May 12, 2024


In Syracuse,

Taco Odyssey: Syracuse’s Taco Standouts

   if you’re faced with a taco crowned with shredded iceberg lettuce, walk away. It’s a culinary misstep—a betrayal of taco decency. Here, finding the top tacos isn’t about avoiding the bad—it’s about discerning the best among the greats.

Before diving deeper, let’s clear up a couple of things. Comparing a Birria Quesa taco to its simpler brethren is like debating the merits of a cold cheese sandwich against a grilled cheese. There’s no contest. The latter wins every time, hands down. And if you’re on team cold cheese, we need to have words. Secondly, the ultimate taco goes like this: a handmade flour tortilla using lard, cradling charred meat—be it pork, beef, chicken, or goat. The char must be deep, the edges crispy. Throw in charro beans, cilantro, a punchy, acidic salsa with a kick, a swipe of guacamole, and a lime wedge for good measure. That’s it—that’s the best taco I’ve ever had. But you won’t find that exact taco at any restaurant here in Syracuse.

Now, let me take you through the streets of Syracuse to the tacos that are a cut above the rest:

Birria Quesa Finest: At 415 W Onondaga Street, Birria Quesa Tacos isn’t just a place; it’s a pilgrimage. Candelaria Romero, the soul behind the counter, brings Jalisco to Syracuse through a recipe handed down by her father. Her tortillas are monumental, made daily by hand, enveloping beef so tender it surrenders effortlessly to your bite. While I might crave more clove, these tacos need no alteration—they are an epicurean balance of flavor, size, and heart.

Before Birria: At Ponchito’s on 1022 W Fayette Street, forget everything you know about build-your-own taco joints. I was a skeptic until I surrendered my choice to Michael, the wizard of the counter. He handed me a taco that was nothing short of revelatory—dual grilled corn tortillas heaped with chicharrones, cheese, cilantro, tomatillo salsa, and a blast of lime. It’s as close as it gets to something I’d proudly consume from my own kitchen: crispy, acidic, spicy, perfect.

While Birria Quesa Tacos and Ponchito’s sit at the pinnacle of Syracuse’s taco scene, the city is peppered with joints slinging tacos that’ll have you scraping the plate, yearning for just one more hit of that sublime taste.

Hit up Brazen Cafe for their Short Rib tacos, Madison County Distillery for Roasted Veggie tacos, and don’t miss the Birria Quesa at Mamacita’s, Carmelita’s, and Baja Cali.

Get out there and eat. Meet the people behind the tacos and get to know the stories of these taco masters here in Syracuse.

Brazen Cafe: 25 Irving Ave, Syracuse
Madison County Distillery: 2412 Rt 20, Cazenovia
Mamacita’s: 6059 E Taft Rd, Syracuse
Carmelita’s Mexican Restaurant: 6195 NY-31 #14, Cicero
Baja Cali Tacos: 1205 Erie Blvd W, Syracuse