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10 Best Tacos of 2015

We came, we saw, we taco-ed. From versions with smoked lamb and orange juice-marinated pulled pork to grilled avocado and hibiscus goat cheese, here are the 10 tacos we loved this year. Hope you're hungry.
Fish Taco Chinos at BLVD Chinese Kitchen | Photo by Corey Hollister

By Troy Johnson and Archana Ram

Lamb Barbacoa Taco at Nine-Ten

Deliciously fatty lamb belly is smoked and marinated in adobo sauce, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow-cooked until tender. The braising liquid is then smashed into potatoes, smeared on a corn tortilla, and finally topped with the lamb, onions, Cotija cheese, and toasted pepitas. It’s served with a side of salsa borracha (Roma tomatoes, chile de árbol, citrus, and tequila). The result is like a cross between a Mexican shepherd’s pie, vaquero barbecue, and a soft taco.

910 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Fish Taco Chinos at BLVD Chinese Kitchen

An Asian restaurant may not sound like the most likely home for a fish taco, but chef Alfred Sheik of the new Oceanside eatery, BLVD Chinese Kitchen, is up for the challenge. His Fish Tacos Chinois is made with a tender fish (species rotates based on market availability) glazed with a chile-and-condensed-milk mayonnaise and topped with cabbage slaw, bacon bits, and a house sauce.

514 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Yucateco Tacos at Mama Testa Taqueria

A corn tortilla is stuffed with pulled pork that’s been marinating in orange juice and annatto paste for 24 hours before getting steamed in a banana leaf for another six. The method honors traditional Yucatecan cooking—mostly. (There’s the minor detail of the San Diego health code not allowing underground pit cooking, as custom dictates.) It’s then topped with pickled red onions and radishes, and results in a blend of sweet, sour, and spicy notes.

9225 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa

Avocado Taco at Galaxy Taco

When George’s at the Cove chef Trey Foshee announced he was opening a taco joint, fever dreams of esoteric meatstuff danced in our heads. Octopus! Elk! Bison! But the surprise star of Galaxy Taco in La Jolla Shores is—gasp—vegetarian. Foshee makes blue masa tortillas from scratch, then grills a fresh avocado and lays it atop a purée of Rancho Gordo ayocote negro beans. For sweetness, he adds a famed Mexican tradition, elotes (corn mixed with chipotle mayo, Cotija cheese, lime, garlic, and green onion), before topping with cilantro.

2259 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla

BBQ Braised Pork Tacos at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant

They’ve been a popular staple on the menu here for years, but we’re thinking there’s a reason we’ve been hearing more and more raves recently: these tangy pork tacos are gluten-free. And only $3 each during the early bird and late-night happy hours. The pulled pork is dripping in housemade BBQ sauce, stuffed into a crispy tortilla, then topped with pepper jack cheese, avocado-laced salsa, and lime crema.

2202 Fourth Avenue, Bankers Hill

Lobster Taco at Wonderland Ocean Pub

One of the most “San Diego” spot to catch a game is Wonderland Ocean Pub, a spacious sports bar overlooking the O.B. pier, with floor-to-ceiling ocean and sunset views. Order their sizable lobster taco, a plump, seasoned-and-fried slipper tail topped with pico de gallo, melted cheese, cabbage, cilantro, and jalapeño sour cream packed into a chargrilled flour tortilla.

5083 Santa Monica Avenue, Ocean Beach

Carnitas Taco at Cantina Mayahuel

The carnitas is that perfect blend of salty, succulent shredded meat with crispy fried edges. It’s served the way it should be, simply, with onions, cilantro, and a drizzle of super-spicy salsa verde. Order on Tuesdays or during happy hour and the tacos come three to a plate for just $7.

2934 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

Azul Tacos at Haggo’s Organic Taco

We love the Azul taco, made with grass-fed flank steak, sweet caramelized onions, mushrooms, and a good amount of crumbled organic blue cheese. Crunchy, bright arugula and cilantro top it off, with brown rice and red beans on the side. Plates come with two tacos for $11.50.

1302 North Coast Highway 101, Leucadia

Fish Taco at Salud

Mostly true to the classic Baja style, the fish tacos at Salud have a few twists. Beer- battered catfish is topped with cold, crunchy cabbage, cotija, and a house sauce. From there, it’s up to you to take them over the top with a visit to the extensive salsa bar, including six different housemade varieties.

2196 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan (closed Mondays)

Hibiscus and Goat Cheese Taco at El Colegio Baja Med (Tijuana)

In between the pharmacy shops and margarita bars on Avenida Revolucion is a spattering of new, urban, food-forward eateries that highlight local produce and craft beer. We were blown away by the hibiscus flower and goat cheese taco at El Colegio Baja Med. Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero stews the flowers until they are sweet-tart and tender, then dollops on creamy fresh goat cheese. With the crunch of the corn tortilla, it’s a near-perfect bite.

El Colegio Baja Med, Calle 5ta. Avenida Revolucion, Tijuana

10 Best Tacos of 2015

Fish Taco Chinos at BLVD Chinese Kitchen | Photo by Corey Hollister

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