The Best Tacos Ever Seen On Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives

It's been more than 15 years since Guy Fieri's signature red Camaro first pulled into an under-the-radar restaurant on his Food Network hit, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." It's a bonafide fact that the man behind the show was never the same after its debut, just as it's a universal truth to say the food featured on the series has been consistently and certifiably off the chain.

Frankly, whatever your visual tastebuds desire, the series has you covered. The man's devoured Southeast Asian delicacies, traditional-yet-refined burgers, and more tacos than anyone would care to count. Of course, since we're not Count von Count from "Sesame Street," we're not looking to literally tally the total number of tacos seen on Triple D through the years. Yet we are inclined to determine which of the virtually countless tacos eaten by Guy since Triple D's 2006 premiere are the cream of the crop.

Given that few foods can compare to a taco in terms of flavor and versatility, there's no shortage of worthy selections. But while it's not easy, it is our job here at Mashed to make these tough choices. So, much like we did with our previous discussion on the best desserts we've seen on Triple D, let's take a trip to Flavortown and consider the best tacos we've ever seen on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

Beef barbacoa taco – Lone Star Taco Bar, Allston, MA

Before Guy Fieri visited the Boston area for the episode "Roadtrippin' in Beantown" (Season 21, Episode 1), he seemed to expect more oceanside seafood and less top-notch Mexican fare. Yet in the melting pot that is the U.S., your preconceived notions are often disproven. Hence Triple D's appearance at Lone Star Taco Bar in Allston, Massachusetts — and the inclusion of its scrumptious beef barbacoa taco on this list.

Starring the slow-roasted, traditional Mexican beef as its central component, the beef barbacoa taco is a perfect combination of complex preparation with simple presentation. Featuring little more than barbacoa, avocado crema, cotija cheese, and pickled red onions, the final product is deceptively simple. It masks the fact the properly done beef barbacoa, such as what's served at the Lone Star Taco Bar, takes several days of prep and cooking before it's ready to serve. That's a process that involves marinating, smoking, then braising beef, making the final barbacoa irresistibly tender and moist. It's even better served in a taco.

The image of an assembled beef barbacoa taco is a sight to behold, even from a TV screen. Hearing Fieri gleefully exclaim that the hefty item is "smoking hot [and] has everything" only enhances the taco's desirability.

Mango BBQ mahi mahi taco – Cabo Fish Taco, Charlotte, NC

While it's safe to say that just about every single taco featured on this list looks like it would be immensely satisfying, we haven't been lucky enough to sample all of these selections ourselves. In other words, any feedback from the general public regarding the veracity of Guy Fieri's televised claims is welcome with open arms. So the fact that Cabo Fish Taco in Charlotte, North Carolina (Season 9, Episode 4) has eight glowing, five-star reviews on its Food Network page confirms that its mango BBQ mahi mahi taco very definitely belongs here.

Featuring fresh mahi mahi cooked in a mango BBQ sauce, along with freshly prepared coleslaw and standard taco fixings, the taco has "a ton of flavor," according to Fieri. The show's host highlighted each individual component and, as he inhaled the taco, was sure to note that the signature mango BBQ sauce was "on point."

Frankly, while simplicity is often our preferred approach to taco preparation, that's not a hard and fast rule by any means. It can't be, after all, certainly not when this taco is as delightful as it is despite having "a lot going on," as Fieri himself noted. With only our eyes and others' experience to go on, we can't argue with the obvious — the mango BBQ mahi mahi taco is a winner.

Chapulines taco – Taquiza, Miami, FL

We could have kept things simple and refused to consider any of the more bizarre tacos consumed by Guy Fieri. But where's the fun in that? That's not to say we'd include unusual items just for the sake of being weird, of course. The fact that chapulines, or grasshoppers, are the main ingredient in this taco from Miami's Taquiza (Season 24, Episode 9) doesn't make us squeamish — it makes us salivate.

Obviously, eating insects isn't something the majority of U.S. diners are especially comfortable with in 2022. But while grasshoppers might raise an eyebrow for some Americans, Taquiza chef Steven Santana told Thrillist that "it's a fairly standard ingredient" in Mexican cuisine. The chapulines taco is served on a house-made blue corn masa tortilla with a hefty slab of guacamole and a sprinkling of chile lime seasoning.

Though Guy joked that he felt like the host of "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" while tasting it, he definitively declared the chapulines taco to be "the bomb." From what we are able to devour with our eyes, we can't say we disagree with the assessment.

