“Mexican food in Baltimore has come a long way,” says Jimmy Longoria, reflecting on the three decades he’s been living, cooking, and eating in Baltimore County. While his family is from San Luis Potosí in central Mexico, he grew up in Pacoima, in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, an area where Spanish is spoken as much as English and where the Mexican food is both ubiquitous and superb. Longoria’s family moved to Baltimore County when he was 12.
“In 1994, we’d have to drive from Middle River to Fells Point for tortillas,” he says, sitting in his newly opened taquería, Mexican on the Run, inside the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Cockeysville. The stall is a cheery, cozy, colorful place fronting a large kitchen that turns out the quesabirria tacos that both his taquería and the taco truck that preceded it are known for—crispy, cheesy envelopes filled with his mother’s birria, each planted with a tiny Mexican flag.
Thirty years ago, his family would often go to El Taquito Mexicano in Fells Point, one of the only taquerías in town at the time. Much has changed since then, with Baltimore’s Latino population steadily growing—it’s doubled, to about eight percent, in the last decade. With more representation comes, unsurprisingly, thankfully, more food.
Of that demographic, those from Mexico or of Mexican descent have built communities and restaurants in Upper Fells—sometimes called Spanish Town—and in nearby Highlandtown. There is a veritable Taco Row on one block of Eastern Avenue in Fells that extends around the corner to Broadway. There’s also a growing community in Dundalk, where Oscar Rodriguez opened his La Cabaña Mexican Restaurant in 2015, after coming to Baltimore 20 years ago.
“In 2003, there were like two taquerías in Baltimore,” says Rodriguez, sitting on a picnic bench in his restaurant’s outdoor covered patio. “Now everybody wants tacos.”
And while there is Clavel, Carlos Raba and Lane Harlan’s lauded Remington restaurant and mezcaleria—by many accounts the epicenter of Mexican food in Baltimore—many of the city’s finest tacos are hidden in the small storefronts and humble food trucks of the city’s workaday, overwhelmingly family-run taquerías.
Here you’ll find the engines of the best taquerías: the giant vats of carnitas, birria, chicharrónes, and barbacoa; the tortilla machines, metal boxes outfitted with rollers that press fresh masa into thin, flat disks; the vitroleros of aguas frescas and the jugs of tepache, a fermented pineapple brew; and the trompos, those glorious vertical spits of roasted pork that produce the meat for al pastor tacos.
You’ll also find those quesabirria tacos that have lately become so popular; the bowls of brick-red pozole; the hefty torta sandwiches; the antojitos, or snacks, of elote and tamales; and the myriad, beautiful repeating discs of tacos, loaded with carne asada, chorizo, seafood, and so much more.
While you may already have a favorite neighborhood spot for tacos or tostadas, sopes, or cemitas, here are more than a dozen to try, including a few of the oldies in town as well as some that have recently opened.
Go hungry, maybe hit more than one or even make a day of it—just keep driving down Eastern Avenue—and consider getting a kilo of fresh tortillas and some chicharrónes to go. Though it’s difficult to imagine, you will be hungry later.
Fells Point, 1733 Eastern Ave.
Valentino Sandoval’s taquería, an 850-squarefoot space in Fells, is composed of a small collection of tables and chairs surrounding a counter and a grill where most days Sandoval can be found helming his impressive trompo.
The shop, which opened at the end of 2021, makes its tortillas by hand, as well as everything else: sauces, desserts (chocolate mousse, flan), and craveable specials such as mole-doused enchiladas and tacos árabes, the flour-tortilla-wrapped al pastor tacos from Sandoval’s native city of Puebla. The mole, from a family recipe, is thick and rich; the radishes on all the tacos are perfectly julienned.
The occasional huitlacoche and truffle quesadilla showcase the chef’s fine-dining past; and he, too, has family in the business, as his brothers run nearby La Calle restaurant. Bmore Taquería is also great for watching soccer, particularly World Cup games, when Sandoval has been known to pour shots of tequila for the crowd, at least if Mexico wins.
Highlandtown, 3802 Eastern Ave.
Opened in February in the Highlandtown rowhouse that was the home of Coney Island hot dog specialist G&A Restaurant for nearly a century, Carnitas Rocio is now a cozy taquería. The rowhouse has a fresh coat of black and red paint, with decorative flames and a front window sporting an immense tray of chicharrónes. Peek through and you’ll see the meats for the tacos being grilled on the
Owned by Gerardo and Rocio Garcia, who arrived from Léon, Guanajuato, in central Mexico, 20 years ago, the taquería is a family affair. Gerardo’s two brothers and their brother-in-law do it all: They run the tortilla machine in the back of the kitchen (they go through three 50-pound bags of Masteca corn flour on Saturdays), stir the vats of chicharrónes, assemble the myriad tacos, and work the trompo, available on the weekends.
Gerardo ran four carnicerias in Mexico—this dexterity with meats is clear from the menu, which features various parts and preparations of beef and pork—and the family is in the process of opening a second taquería in Hyattsville. The tamales are spectacular, huge masa packets wrapped in corn husks, including one loaded with chicken and Rocio’s terrific mole that you’ll find yourself thinking of long after you’ve left the building.
Greektown, 4617 Eastern Ave.; Downtown, 112 N. Eutaw St.
There are three iterations of this longtime taquería: the Greektown headquarters, where there’s a full bar and a very large menu as well as pool tables and flatscreens (ESPN Desportes!); a truck, which during the summer is parked along Patterson Park, conveniently across the street from Bmore Licks; and a newly opened stall at Lexington Market, where it’s the market’s first taquería in years.
Owners Jesus and Gabby Romero are originally from Mexico City; their son Alex runs the market stall, and Jesus Jr. runs the truck. There’s an abbreviated menu at the Lexington stall and the truck, and if you need more—or cervezas and a shot—head to Greektown.
Cinco de Mayo Dos
Little Italy, 1312 Eastern Ave.
To get to the taquería at this Little Italy Mexican market, you’ll first need to walk past a deli counter filled with meats and cheeses, past cases of refrigerated and frozen food and shelves of groceries, then into another room with more shelves loaded with hot sauces, dried chiles, herbs, and spices. In the far recesses, you’ll finally find a windowless dining room, with another counter, some tables, and chairs—and a massive Marian shrine.
There’s an extensive menu posted on the wall that includes huarachas, the hard-to-find sandal-shaped dish, and specials. The shop is run by a branch of the prolific Guzman family, who also have another Cinco de Mayo spot (tiny taquería, large tortilla machine) in Highlandtown, across the street from a market of the same name. Order some of the exceptional tacos de birria, maybe a tamale, and enjoy your lunch with the Virgin Mary.
Fells Point, 253 S. Broadway.
Roslyn Vera’s beloved Broadway shop is micro-sized, basically a few seats surrounding a freezer case full of her family’s paletas, a counter in front of the busy kitchen, and colorful sidewalk seating outside. But the small space is the motor for an impressive menu.
Vera gets her masa from Masienda, the Los Angeles-based masa company that uses heirloom corn sourced from Mexico, which makes her sopes particularly good. Although every day is an excellent day for tacos, there are Taco Tuesday specials, and on Fridays she makes chicken tinga and birria. In July, Vera added a Luchadoras food truck to her repertoire.
El Taquito Mexicano
Fells Point, 1744 Eastern Ave.
El Taquito is owned and operated by Victor and Claudia Guzman; Victor used to work at Cinco de Mayo Dos before he bought El Taquito from its previous owners 10 years ago. The narrow rowhouse has been a taquería for three decades and is one of the oldest in Baltimore.
The Guzmans make most everything here, including mole-dosed enchiladas, cazuelas of chorizo-laden and vegetarian stews, tortillas (though on the busy weekends, they get them from Tortilleria Sinaloa, a few doors down), and the jugs of tepache that are on full display in the dining room. The fermented pineapple drink is served in frosted steins, like a Hefeweizen, that are liberally dusted with chile. It’s marvelous stuff, sweet and tart and funky, and Victor says they go through 200 liters of it each week.
Dundalk, 7730 Wise Ave.
Opened in April in a small Dundalk shopping area by another branch of the Guzman family, El Zarape is a small taquería with a very large menu that includes excellent quesabirria tacos and barbacoa. The Guzmans are from Puebla, which means there are tacos árabes, the al pastor and flour-tortilla tacos that are a hallmark of the region.
Though the tortillas aren’t made in-house, the base for the sopes is, which is why these massive concoctions of beans, carnitas, lettuce, and sauces are so impressively good. Also not to be missed are the desserts—flan, tres leches cake, cheesecakes, and pretty cups of colorful gelatina—displayed in the shiny new dessert case in the
Dundalk, 101 N. Point Road,
Hidden behind a 7-Eleven on the eastern side of I-95, La Cabaña is a spacious taquería owned and operated by Oscar Rodriguez and his wife, Lucia Catalan, with help from their 19-year-old son. The couple came to Baltimore 20 years ago from New York City—Rodriguez is originally from the Mexican state of Guerrero—to work in restaurants, including Foreman Wolf’s Petit Louis and Charleston.
Before they opened La Cabaña in 2015, Rodriguez and Catalan sold their Mexican food out of their car. Now they set up a trompo on Wednesday afternoons and, on the weekends, there are lamb specials, including lamb tortas, lamb soup, and roasted lamb by the pound.
