Food

Taco Every Day: Where to Find the Best Tacos in Manila

Here's where to get the best combination of tortilla, filling, and salsa.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM @lagrimanila
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The taco is perhaps Mexico’s greatest gift to the world. Its simplicity has generated a gazillion different takes on the dish, with everyone putting their own signature on it. 

So what makes a perfect taco? If taco = tortilla + filling + salsa, then each element must be perfect for the whole thing to work. A tortilla is more than just a shell that holds everything together. It must be fresh, ideally handmade (masa harina is an oft-mentioned ingredient), and can be cooked soft or crisp, depending on the kind of taco you’re making. The filling, usually protein and veggies, must be flavorful and tender and topped off with textural elements for a crunchy bite. Last, the salsa, usually chopped tomatoes and chili, makes the taco complete. Fresh would be great, and the consistency should just be runny enough to go around, but thick enough to not fall out of the shell before you take a bite. 

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Tacos are everywhere and they're so well-loved, people have dedicated diets to them. There are so many taco places in the city, that in 2017, we made an essential taco places list that separated the wheat from the chaff. Today, we’re updating that list, expanding the definition from essential taco places to simply Manila's best tacoseven if you’re not a taco place, if you serve delicious, well-loved tacos, you’re on the list. 

Because tacos are largely customizable, we're leaving this list unranked.

1| La Chinesca

Bruce Ricketts’ passion project was greeted with much fanfare, and deservedly so. His take on Mexican food is unique and flavorfulnot necessarily authentic, but all-around delicious. The fact that foodies from all over drive down south, pay for toll, and fight for ever-elusive parking in BF Paranaque to eat in this tiny, nondescript hole-in-the-wall is a testament to La Chinesca’s good food. It definitely deserves to remain on our best tacos in Manila list. Today, La Chinesca can also be found in Rockwell’s The Grid, which is the place for those who prefer a brighter, more spacious dining experience.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Campechano
  • Huachinango
  • Guisada de Res
248 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque; The Grid, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati

2| Lagrima

Lagrima (Spanish for “tears of joy”) remains on our best tacos in Manila list for serving authentic Mexican fare. Homme et Femme’s Mano Lotho created a taqueria that aims to retain the taco’s history of being the poor man’s meal (i.e. created from the cheapest cuts of meat). While each taco is served with guacamole, beans, sour cream and salsa, special attention is given to the meat to elevate the simplicity of the dish.

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Esquire Recommends: 

  • Al Pastor
  • Carne Asada
  • Carnitas

BSA Mansion, 108 Benavidez Street, Legazpi Village, Makati

3| Lo de Alberto

From its humble beginnings as an open-air stall in City Golf, Lo de Alberto has gained a massive fanbase thanks to Chef Balam Nazar’s flavorful Mexican menu. When it expanded its space from a tiny stall to a spacious, air-conditioned location, also in City Golf, the menu also grew. Tacos are served in homemade soft corn tortillas and come in different servings and sizes. The Gran Campechano, for example, is an extra large taco filled with slowly braised lengua and chorizo and topped off with chicharon bits. Today, Lo de Alberto can also be found in Legazpi Village.

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Photo by Camille Ocampo.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Ensenada 
  • Suadero
  • Gran Campechano

City Golf, Julia Vargas Avenue, Pasig; Tropical Palms, Gallardo Street, Makati

4| Drive-by Taco Shop

It’s hard to believe now, but before Drive-by came along, there weren’t any popular taquerias in BF Homes. Owners Mikey San Miguel and Mai de Guzman saw an opportunity and opened their tiny taqueria in 2015. Today, four years and one expansion later (it now has an Eastwood sibling), it has become one of the lucky few that has survived the resto closures in the area. Only a few restaurants from 2015 are still around, and Drive-by’s bold colors and best-selling Chicharones tacos definitely deserve to stay.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Homemade pork chorizo
  • Chicharones
  • Beef sirloin steak

JEE Complex, BF Resort Village, Las Piñas City; Eastwood City Walk 2, Quezon City

5| Chihuahua Mexican Grill

Straightforward and simplethis is how Chihuahua’s fare is usually described. To order the taco, burrito, burrito bowl, or salad, diners simply point to the various fillings (chicken, beef, pork, veggies) displayed at the counter and it will be immediately prepared in front of them. Chihuahua is also famous for its salsa bar and hot sauce library, both of which are designed to catch your eye and potentially burn your tongue.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • USDA Steak
  • Beef
  • Pork

Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati; Crossroads, 32nd Street corner 8th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

6| El Chupacabra

One of the earliest taquerias on the scene is Mexicali offshoot El Chupacabra. Thanks to its cheap beer, communal atmosphere, and quality food, the popular taco joint on Felipe Street in Poblacion is almost always full, with the crowds spilling out onto the street to eat.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Carnitas
  • Baja California fish taco
  • San Francisco-style pork sisig

5782 Felipe Street in Poblacion, Makati

7| Vengo + Neighborhood Cafe

Two years ago, Vengo’s predecessor, Taco Vengo was on our best tacos in Manila list. Since then, Taco Vengo has closed, dropped the Taco from its name, and expanded its menu to form a hybrid concept in Makati. Like a resto version of the mullet, Vengo is business up front (Neighborhood Café serves coffee and breakfast) and party in the back (Vengo serves cocktails, tacos, and other late-night fare until 3 a.m.). Despite its makeover, the tacos are just as good now as it was when they were served out of a container van in Kapitolyo back then.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Shiitake Mushroom Tostada
  • Pork Cheek Confit
  • 5 Taco Platter

Don Carlos Palanca Street, Legazpi Village, Makati

8| Silantro Fil-Mex Cantina

Silantro has become known as the go-to place for affordable Fil-Mex fare. Its servings are quite generous for the price, which is why it’s no surprise to see any Silantro branch always at full capacity, with a long line of people waiting patiently outside, to boot. Silantro’s Lucha Tacos come in a soft or hard shell tortilla and with a choice of meats such as lamb, lengua, beef, chicken, or fish. Diners can opt to just have one meat in their taco or mix it up with two or three combinations.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Chicken

Silantro branches

9| Alegria Cozinha Moderna

Though known as BGC’s first sangria bar, chef Charles Montanez’ Asian-Latin American restaurant is also notable for its open-faced tacos. Montanez creates tortillas from scratch by extracting juices from corn and mixing it with flour for more flavor. With fillings varying from classic (El Mexicano) to fusion (Alma Koreana), there’s a taco for everyone. There’s even a dessert taco, called Foi Mal! (“My bad” in Portuguese), made of dark cocoa tortilla, filled with chocolate shards, and topped with vanilla ice cream.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • El Mexicano
  • Alma Koreana
  • Japonesa 

Uniqlo Building, 7th Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

10| Vatos Urban Tacos

We’ve heard of Tex-Mex a lot, but Vatos (Mexican slang for “men” or “dudes”) introduces you to Kor-Mex or Korean-Mexican fusion. Owned by Korean-American vatos Sid Kim, Kenny Park, and Juweon Jonathan Kim, this resto is a reflection of their childhoods growing up around great Mexican food (Sid and Kenny lived in Southern California, while Juweon was from Texas) and the Korean food their families would make. Sid argues that the two cuisines have a lot of things in common. Both are spicy, use a lot of braised and grilled meat and vegetables, and have a lot of love for cheese. The result is a harmony of flavors that may seem unusual, but when you chew over the idea, it actually makes sense. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Korean Pork Belly 
  • Wagyu Galbi Short Rib
  • Chimichurri Chicken

Net Park Building, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; www.vatosph.com

11| Hacienda Comida Y Cocteles

Steve and Liza Tan Mills were inspired to put up Hacienda after vacationing in Mexico. Fans commend the pair's restaurant for the authenticity of its tacos, which are made with gluten-free, hand-pressed corn tortillas. Juana Yupangco of Mesa ni Misis, in fact, loves its tacos so much, she collaborated with Hacienda to create vegetarian versions. They served five variants of tacos to both meat-eating and vegan friends to narrow down the selection to the best three, including the Same Same but Different, a vegetarian version of the meaty Carnitas taco. If you can’t decide what to eat, come on Taco Tuesdays, when the P99 price makes it easier to just have it all.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Carnitas 
  • Tinga de Pollo
  • Vegetarian 

Unit F121 Forbes Town Road, Forbeswood Heights Retail, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

