Best Tacos in Cozumel? Order Like a Local
Morning at Cozumel's mercado

Best Tacos in Cozumel? Order Like a Local

The taco craze has taken over worldwide. And of course, Cozumel, Mexico is no exception. Like you, I’m always looking out for where the locals go to get the best tacos. 

There are about 100 or more answers to where to get the best taco in Cozumel and they are all right!  We’re here to give props to some awesome taco spots on the island, and answer the better question of what’s the best ‘local’ taco to order in Cozumel? The most popular? The most traditional to the region? The most unusual? Or the best vegetarian taco? Then the answers start to get a little more local and lot more mouth-watering.   

There aren’t really any bad tacos, so if a place looks and smells good to you? Give them a chance.  But if you want to try some of the current favorite joints, or know what to order once you get there – read on.  

Cozumel’s Reigning Champs:  Tried and True (as of 2020)

Even in the best of times, restaurants can ebb and flow, and our favorite line up can change over time. Unfortunately, some things probably will change in the next many months. 

We’re right in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown as I write this.  So…fingers crossed. 

But there are many Cozumel taco giants that have been on the top of the list year after year. Some are able to work a bit through these troubles, and some are likely not.  But we hope and pray all of these places, and good places all across the island, reopen soon and strong.

So when you come to visit, be sure to seek out some on this list, and congratulate them with a nice big order.  

Reigning Champions

Diego’s (65 Av, right across from the airport)

El Pique (Corner of 30 Ave and the Transversal Road) 

Mr. Taco (Transversal just west of 65 Ave)

El Chino Molinaro (Calle 1 at 20 Ave)

Los Nopales (30 Av at Calle 19 S)

Chilangos (30 Av near Calle 3)

Los Sera (30 Av and Calle 5)

Colores y Sabores (Calle 5, just off Melgar) 

El Foco (Av 5 near Calle 7) 

And really – so many, many more.  

New and Noteworthy

I’ve definitely fallen for some newcomers like El Nero (30 Av at Salas) and Cuatro Taco (Calle 3 between Melgar and Av 5).  

El Nero is kind of a mini-chain with other locations in Tulum, Cancun, Playa, and Merida, and now Cozumel.  This place has great tacos and great prices. 

Cuatro Taco seems to take some modern influences from CDMX and makes everything with care, including their unique and homemade salsas.  It’s a tiny place with a modern look, right off the main strip downtown.  If you haven’t tried their chile relleño taco and their spicy pineapple salsa? Go now! 

Order Like a Local 

Look, we all have our favorites, and they’re all well-deserving. 

Maybe we can just agree that there are TONS of good taco joints on this island, and they get better every day.   

No matter which taqueria you go to, the real question is: 

What’s your order?  

Knowing what to order is key, and if you want to experience the best tacos in a “local” place, you should try ordering the local or regional favorites.  Or something special to that restaurant.  Or something kinda…out there, that you could never get back home.  

Tacos al Pastor – Mexican Classic

This combination of spicy roasted pork, with fresh cilantro, minced onions, and sweet juicy pineapple is a Mexican classic and a divine combination. It’s a must to try it here, especially if you haven’t had it back home. 

Tacos al Pastor has an interesting evolution, stemming from large waves of immigration from Lebanon and other Arab countries. This influx to Mexico started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Over time, the Lebanese style of cooking shwarma on a vertical spit was morphed into the Mexicans’ penchant for pork (instead of lamb) on a vertical spit – now known in Mexico as the trompo.  

Over time, Tacos al Pastor has become a staple and a favorite throughout Mexico. Meanwhile, there are still Tacos Arabia, as well – carrying on more traditional meat and spices, and bread ‘wrap’ more like naan than tortilla – different and delicious. More reminiscent of shwarma. Try these, too!) 

Coincidentally, since we’ve been in Covid lockdown here, I’m catching up on my chef shows, and just saw much of this history referenced in a cool ‘Tacos’ episode of David Chang’s Ugly Delicious (season 1, ep. 2).  Check out that show on Netflix, and read more here at the Eater blog.  

