Restaurant News & Reviews

The best tacos in San Luis Obispo County

Places to find the best tacos in San Luis Obispo County include, clockwise from top left, Foremost Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo, Tacos de Acapulco in Grover Beach, Garcia’s in Atascadero and Vegetable Butcher in San Luis Obispo.
Places to find the best tacos in San Luis Obispo County include, clockwise from top left, Foremost Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo, Tacos de Acapulco in Grover Beach, Garcia’s in Atascadero and Vegetable Butcher in San Luis Obispo.

Out of all of Mexico’s cultural contributions to the world — chocolate, tequila, Frida Kahlo — the simple yet satisfying taco might be the greatest gift.

Tacos can be as basic as a few morsels of marinated meat sprinkled with cilantro and diced onions atop a corn tortilla — or as elaborate as a gold flake-infused tortilla stuffed with Kobe beef, lobster and black truffle brie cheese.

In celebration of National Taco Day on Oct. 4, a horde of hungry Tribune staffers went in search of the tastiest tacos in San Luis Obispo County. Here’s what we found.

Boni’s Tacos

$2.15 mini, $3.25 regular

Find the iconic taco al pastor — marinated pork grilled on a trompo, or vertical roaster, shaved and served on a soft corn tortilla with accompaniments such as grilled pineapple, cilantro, onions and an excellent homemade salsa — at Boni’s Tacos walkups in Cambria. (On weekdays, you can find Boni’s in Cambria’s Tin Village, while their taco truck is parked at the Main Street end of Burton Drive on weekends.) Boni’s also has carne asada steak, chicken and chile verde (pork in green sauce) tacos, so take your pick. — Kathe Tanner

2405-F Village Lane, Cambria; 2253 Main St., Cambria | 805-909-7651 or www.bonistacos.com

Chacho’s

$2.25 to $2.50

Chacho’s has been a hot spot in Oceano since 1981. Restaurant founder Max “Chacho” Pimentel Sr., who started Chacho’s with his wife, Pauline, passed away in 2014, but his family has kept alive its tradition of tasty Mexican food made with soft, rich homemade flour tortillas. The straightforward al pastor pork taco with cilantro, onion and red salsa (not too spicy) is my favorite pick for a quick bite, but the popular carnitas taco is also delectable. — Nick Wilson

1911 Cienaga St, Oceano, 805-489-5136, or chachosauthenticmexicanfood.com

Nick -- Efren's
Chicken, pork and steak tacos are among the menu offerings at Efren’s in Oceano. Nick Wilson nwilson@thetribunenews.com

Efren’s Mexican Restaurant

$1.80 to $1.99

Comfortable booth seating, along with tables, and colorful wall murals are the backdrop for munching tacos at Efren’s, where you’ll need to prepare your palate for some spice. The green sauce will smack the roof of your mouth. The tacos are on the small side but about as cheap as they come. Sixteen taco choices fill the menu — everything from lengua (cow tongue), cabeza (cow head), and tripas (intestines) to your standard chicken, steak and pork. Adventurous in the past with the lengua and cabeza, I stuck with the staples this time and found the chicken at the top of my list. Just have a drink waiting by your side. — Nick Wilson

1720 Beach St., Oceano; 1285 Laurel Lane, San Luis Obispo; 1625 S. Blosser Road, Santa Maria | 805-489-2385, 805-439-3388, 805-868-9321 or efrensmexicanrestaurant.com

Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant

$2.50 small, $3.50 large

Garcia’s may be better known for its burritos, but all those mouth-watering meats also star in their tacos, served in heaping portions on double corn tortillas. The menu features at least a dozen different varieties of beef, chicken and pork. I have a hard time prying myself away from the carne asada, but when I do, it’s always for the slower-cooked preparations like carnitas. My new favorite, however, is the luscious beef Colorado taco, which is spooned over rice to soak up the fragrant red sauce and then topped with melted cheese. — Joe Tarica

9550 El Camino Real, Atascadero | 805-460-6580 or garciasrestaurantatascadero.com

Los Robles Café

$2.25 to $2.50, $8.95 for three fish tacos

Great service and authentic tacos featuring tender and flavorful marinated meat and well-seasoned veggies are in store at this casual café. These traditional tacos are very savory yet simple. In the summer, I like to order takeout and walk to nearby Downtown City Park to munch al pastor tacos and listen to live music. — Gina Grieb

1420 Spring St., Paso Robles | 805-239-8535 or www.losroblescafe.com

Luna Red

$3 for $13, 6 for $24, 9 for $33

With nine kinds of street tacos to choose from — including beer-battered rockfish, paprika garlic shrimp and coconut-braised pork — you’ve got a feast of flavor at Luna Red. My husband loves the “juicy, meaty, savory goodness” of the carnivore options, while I prefer the simplicity of kale with soyrizo.

