When I was very young my family lived in Kentucky, that’s where I grew up until we moved to Syracuse when I was thirteen years old. In Kentucky, we would sometimes drive north into Ohio to visit my aunt and uncle. My uncle Jim had a Mother that was from Mexico and her name was Anita. Anita would come to visit and make some of the most delicious Mexican food I’d ever had. Thinking about Anita today I remember a time she had cooked all day in the kitchen to make dinner for all the guests. She sat down in the living room as we devoured her tortillas and mole and my father said: “Anita, why don’t you come and eat with us?” Anita responded, “I don’t eat that shit. I eat at Taco Bell.”
What better time to find the best tacos in Syracuse than just before Cinco de Mayo? I took one month traveling to every Mexican or Latin American restaurant in Syracuse (and just outside of Syracuse) in search of the best tacos in town. I ate at every restaurant at least twice and tried a variety of tacos on each restaurant’s menu to give everyone a fair shake. And the 3 best tacos in Syracuse are…
Azteca Mexican Grill. Azteca in Camillus serves the BEST tacos in Syracuse. At Azteca, they are making their own corn and flour tortillas and let me just say it is very simple to make a mediocre tortilla for anyone reading this post and the fact that a Mexican restaurant in Syracuse is buying their tortillas from a food supplier is arguably the worst possible action taken against Mexican cuisine. Azteca is taking the time and pride to make their own tortillas and you can taste the difference in the taco itself. You know when you have a fresh flour tortilla because you notice it as much as you notice the carnitas or carne asada. A great tortilla will stand out and not blend it. The carne asada taco at Azteca was delicious with the right amount of lime and cilantro in the steak. The carnitas was salty but not too salty and the tacos were simple. On the plate sat four tacos, two flour, and two corn tortillas, opened flat and waiting for me to garnish with fresh onion, cilantro, and tomatillo salsa. Azteca keeps it simple and allows the tortillas and the flavor of the meat to stand for themselves. I would avoid the ala carte tacos with the shredded chicken and stick with the plate of carne asada or carnitas. Not because the shredded chicken taco was bad but compared to their carnitas and carne asada the shredded chicken is not standing up.
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Liverpool. I ordered the 3 shredded chicken soft tacos with flour tortillas. What made these tacos so astounding to be voted the third best in Syracuse? Homemade flour tortillas, properly marinated chicken that was not spicy as a chipotle but held the right flavor to know it was legit and cooked properly. The standard garnish of lettuce and shredded cheese but not too much like most in the area. It was simply a good taco. Rio Grande reminds me of some of the more basic Mexican Taqueria’s I would eat at while living in Texas. Nothing to knock your socks off but tasty and solid. Rio Grande makes my list because they simply did not screw up.
Choosing the 3 best tacos in Syracuse is not for the faint of heart…or stomach. There are more than a few baaaaaad tacos in town and you’ll have to deal with those if you’re searching for yourself. Enjoy this Cinco de Mayo with some cold beer, a classic margarita, and grab some tacos!