Cochinita Pibil – The Sunday Special 

A specialty from the Yucatan region, cochinita pibil, is a Sunday tradition in Cozumel.  

Made by slow roasting suckling pig with sour orange, achiote, and other spices, cochinita is typically served family-style and used to make tacos or tortas (sandwiches), with the pulled juicy meat and several typical garnishes, like pickled onion, radish, and different salsas.  

Just load up a big tray of cochinita, and put out a stack of tortillas and fixings, and watch everyone go to town.  Delicious.  

Driving around town on Sunday mornings, you’ll see long lines forming at the best places in town.  Stop the car and go there! 

Tacos de la Cabeza, la Lengua y la Tripa

Another local custom is to prepare and eat tacos de la cabeza (cow’s head, and all that implies), de lengua (beef tongue) and tripa de res (beef tripe, or stomach).  

Nearly any taqueria here in Cozumel will have these on the menu – check them out.  

While distasteful to some, these orders have a lot of nutritional value, and people who like these orders really like them as succulent delicacies – so give them a shot! 

For one thing, respecting and using these parts of our animals is less wasteful, and shows logic, a respect for the animal, and the appreciation of resources.  

tacos nopales

Nopal Tacos

One of the first vegetarian tacos I’ve had here is also one of the most traditional. 

Nopal, or the large pads of the prickly-pear Opuntia cactus, is a staple in Mexican cuisine, often used as a vegetable side, or as a thickener in sauces and stews.  The nopal pads are scraped of their spines, and then usually sliced or diced for various dishes – often combined with scrambled eggs, meats, and sometimes as the main star of a taco.  

A fresh, bright but mild-flavored green with some tooth to it – the texture is kind of like green beans or peppers. Nopal and ‘nopales’ (the plural form) are good sources of fiber, vitamin C, and various minerals, and often said to help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar. 

Naturally, “Nopales” Grill on 30 Av. features these great nopal tacos, but you’ll also see them on other restaurants’ menus, for sure. 

Inexpensive, whole-food, plant-based goodness.  And obviously a Mexican and local specialty.  

Huitlacoche

This is a fascinating ingredient I never knew about, even after years on the island.  Huitlacoche in Spanish translates loosely to corn smut, or a fungal growth on corn.  

According to the wonderful foodie website, The Spruce Eats: 

Huitlacoche dates back to the Aztecs who enjoyed the naturally-occurring corn fungus as part of their diet. They would use the corn and the attached fungus in tamales and stews. Many Native American tribes also consumed the fungus and viewed it as a delicacy. Interestingly, huitlacoche has one of the highest protein contents of all the mushroom family and more protein than corn itself. In addition, the fungus is very high in the amino acid lysine, which is almost nonexistent in corn.

So…that might sound gross.  But just keep thinking “mushrooms”, and try it!  As the Spruce notes, huitlacoche is sometimes referred to lovingly as “Mexican truffle.” Sounds better already!

It’s a neat flavor, quite mild, and often just blends right in with the other elements of a dish.  

I’ve had it in several tacos (especially at the lovely La Bendicion cafe on Av. 10) which are really good, and was recently out to dinner with local friends who turned me on to my new favorite pizza with Huitlacoche at Fratelli’s – see here for more, in our post all about Cozumel’s best pizzas.  

Chile Relleño

Finally, another great vegetarian taco at one of my personal favorites, Cuatro Taco

No, Cuatro Taco is not the most “old school” place on the island, but often that’s jealousy talking.  These chefs make Mexican food steeped in tradition, but with modern culinary knowledge, and at Cuatro Taco that means a cool taco joint with fresh homemade salsas, delicious tacos, cold drinks, and a cool vibe.  

Their tacos chile relleño (stuffed chile) is one of a kind – “off the chain” as someone on their review site said, and I agree.  

Try one as part of their signature ‘cuatro tacos special’ (choice of 4 tacos). Also try their unique portobello mushroom taco, and of course, their taco al pastor, as well – and the house pineapple spicy salsa is worth the trip, alone.  Just do it.  

 

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