino and New Mexican influences with panache, this West Highland newcomer does an equally bang-up job of mixing sweet, spicy, and salty ingredients, be it the succulent chicken adobo taco topped with green chile, pineapple, and scallion or the smoked carnitas version with lime-fig jam, chicharrones, and cilantro.

Chicken adobo taco
Adobo’s chicken adobo taco.
Ruth Tobias

Tacos El Paisa

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Modest on the outside, colorful and welcoming within, this Jefferson Park charmer doesn’t do anything particularly unusual to stand out, it just does everything right: well-cooked meats from adobada to chorizo, fresh and well-proportioned garnishes on street-sized tortillas, and all. A full bar slinging cervezas and cocktails aplenty only sweetens the pot.

Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor at El Paisa.
Ruth Tobias

Cantina Loca

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Having long ago proved she’s got the meats at Work & Class, the inimitable Dana Rodriguez (aka “Loca”) brings them to bear on the tacos that center the menu at this modern LoHi cantina. In addition to flawless barbacoa and carnitas, don’t miss the stellar, perfectly flaky fish fried in beer-infused tempura batter or the juicy coriander-roasted lamb; frequent specials might include carne asada or chicken tinga. Cocktails featuring Rodriguez’s own agave spirits brand, Doña Loca, make it a meal.

Barbacoa tacos Hi-Rez Photography

La Calle Taqueria Y Carnitas

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Behind a bright orange façade on Alameda awaits this favorite among aficionados, notable in part for the sheer variety of options it offers, including higado (beef liver) and lamb barbacoa. Here’s the perfect opportunity to try cueritos — pig skin that, unlike the fried version, is mildly sweet and almost creamy in texture — or rich, tangy chivo (goat). Or not: Rest assured it nails all the staples too.

Assorted tacos
A taco assortment at La Calle.
Ruth Tobias

El Taco De Mexico

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Not for nothing did this three-decade-old institution in the Santa Fe Arts District receive an America’s Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2020. Whether topped with carne asada, lengua, or tripe along with a bit of onion and cilantro, the tacos here are textbook, reflecting the skill and consistency of the veteran crew behind the counter. Order a full plate; the beans and rice it comes with are exemplary too.

Carne asada tacos at El Taco de Mexico.
Ruth Tobias

Carnitas California

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Though it also offers all the standards — cochinita pibil, adobada, and so on — the name says it all when it comes to ordering tacos at this strip-mall joint on Santa Fe Drive. Stick with straight-up carnitas or go for the carnitas mix, which includes skin and other delectable bits; it’s top-notch either way.

Carnitas tacos
Carnitas tacos from Carnitas California.

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge

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Living up to its billing as the “home of the fried taco” (pictured at the top left of the plate), this Ballpark institution fills its surefire hangover cures with steak, ground beef, or chicken, plus cheese, lettuce, and tomato — and, for a little extra, bacon or avocado.

Mexican combo platter with fried taco
Mexico City’s fried taco is pictured top left.
Ruth Tobias

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

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Run by the über-talented Jose Avila, this Ballpark banger is turning out the most inspired and artful surprises imaginable in taco form. Perhaps the most startling example is the res con tuetano, an embarrassment of beefy riches that features an entire marrow bone alongside velvety birria; another would be the chuleta enchilada, a fork-tender pork chop topped with nopales and creamy salsa verde. But the list goes on from the tres chorizo — red, green, and black — to the stuffed chile de agua smothered in frijoles. Meanwhile, on Wednesdays, tacos al pastor are served fresh from the trompo; two come with a margarita for a measly $5. (And then there’s Avila’s Sunday-only pop-up, El Borrego Negro, featuring barbacoa from his own herd of sheep that’s served with all the staple accountrement.)

Birria taco with bone marrow, pork chop taco with cactus, and pollo pibil with avocado.
La Diabla’s birria taco with bone marrow, pork chop taco with cactus, and pollo pibil with avocado.
Ruth Tobias

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

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The ultimate hole in the wall (or in this case gas station), Garibaldi is beloved for out-of-the-ordinary items like the tacos azules — blue corn tortillas piled high with chorizo or cecina (cured beef), queso fresco, sauteed onions and nopales, and more — as well as a vegetarian version featuring poblanos and mushrooms. Stretching the category a bit, it also makes tacos dorados stuffed with chicken or potatoes.

Bellota

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Don’t knock gourmet tacos before trying Manny Barella’s. The Monterrey, Mexico–bred talent treats his ingredients as though they were destined for a four-star tasting menu, and it shows in the sumptuous yet soulful results. Encased in a crispy flour tortilla, the costra de ribeye is melt-in-the-mouth rich with housemade chorizo, queso Chihuahua, and salsa verde; so is the shrimp variant, enhanced by shrimp-infused butter and tomato cream. Meanwhile, the king-trumpet mushroom al pastor is a vegetarian revelation with charred pineapple.