Served with a fruity, ruby-hued sangria, these appetizer-sized tacos are the perfect happy-hour snack. — Sarah Linn

Ruddell’s Smokehouse

$5.50 to $6.50

There’s a long line most weekends at Ruddell’s — and for good reason. Large chunks of meat smoked to perfection in house are paired with a unique combination that includes carrots, apples, celery, green onions, lettuce, and a cumin and brown mustard aioli. There’s something about apples and cumin mixed with smoky chunks of pink salmon that’s simply magic.

Other options, all delectable, include shrimp, albacore, ahi, pork loin, and chicken. And with the ocean right across the street to stare at, the wait goes fast. — Monica Vaughan

101 D St., Cayucos | 805-995-5028 or www.smokerjim.com

Shine
The tempeh taco at Shine Cafe in Morro Bay features tempeh, quinoa, spring mix, fresh veggies, avocado and sesame seeds on a wheat and corn tortilla. Monica Vaughan mvaughan@thetribunenews.com

Shine Café

$9

This small café offers big flavor with a tempeh taco that’s well known to travel bloggers and locals. The tempeh and quinoa are perfectly seasoned in-house for a nutty flavor that even carnivores will find rich and filling. Add creamy cilantro dressing and house-made salsa, plus spring mix, fresh veggies, avocado and sesame seeds on a wheat and corn tortilla, and you’ve got a meal that not only vegans will devour. The tortilla, by the way, is one of the best around. — Monica Vaughan

415 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay | 805-771-8344 or www.sunshinemorrobay.com

Splash
Try a Thai take on classic cod tacos at Splash Cafe, which has locations in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. Monica Vaughan mvaughan@thetribunenews.com


Splash Café

$4.95 to $11.50

Why not opt for a side of taco with your cup of award-winning clam chowder? Splash Café offers three options for cod tacos served on soft corn tortillas: baja, classic or the surprise flavor factory, Thai. This taco is unlike anything else. The coconut curry sauce, cashews, basil, carrots, tomato and cilantro make a refreshing remix. Other meat options include chicken, shrimp, carnitas, salmon, ahi and tri tip. — Monica Vaughan

197 Pomeroy Ave., Pismo Beach; 1491 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo | 805-773-4653 or 805-544-7567 or www.splashcafe.com

Taco Temple

$7.50 to $26

You might think the kitchen got your order wrong when you see the Baja taco plate for the first time. A large portion of grilled or fried cod rests on what looks like a full salad. But after a few bites with a fork, you’ll find the tortillas with melted cheese at the bottom. Assemble your tacos the way you like using the mango salsa and house sauce served on the side. The price ($14.95) might scare away some, but the leftovers easily serve as a second meal.

Not in the mood for cod? Try specialty tacos such as crab cakes, calamari and scallops, or stick to traditional options including carne asada and chile verde pork. — Monica Vaughan

2680 Main St., Morro Bay; 1575 Calle Joaquin, San Luis Obispo | 805-772-4965, 805-439-2856 or tacotemple.com

Tacos de Acapulco

$1.99 to $2.50

The tacos at this unassuming Grover Beach spot are bursting with flavor and taste like home to this Texas girl. (There’s a location in San Luis Obispo, too.) Everything you order can be customized: when they call your order number, you talk to a staff member and choose what you want in your tacos beyond just the meat. My personal favorite is the machaca taco with everything: salsa, cheese, cilantro and freshly diced onions. Great things really do come in small packages. — Gabby Ferreira

1051 S. 13th St., Grover Beach ; 596 California Blvd., San Luis Obispo | 805-481-3283 or 805-543-9100

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Entertainment editor Sarah Linn writes about all things fun, including movies, television, the performing arts, the visual arts and the best places to eat and drink in San Luis Obispo County. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has worked for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo for more than a decade and has earned multiple California journalism awards.
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