12| Tadeo Filipino Mexican Comfort Food

Tadeo is more known for its unique fusion dishes such as the Sinigang Burrito and the Layered Beef Nachos. Its tacos, however, are by no means insignificant. Pressed and cooked in an open kitchen (warning: the space is very cramped), its handmade soft tacos are filled with familiar Filipino staples like sisig and tilapia.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Sisig
  • Tilapia fish rebosado
  • Pork adobada

85 Sct. Fuentebella Street, Diliman, Quezon City

13| Gringo Chicken, Ribs and Friends

Yes, the name says chicken and ribs, as those are indeed Gringo’s specialties, but its Tex-Mex menu is consistent all around. Gringo offers the “street taco,” an open-faced version filled with a variety of fillings, and a “crispy taco,” where the tortilla is fried to a crisp and a bit burnt around the edges for extra crunch.

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Esquire Recommends: 

  • Spicy Tuna (street taco)
  • Latin Salpicao (street taco)
  • Chili Con Carne (crispy taco)

Gringo branches

14| Pancake House

Every Filipino knows that Pancake House is really more famous for its House Specials. Aside from the Classic Pan Chicken and the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, the Best Taco in Town make people return to its restaurants. It may not be as artisanal as the other tacos on this list, but fans can’t seem to get enough of the timeless combination of beef, veggies, dressing, and processed cheese housed in a hard taco shell. Pancake House knows where its bread (or tortilla) is buttered, too: In 2018, it introduced Taco-All-You-Can Wednesdays, and the year before that, it came up with fish, adobo, and pulled pork and chicken taco variants.

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Esquire Recommends: 

  • Best Taco in Town 
  • House Specials Set B

Pancake House branches

15| Kamicos Tacos

Kamicos is a tiny food stall found within the confines of Shoppesville, Greenhills. This humble taco joint has gained quite the following among locals and foodies. The taco, available soft or crispy, is served hot, filled with juicy beef, and topped with diced tomatoes, shredded cabbage, and cheddar cheese. The simple yet consistent combination has been making devoted fans, even balikbayans, flock to Shoppesville since the '80s.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Ground Beef
  • Spicy Beef
  • Tuna

Level 2, Shoppesville, Greenhils Shopping Centre, Greenhills, San Juan

16| Madeca

Madeca, short for Manila de Acapulco, is a Fil-Mex joint that combines staple Mexican dishes with favorite Filipino flavors. Its soft tacos are overloaded with local meat, ranging from sisig, salpicao, and even lechon kawali, and served with a side of fresh salsa and sour cream. Diners can also choose how to top off tacos. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Sisig
  • Lechon Kawali
  • Fish

The Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Mandaluyong


17| Titto’s Latin BBQ & Brew

Co-owner and chef Jerwyn Izen Rabo created a Latin American-inspired menu that features flavors familiar to the Filipino palate. The Street Tacos are unique, from the dark tortilla-encased Beef Barbacoa to the trendy Salted Egg Shrimp. Diners can also choose from two kinds of salsa: housemade salsa roja or salsa verde. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Chiquitos
  • Beef Barbacoa 
  • Sisig Chicharonnes

16 East Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig

18| A’ Toda Madre

A’ Toda Madre, known as Manila’s first tequila bar, serves standard Mexican fare to go with its extensive (read: over 100) menu of drinks. Get the taco sampler for a DIY experience: homemade corn tortillas, filling (pork, chicken, or beef) and salsa (verde or roja, plus cilantro, onions, and lime). These are served separately so you can create your taco just the way you like it.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Pollo de Chipotle
  • Carnitas
  • Barbacoa

Sunette Tower, Durban Street corner Makati Avenue, Makati 

19| Chino MNL

This neighborhood restaurant became famous in Hong Kong for its chill vibe and impeccable tacos made with only the best ingredients. Chino MNL is exactly the same. With their flair for East-meets-West flavors, partners Tracy Wei and Erik Idos know how to bring out the explosion in just one or two bites. 

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Photo by Patrick Martires.

Esquire Recommends:

  • Goat Barbacoa
  • Crispy Fish
  • Mushroom

G/F One Bonifacio, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

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Monique Therese Avila
Monique Therese Avila is a self-proclaimed woman-child with a lifelong obsession with chocolate. Her attempts at staying fit are hampered by her part-time gig as a professional food taster.
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