Consider the ungarnished tortilla. Its flat, circular, traditionally made of corn, but not infrequently formed of some other grain. It may vary in broadness, thickness, texture, or color, but even given these distinguishing marks, the untrained eye may regard an unfilled tortilla as simply bland.
However, fill that tortilla with a little meat and cheese, and that humble stretch of flat breadstuff has taken on an entirely new countenance: that of the burrito, the sope, the quesadilla, and of course, the taco.
By itself, a tortilla is bland in the same way a blank page is bland. Its a building block, the white canvas, the starting point; its an invitation for creativity. As the tortilla is folded, filled, and fried, one may see how the resulting foodstuffs are but formats of the ever-flexible tortilla; the taco is to the tortilla as the sonnet is to the page.
The taco has left the realm of pure potential—the realm of the unfinished tortilla—and become something more concrete, but nonetheless apt for adaption. Asheville’s food-scene thrives on adaption and variation. With the taco being such an icon for these qualities, I would not blame the newcomer for mistaking tacos for Asheville’s local currency. Taquerias sprout up in every nook, cranny, and main-street within the city’s bounds.
Effectively navigating such a plethora of options requires nothing more than a local’s good taste, and for that reason, I invite you to read on, and familiarize yourself with five places where you can find some of the best tacos in Asheville.
Over time, White Duck has grown from a single taco-slinging waterfowl into an entire flock of restaurants, and for good reason.
Popular among locals and visitors alike, White Duck pairs a unique menu with great locations. At current, the brand bears three taquerias scattered across Asheville, from downtown, to south Asheville, to the River Arts District.
No matter which location one finds themselves in, the menu is much the same, sporting such innovations as beef-bulgogi tacos, and lamb gyros. Which if one thinks about, are really just Greek tacos.
As you can see, White Duck is somewhat divorced from one’s traditional tacos, the kind filled with carne asada or chorizo. Indeed, White Duck’s tacos take many notes from Asian-fusion, using the tortilla as a vessel rather than a ruleset. Therefore, if one seeks the best tacos in Asheville—in terms of nuance and novelty—any of White Duck’s locations offer a convenient solution, although the ordering-line can grow long during the weekends.
For those who would prefer to dine with plenty of elbow-room, White Duck’s south location is the most spacious, while the other two may feel cramped when at their busiest.
Things That Are Not Tacos: As someone who has spent the last week touring Asheville’s taquerias, I must confess that a diet of purely tacos starts off delicious but ends in tears. For that reason, I’d like to dedicate some words to what these taquerias offer other than tacos.
At White Duck for instance, one may procure such side-dishes as sliced watermelon, and house-made kimchi, and finish off with their Mexican chocolate pot-de-crème.
A newcomer among the best taquerias in Asheville, this offshoot of Abuela's Little Kitchen specializes in fast service, takeout, and authentic soft-shells garnished with fresh onion and cilantro.
But I say their meats are the real star of the show here. From traditional classics like carnitas or al pastor, to more seldom-seen fillings like lengua and campechanos, you can't go wrong. Order some esquitos or dorilocos for the table, and you're well on your way to one of the finest taco-riffic luncheons you can find in south Asheville.
Things That Are Not Tacos: I have a confession to make. I love tacos as much as the next guy, but when it comes down to it, brass tacks and all, I'm always gunning for a torta if available. That bread; crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. Those smooth slices of fresh avocado.
Yes, I'm a torta-fiend, and I'm happy to say Abuela' s Cravings doesn't disappoint.
Located shortly north of downtown, Mamacita’s Taco Temple marries their dishes to a residential feel.
One has the sense that this is a place frequented by regulars—as opposed to irregulars—and locals—as opposed to nonlocals.
From 1pm to 7pm daily, one may frequently find Taco Temple on the verge of inundation, but luckily, a little foreknowledge may mitigate this obstacle.
First off, forgo Taco Temple’s cramped parking lot, and instead use that of the nearby Fuddruckers, located within a few yards jaunt. Although of questionable legality, this tactic will save you the complication of backing out directly onto one of Asheville’s main streets.
Secondly, capitalize on Taco Temple’s in-house, anti-frustration features. They take to-go orders, and in a twist, they have a drive through, as if masquerading as some fast-food place. The thing is, Mamacita’s isn't fast food, its really more slow food, carefully made.
Their tacos rely on fresh flavorful seasonings and cover just about any pallet, from the fish-lover, to those in search of an egg-rich breakfast. It is this care and variety—this devotion to the taco as if divinely charged—which earns Mamacita’s Taco Temple consideration for the best tacos in Asheville.
Things That Are Not Tacos: As a decidedly non-morning person, I understand better than most that any activity that takes place before noon can be a drag. Luckily, Taco Temple’s morning menu includes churro-tots and Mexican hot chocolate, which are sure to enliven the struggle of the morning.
Taco Billy lies in west Asheville, one of the hippest parts of town, and not too far from the River Arts district. The story of Billy's founding involves an organic family farm, Earthships, and a period of residence in Mexico. So, as one may guess, Taco Billy is a local favorite, and any tourist who finds themselves there will be treated with a genuine Asheville aesthetic.
The ordering line often stretches far out Taco Billy’s doors, especially from 11am to noon. But be consoled: Taco Billy’s seating areas—much like its tacos—are bigger on the inside than they look.
Their tacos truly go all the way, ranging from egg-and-bacon, to fried chicken with mango slaw. All ingredients are well-curated, and well combined, striking a great balance between protein and garnishments. Its no wonder Taco Billy is one of the busiest taquerias in town; it offers some of the best tacos in Asheville, and some of the most Ashevillian at that.
Things That Are Not Tacos: Three words: Buchi brand kombucha. Buchi is a local business, and more importantly, they sell the best kombucha on the market. For those of you who are unfamiliar, kombucha is fermented tea. Its an acquired test, but well worth acquiring. And it doesn’t pair too badly with tacos.
There is a street in downtown Asheville known as Patton Avenue. It is my personal theory that this particular street is located along some kind of antediluvian ley-line of potent mystical powers. It is the influence of this ley-line which attracts so many restaurants to this tiny stretch of downtown, and it is that same influence which makes them unassailably chic.
Sonora offers Pattonian tacos; tacos made delicate, balanced, and exquisitely gourmet through the magic of Patton Avenue. And even though Sonora lies along downtown’s culinary artery, here one may still find a-la-carte tacos at a moderate price.
However, Sonora does possess relatively small collection of tables, and they do not take reservations. For this reason, I suggest one avoids the restaurant through the busy weekend, and instead capitalizes on Sonora’s weekly Taco Tuesday discounts.
Things That Are Not Tacos: Sonora’s elote bears such a delicacy and nuance in flavor that one cannot help but have a go at food-criticism, saying things like “culinary timbre” and “delectable.” They’re truly worth a try.
White Duck River Arts District
388 Riverside Dr, Asheville, NC 28801
White Duck Downtown
12 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28803
White Duck Skyland/Arden
16 Miami Cir, Arden, NC 28704
220 Julian Ln, Arden, NC 28704
Mamacita’s Taco Temple
132 Charlotte St, Asheville, NC 28801
201 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Sonora Cocina Mexicana
89 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801