Shrimp taco
Bellota’s shrimp taco.
Bellota

Mister Oso

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Just for fun, this breezy tropical escape in RiNo serves its tacos unassembled, giving diners the chance to mix, match, and mash it all up at will. Some dos and don’ts: Do add chorizo verde or rojo to the fabulous smoked potatoes dusted with chile-garlic crunch, and ask for extra crema. Don’t sleep on the coconut-braised pork shoulder with fried sweet plantains and pickled red onion. And pair it all with the spicy mezcal margarita.

Ruth Tobias
Mister Oso’s smoked potato tacos with chorizo verde.

Tacos Tequila Whiskey

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More like mini-meals on edible plates than anything, the options at this East Colfax pioneer of the modern taco movement (with siblings in Highlands Square and Cap Hill) range from the signature sweet-and-sour-braised pork belly with candied garlic to walnut chorizo with melted Jack, tropical pico de gallo, and red cabbage slaw. Outrageous specials up the ante even further: Think grilled octopus with garlic mashed potato, kale salad, and mustard aioli or bang bang shrimp on a spinach tortilla.

Mixed taco platter
A mixed taco platter at Tacos Tequila Whiskey.
Ruth Tobias

7 Leguas Mexican Grille

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Not unlike campechanos, tacos de discada are topped with a mix of chopped meats, which are traditionally cooked together with veggies on a discada, or plow blade. They alone are worth the trip to this East Colfax fixture, where they come crispy and juicy with steak, marinated pork, bacon, and ham as well as ground beef and sliced hot dogs, plus onions, peppers, and a sprinkling of queso fresco and cilantro. But running a close second are the tacos al carbon, which here involve grilled beef cooked with chunks of potato and pico de gallo. The salsa on the side is also worth traveling for.

Tacos de discada
Tacos de discada at 7 Leguas.
Ruth Tobias

Street Feud

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The menu here is billed as a “mashup of the world’s street food,” so expect a touch of the unexpected at this funky, graffiti-splashed spot on East Colfax where old boom boxes line the entrance and cassette tapes serve as table signs. Speaking of funk, the mushroom taco with beans is a sure thing, as are the braised lamb with griddled cheese and chile jus, and the tempura-fried fish with jalapeño tartar.

A mix of tacos on a silver tray
A mix of tacos at Street Feud.
Ruth Tobias

Carrera's Tacos

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Looking to the West Coast for inspiration, this Greenwood Village operation makes a mean fish taco, while its shrimp come juicy and so plump — accompanied by not only onions and cilantro but salsa verde and crema — that they’re almost too big for the handmade tortilla; same goes with the tender, deeply browned cauliflower that substitutes for a choice of protein. Speaking of choices, diners here can also opt for hard shells over soft, crispy cheese shells, and other variants on the standard vehicle.

Shrimp taco
Carrera’s shrimp taco.
Ruth Tobias

Takero Mucho

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In addition to especially luscious carnitas, this friendly full-service spot also makes must-try tacos topped with chorizo and scrambled eggs for something a little off script — plus delightful aguas frescas to wash them down.

Carnitas tacos
Takero Mucho’s carnitas tacos.
Ruth Tobias

La Esquina del Sabor at La Plaza Colorado

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Tacos al vapor over here and tacos de canasta over there. Cheesy tacos de alambre on handmade tortillas in this corner, Guatemalan-style tacos graced by grilled onions in that one. Tacos loaded with longaniza, camarones, and al pastor straight off the spit from one vendor, quesabirria from the next. At La Esquina del Sabor — a magical marketplace in the parking lot of Aurora’s La Plaza Colorado — around 20 food trucks gather to form a rainbow of styles and specialties; the result is flavor like no others in town.

Tacos de alambre asada and pastor
Tacos de alambre asada and pastor from Tacos La Victoria at La Esquina Del Sabor.
Ruth Tobias

Tacos Selene

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The barbacoa’s like butter, the adobada’s got extra zip, the salsa bar’s loaded (try the orange one, a house specialty), and all in all the widespread adoration for this family-run Aurora fixture is more than justified. Not that the menu itself is out of the ordinary — nine options run from asada and carnitas to lengua and buche — but the execution is a cut above. Come on a weekend and throw a bowl of menudo into the mix. (P.S.: There’s a second location in Littleton.)

Asada, barbacoa, and adobada tacos
Asada, barbacoa, and adobada at Tacos Selene.
Ruth Tobias

Tacos El Metate

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While it offers everything from deeply savory buche to juicy barbacoa, this Aurora gem (with a second location in the University neighborhood) excels above all at batter-fried fish and shrimp tacos, at once shatteringly crunchy and catch-of-the-day fresh. Throw in an order of carne asada fries just for kicks.