The tortillas are made in-house, as is everything else. The tacos are served with nopales (cactus) and grilled onions in a big dining room decorated with Mexican artwork and lit by lamps fashioned from tequila bottles. They also open at 8 a.m. on the weekends, so if you’re not quite up for a lamb breakfast, try the exceptional chilaquiles with eggs.
Cockeysville, 11121 York Rd.; Idlewylde, 6318 Sherwood Rd.
Whether you’re standing at the counter of Jimmy Logoria’s restaurant at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market or on the sidewalk next to his taco truck, the thing to order is Longoria’s quesabirria tacos. These are three corn tortillas, first griddled with a layer of melty cheese, then folded around an exceedingly generous amount of his mother’s birria, made from a family recipe, and served with a small bowl of consomé for dipping. (That birria also occasionally goes into a birria ramen.)
Quesabirria tacos originated in Tijuana and then crossed the border to Los Angeles, where they became very popular very quickly, and for good reason. Longoria first found them on one of his frequent trips back to his native L.A.—and then brought them back to Baltimore.
Longoria opened his truck, which is usually parked on Sherwood Road next to the building that operates as the family’s production kitchen—his mother and brother are also part of the business—in 2016. He opened the market taquería at the beginning of this year. Longoria sources his marrow bones from the butcher across the hall; he gets the corn for his seasonal esquites from a farmer on the Eastern Shore. A miniature taco truck from Mariscos Jalisco, one of the best (Michelin 2023) and longest-running taco trucks in Los Angeles, sits on the counter as a kind of talisman as well as an occasional toy for Longoria’s four-year-old daughter.
Most days, you’ll also find Amish men and women having lunch there, and there’s something both marvelous and incongruous about the sight of them, bonneted and bearded and in plain dress, enjoying plates of tacos.
Fells Point, 319 S. Broadway.
The Costilla family has parked their Tacos Jalisco truck on Broadway in front of St. Patrick’s Catholic church for the last two decades—Jimmy Longoria says it’s the oldest taco truck in Baltimore. Both family and recipes are from Jalisco, on the western coast of Mexico, and the menu includes not only tacos but tamales and outstanding made-to-order gorditas.
The truck doesn’t run at night, but during the week you can find specials on certain days, including a spectacular pozole, made on Mondays and Tuesdays, constructed of hominy like giant popcorn, spoon-apart pork, chile-spiked broth, and all the accoutrements. Get an order to take home, then sit on the church steps to eat your gorditas while they’re hot.
Highlandtown, S. Eaton St. and Eastern Ave.
Unlike the Tacos Jalisco truck, the Taqueria Álvarez truck is open later, until 7 p.m., which makes it possible to have an evening dinner on the little chairs set up on the sidewalk under the trees. Owned and operated by the Álvarez family, the truck parks on S. Eaton St., next to the Highlandtown Market on Eastern, as it has for the last three years, though occasionally it relocates to nearby Patterson Park.
Order a taco, of course—the tacos al pastor are great, which is unsurprising, given that the Álvarez family is also from Puebla, considered the birthplace of al pastor tacos. Also indulge in one of the massive flor de calabaza (squash blossom) quesadillas and grab a seat.
Highlandtown, 301 S. Highland Ave.
The Vargas family opened their Highlandtown bakery in 2009 and their accompanying taquería kitty-corner across the street in 2020. The taquería is a big, light-filled restaurant, with an impressive dessert case filled with sweets from the bakery, a trompo for the al pastor and tacos árabes—the family is also from Puebla—and a busy grill for the huaraches, gorditas, and sopes. There are birria and barbacoa specials, plus queso fundido, a must-get if you’re feeling particularly hungry.
Highlandtown, 3001 E. Baltimore St.
Open for about 18 years in an old Formstone rowhouse on E. Baltimore St., this no-frills taco stand has no inside seating, just a long, high counter next to a massive grill. This is an old-school place, with a classic taquería menu, plus an impressive list of house-made aguas frescas.
The tacos are accompanied by red and green house salsas, cucumbers and limes, and each sits atop two tortillas, lightly griddled. There are all the versions of meats, and the al pastor comes, as it should, with pineapple chunks. With your order in hand, take a seat under the tree across the street, your box of tacos on your knees, and watch the steady stream of customers come for their own taco fix.
Fells Point, 1716 Eastern Ave.
A tortilla machine the size of a golf cart dominates the kitchen of this 25-year-old Fells Point shop. Sinaloa has changed ownership a few times over the years, but some of the original crew still work here, making the tortillas and the tacos, tamales, and seasonal soups (menudo, pozole) that have drawn diners to its counters for decades.
Some members of that crew, and their recipes, are from Sinaloa, a region known for its seafood, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the fish tacos are among the best in town, even more so because they’re made with Old Bay.