Carne adovada taco – Lone Star Taqueria, Salt Lake City, UT

Some may be unfamiliar with carne adovada, and that's a real shame. Done right, it's an utterly mouth-watering slow-braised cut of pork. But don't take our word regarding the meat's deliciousness. Just ask Guy Fieri — or, rather, watch his face as a finished carne adovada is removed from the oven at Lone Star Taqueria in Salt Lake City, Utah (Season 4, Episode 12). Between that, and the "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" host's reaction to tasting the cooked pork, it's easy to see why this restaurant's carne adovada taco is one of the best ever seen on the show.

Though the cooking process for the carne adovada is fairly long and multifaceted, the taco it's used in is exceedingly simple, coming in with only cilantro and lime alongside the pork. This is clearly by design, since the protein is the unquestioned star of the dish — something Guy highlighted when he wondered why anything but the carne adovada was needed.

Of course, while the phenomenally appetizing appearance of the carne adovada taco is undeniable, what puts it over the top is the host himself. After all, if the usually motor-mouthed Fieri can be rendered speechless for several seconds after tasting, we can only imagine the otherworldly satisfaction we'd derive from this incredible taco.

Al pastor taco – Andale Taqueria y Mercado, Richfield, MN

The best tacos ever seen on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" aren't relegated to a few cities or locations. They can be found from sea to shining sea — or from lake to lake, as may be more befitting for a restaurant in Minnesota, otherwise known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But novelty alone isn't enough to merit inclusion on this list. So while intrigue likely brought Fieri to Andale Taqueria y Mercado in Richfield, Minnesota (Season 27, Episode 5), the unbelievably appetizing al pastor tacos served up there are why we can't forget it.

The marinated, thinly-sliced pork product served in tacos al pastor is a widely beloved ingredient, meaning its appearance at a Mexican restaurant was the only thing that didn't flabbergast Fieri during his visit. In fact, even after tasting the finished al pastor taco, he commented with playful seriousness that there was "no way" he could be eating in a Minnesota-based restaurant.

The taco's sweet and savory flavor profile (the al pastor pork was cooked with bacon and pineapple before plating) helps bring the unexpected dish to another level. The al pastor taco earned its owner a congratulatory fist bump from Fieri after sampling, as well as a genuine compliment for a delightful taco well done.

Nogada taco – La Santisima Gourmet Tacos, Phoenix, AZ

Just as some restaurants on this list are located in places you wouldn't expect to find an all-time best taco, others are fairly easy to comprehend. With that in mind, no other entry may be less surprising than the nogada taco from La Santisima Gourmet Tacos in Phoenix, Arizona (Season 22, Episode 8).

After all, not only is the restaurant located in the southwest U.S., but chef and owner Cristina Guzman is a Mexican immigrant who's cooking and serving her family's traditional recipes. This includes the nogada taco, a red, white, and green-festooned dish that's of particular importance to Mexican culture and history. It's not just the colors of the Mexican flag that make the taco stand out, though. Its incredible complexity, with a filling that's similar to rich, beefy picadillo, also makes it utterly irresistible.

The inclusion of several fruits makes this taco sweet and savory, while the creamy sauce topping it lends a richness. It all led Fieri to declare that "it's Mexican Thanksgiving in a taco." Frankly, we were sold by that evocative description, and can only agree with any accolades bestowed upon the nogada taco.

Quinoa and sweet potato taco – Mas Tacos por Favor, Nashville, TN

Is it fair to call anything you put on a foldable tortilla a taco? That's not meant to diminish the incredible flavors found in some tacos, because they can be superbly delectable whether or not it fits the basic description. Either way, this helps explain why we chose the quinoa and sweet potato taco from Mas Tacos por Favor in Nashville, Tennessee (Season 18, Episode 11). Guy Fieri enjoyed this unique concoction in dedication to his "vegetarian sister" Morgan.

There's no disputing that sweet potatoes and quinoa make for an extremely palatable pairing. But it's also hard to imagine any two items less likely to headline a taco than that duo. Given this culinary conundrum, we're happy to report that it pays off. The quinoa and sweet potato taco benefits greatly from the addition of habanero and jalapeño peppers, ensuring it doesn't deviate from the expected spiciness of Mexican food.

Since we're of the mindset that anything on a tortilla is fantastically tempting, it's not hard to envision an unusual taco making our best-of list. Considering the quinoa and sweet potato taco was deemed "delicious" and "creative" by Fieri, it's easy for us to declare this is one of the best tacos ever to appear on the show.

Brisket taco – The Pit Room, Houston, TX

Beef tacos are hard to top, no matter the style of cow-derived protein. Few foods complement each other quite like some well-seasoned, succulent beef and a soft, warm tortilla. Perhaps it's unsurprising that we're also major fans of barbeque, with a particular fondness for brisket. So when "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" visited The Pit Room in Houston, Texas (Season 34, Episode 13), wherein Fieri engorged on the restaurant's famed brisket taco? We didn't need our arms twisted to recognize the taco's place in the show's pantheon.