An array of tacos with radishes, lime, and salsas
Tacos at El Metate come with radishes and lime as well as onion and cilantro.
Ruth Tobias

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Xicamiti La Taquería Bistro

Tacos campechanos
Tacos campechanos at Xicamiti.
Ruth Tobias

This Golden gem doesn’t merely assemble tacos, it composes them with epicurean flair (and a sprinkling of queso fresco): Try the campechanos with steak, chorizo, grilled onion, and chipotle salsa or the grilled shrimp with bacon, onion, tomato, and poblano, washed down with a margarita like the kiwi-infused Catrina.

Tacos campechanos
Tacos campechanos at Xicamiti.
Ruth Tobias

El Consome de Morelos

Quesabirria
Quesabirria from El Consome de Morelos.
Ruth Tobias

Where there’s consomé, there’s quesabirria — and this truck parked on the corner of West Colfax and Xavier does a fine version of both. The broth is light and citrusy, the tacos slightly puffy and plenty cheesy, and the red and green salsas that come with not only these but all the tacos on offer are primo.

Quesabirria
Quesabirria from El Consome de Morelos.
Ruth Tobias

Kiké's Red Tacos

Takeout quesabirria
Quesabirria at Kiké’s.
Ruth Tobias

Speaking of birria, there may be no better outlet for it in town than this West Highland truck. In fact, it has earned quite the avid following, so prepare to wait a bit for those drippingly delicious tacos — with or without cheese — accompanied by gently smoky and sweetly spicy consomé as well as cucumber and radish slices and a blistered jalapeño.

Takeout quesabirria
Quesabirria at Kiké’s.
Ruth Tobias

Adobo

Chicken adobo taco
Adobo’s chicken adobo taco.
Ruth Tobias

Combining Filipino and New Mexican influences with panache, this West Highland newcomer does an equally bang-up job of mixing sweet, spicy, and salty ingredients, be it the succulent chicken adobo taco topped with green chile, pineapple, and scallion or the smoked carnitas version with lime-fig jam, chicharrones, and cilantro.

Chicken adobo taco
Adobo’s chicken adobo taco.
Ruth Tobias

Tacos El Paisa

Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor at El Paisa.
Ruth Tobias

Modest on the outside, colorful and welcoming within, this Jefferson Park charmer doesn’t do anything particularly unusual to stand out, it just does everything right: well-cooked meats from adobada to chorizo, fresh and well-proportioned garnishes on street-sized tortillas, and all. A full bar slinging cervezas and cocktails aplenty only sweetens the pot.

Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor at El Paisa.
Ruth Tobias

Cantina Loca

Barbacoa tacos Hi-Rez Photography

Having long ago proved she’s got the meats at Work & Class, the inimitable Dana Rodriguez (aka “Loca”) brings them to bear on the tacos that center the menu at this modern LoHi cantina. In addition to flawless barbacoa and carnitas, don’t miss the stellar, perfectly flaky fish fried in beer-infused tempura batter or the juicy coriander-roasted lamb; frequent specials might include carne asada or chicken tinga. Cocktails featuring Rodriguez’s own agave spirits brand, Doña Loca, make it a meal.

Barbacoa tacos Hi-Rez Photography

La Calle Taqueria Y Carnitas

Assorted tacos
A taco assortment at La Calle.
Ruth Tobias

Behind a bright orange façade on Alameda awaits this favorite among aficionados, notable in part for the sheer variety of options it offers, including higado (beef liver) and lamb barbacoa. Here’s the perfect opportunity to try cueritos — pig skin that, unlike the fried version, is mildly sweet and almost creamy in texture — or rich, tangy chivo (goat). Or not: Rest assured it nails all the staples too.

Assorted tacos
A taco assortment at La Calle.
Ruth Tobias

El Taco De Mexico

Carne asada tacos at El Taco de Mexico.
Ruth Tobias

Not for nothing did this three-decade-old institution in the Santa Fe Arts District receive an America’s Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2020. Whether topped with carne asada, lengua, or tripe along with a bit of onion and cilantro, the tacos here are textbook, reflecting the skill and consistency of the veteran crew behind the counter. Order a full plate; the beans and rice it comes with are exemplary too.

Carne asada tacos at El Taco de Mexico.
Ruth Tobias

Carnitas California

Carnitas tacos
Carnitas tacos from Carnitas California.

Though it also offers all the standards — cochinita pibil, adobada, and so on — the name says it all when it comes to ordering tacos at this strip-mall joint on Santa Fe Drive. Stick with straight-up carnitas or go for the carnitas mix, which includes skin and other delectable bits; it’s top-notch either way.

Carnitas tacos
Carnitas tacos from Carnitas California.

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge

Mexican combo platter with fried taco
Mexico City’s fried taco is pictured top left.
Ruth Tobias

Living up to its billing as the “home of the fried taco” (pictured at the top left of the plate), this Ballpark institution fills its surefire hangover cures with steak, ground beef, or chicken, plus cheese, lettuce, and tomato — and, for a little extra, bacon or avocado.

Mexican combo platter with fried taco
Mexico City’s fried taco is pictured top left.
Ruth Tobias

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal