Tacos may have originated in Mexico, but their popularity stateside has moved them firmly into the mainstream. There are now a multitude of spots to head to when a taco craving hits. In fact, tacos appear on 15.2% of U.S. menus, according to Technomic’s database.
But in a survey conducted by the company’s Consumer & Industry Insights group, there were certain chains that rose to the top when it came to serving the most craveable tacos. Here then is consumers’ ranking of the Top 10, in descending order, and why they made the cut.
10. Café Rio Mexican Grill was named a favorite by 6.2% of survey respondents. Meaty tacos seem to be a craveable choice here, with many consumers citing the fire steak tacos, shredded beef tacos and sweet pork barbacoa tacos. Coconut shrimp and “juicy” chicken were also singled out as top taco fillings. But perhaps it’s portion size that seized the spot, with one respondent saying “shredded beef tacos with sour cream and guacamole are a good size and fill you up, while other places’ [tacos] are real small.”
9. Moe’s Southwest Grill got the nod from 6.9% of consumers. Mentioned specifically were Moe’s customizable tacos and vegetarian tacos and soft tacos with steak. One respondent also liked the option of “getting the meats and beans in a bowl instead of a taco,” while another craved the chicken taco laced with fresh veggies.
8. Qdoba Mexican Eats landed at No. 8, with 7.3% of those surveyed ranking its tacos as craveable. Standouts mentioned include tacos made with adobo chicken, carne asada, shredded pork and brisket, as well as the “amazing” street tacos and Triple Threat knockout tacos. The latter are made with steak, bacon, Qdoba’s signature three-cheese queso, fajita veggies, pico de gallo and cotija cheese.
7. On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, the only full-service chain on the list, was given high marks by 10.6% of respondents. Variety seems to be the selling point here, with many types of craveable tacos mentioned, including brisket, Southwest chicken, birria, al pastor, carne asada, shrimp and fish. “Their tacos are nothing like any other I have ever tasted,” said one respondent, with several citing the sampler trays of different tacos as a draw.
6. Taco John’s came in at sixth place, earning praise from 23.6% of consumers—a jump of 13 percentage points from No.7. It pulled away from the bottom four for its unique tacos, including the Taco Burger, Taco Bravo ( a tortilla smothered in refried beans and wrapped around a taco), and Stuffed Grilled Taco (filled with cheese, meat, tortilla chips and more, wrapped in a tortilla and grilled). Fans are devoted: “I love the seasoning that only Taco John’s puts into their tacos and I like to eat there on Taco Wednesday because tacos are on special,” said one respondent, while another raved about “their hardshell tacos. The meat is better than other Mexican restaurants ... it used to be my hangover go-to but now I just love it to satisfy a craving.”
5. Taco Bell, the taco giant with the most locations, is a craveworthy destination for 27.8% of those surveyed. What they like best are some of the chain’s wacky tacos, like the Doritos Locos Taco and Taco Supreme that only Taco Bell offers. Consumers also crave the hard taco shells, which guarantees a crunchy eating experience, as well as non-taco items such as Mexican pizza, chalupas and blast freezes. One respondent summed it up by saying “I love Mexican food and Taco Bell has so much to offer … tacos, taco salad, guacamole and sour cream for the tacos. I just love everything about Taco Bell; it’s my favorite fast-food restaurant.”
4. Jack in the Box is known more for its burgers than its tacos, but 28.6% of consumers said that Jack’s satisfies their taco cravings. Value is a driving force here, and several respondents highlighted their low price at two for 99 cents. The chain also does mini tacos and monster tacos and even fried tacos. One fan craves these tacos even though “they don’t really have that Mexican flair,” another confirmed that the “tacos are good when you have the munchies.”
3. Del Taco was rated high by 36.2% of survey respondents, notable for using different proteins as taco fillings. Consumers singled out turkey, beer-battered fish and Beyond Meat in particular. Tacos al Carbon and Chicken Ranch are also favorites, and Del Taco’s good value was pointed out several times as in this comment: “I like their tacos and they are affordable.” Along with value, these two responses explain Del Taco’s appeal: “Special types of craveable tacos and burritos. Particularly they load the cheese up,” and “Yes, generic, but the flavor combinations are unlike what you get at any other restaurant. 100x better than Taco Bell.”
2. Rubio’s came in at No. 2 in craveability, with 39.6% of consumers choosing this chain’s tacos. The fish tacos won them over, with “the delicious original Rubio’s Fish Taco” the menu star. It’s made with Alaskan pollock, but Rubio’s has since added other seafood species as permanent menu items and LTOs. Respondents also crave the grilled salmon, mahi mahi, shrimp and lobster tacos, especially accompanied by guacamole and shredded cabbage. “The blackened mango mahi mahi tacos aren’t served anywhere else that I know of,” said one proponent.
- Torchy’s Tacos took the top spot in the ranking, with 43.6% of respondents putting it up there. Torchy’s is known for breaking the taco mold with unique combinations and quirky names. Consumers pointed to the Trailer Park as a favorite; it’s made with fried chicken, green chiles, pico de gallo, cheese and poblano sauce on a flour tortilla. Also singled out was the Fried Avocado taco, Brushfire with jerk chicken, Republican with jalapeno cheddar sausage and all the breakfast tacos. Torchy’s stands out from the crowd, to quote one respondent: “Their tacos have a very specific taste that only relates to Torchy's.”
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