The restaurant's almost impossibly tender brisket is the undoubted star of the dish. That said, the other components contribute greatly to what the show's host described as "one of the best brisket tacos" he's come across.  With house-made tortillas and salsa rojo, the brisket taco is as "scratch-made as they come," as per Fieri, further increasing our appreciation for the product.

You don't need to take our word exclusively that this taco is one of the best we've seen on Triple D. Even Food Network acknowledged its iconic status, posting the restaurant's recipe after the episode aired.

Korean pork taco – Kansas City Taco Company, Kansas City, MO

Not every killer taco featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" contains authentic Mexican ingredients. Consider that tacos are a flexible food, capable of hosting just about any combination of flavors and textures inside a tortilla. Given that, it's easy to see how something peculiar, taco-wise, can still end up tasting like heaven in your mouth. Of course, when a chef's aim hits the mark, as it does with the Korean pork tacos from Kansas City Taco Company in Kansas City, Missouri (Season 30, Episode 9), it's much easier to accomplish that task.

The Korean pork taco succeeds in nailing the flavor profile with I ts pork filling, which is packed I nside a tortilla. Noting a "good amount of spice" in the taco after taking a bite, Fieri was quick to mention the most important fact: it's "really good."

Frankly, we love Korean food and culture here at Mashed, so it's no wonder we find a Korean-style taco so enticing. Topped with a heaping portion of kimchi, this taco is a real winner. It's unlikely anyone could walk away from a Korean pork taco without a smile plastered on their face.

Shredded chicken puffy taco – Taco Taco Cafe, San Antonio, TX

Some foods are indelibly linked with a particular city. Take Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago, or the puffy taco and San Antonio, for instance. Indeed, no food represents the south central Texas city quite like a puffy taco (via San Antonio Express-News). And while there are plenty of puffy tacos to choose from within the city limits, it's difficult to top the one enjoyed by Fieri on his show: the shredded chicken puffy taco made by Taco Taco Cafe (Season 12, Episode 9).

Part of the immense appeal of the shredded chicken puffy taco is its resemblance to a regular hard or soft taco. Other than the deep fried tortilla — the titular puffy component of the dish — the other flavors and ingredients are as Mexican as it gets. Of course, while a generic taco will certainly satisfy, the puffy taco distinguishes itself with its tortilla, which offers a "good crunch," according to Fieri, yet remaining "nice and soft."

The enormous serving size earns the Taco Taco Cafe's creation extra points in our portion-obsessed culture, as does the myriad of praise heaped upon it by the Triple D host. Calling the shredded chicken puffy taco "ridiculous" with "lots of flavor," there's no question that this taco has earned its keep on this list.

Tasso taco – Dirty Oscar's Annex, Tacoma, WA

Sometimes, it's tough to gauge whether something eaten by Guy Fieri on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" is as genuinely flavorsome as the relentlessly positive host makes it seem. Quite frankly, it may be more useful at times to observe his reactions rather than his words. So when the Triple D host made a series of almost uncontrollable sounds — like an off-screen Frankenstein's monster in "Young Frankenstein" — after eating something? We're not ones to argue, as is the case with the tasso taco from Dirty Oscar's Annex in Tacoma, Washington (Season 17, Episode 1).

One of the biggest reasons the tasso taco belongs on this list is the tasso itself, which is a traditional Cajun pork product. Since Fieri mentioned that the meat inside a taco is often neglected, what helps elevate this particular taco is the proper "respect" given to the protein. What's more, this tasso taco greatly benefits from well-balanced construction, with all its components coming through in each bite

Since the legend himself declared the tasso taco to be "great," while very clearly enjoying it, we're inclined to take him at his word.

Cousteau taco – Haggo's Organic Taco, Encinitas, CA

Sometimes, the most straightforward approach takes the cake. For instance, if you're a SoCal restaurant located several blocks from the ocean, the use of Mexican flavors and fresh fish may seem like a boringly obvious choice. But who cares when that food is insanely delicious? Not us, which is why the Cousteau taco from Haggo's Organic Taco in Encinitas (Season 17, Episode 9) easily stands apart from the pack.

There's no denying the fish taco is a staple at southern California eateries, but the Cousteau taco – appropriately named after iconic oceanographer Jacques Cousteau — is no run of the mill offering. Combining fresh-caught protein with a variety of flavors, it stands out because it evokes a "gourmet fish taco," according to Guy. After sampling the product, Fieri was quick to note that all the different flavors are "in balance." He then bestowed what may be his greatest compliment, calling it a "rock star fish taco."

Maybe the ocean-adjacent location makes us crave fresh, aquatic meals when we're near the shore. But the fact the Cousteau taco has inspired others to visit and record their experience only seems to prove our inclination that it is one of the best tacos ever seen on the show.