Having participated in Taco food competition events and traveling with friends, these are some of the most unique spots we found!
While making this list, I noticed that after around 5th place, many shops offered similar tasting tacos that fell more on the mediocre and average end in their attempts. So, in light of not giving out a bunch of ties, I’ve listed the top 5 spots that you have to try in Rhode Island! You can find the full list of places I visited at the bottom.
If you’re still hungry, check out the top wing spots or other unique places in state like it’s amazing buffets.
1. High Tides Island Grill & Tiki Bar (Permanently closed)
Summary: Wonderfully flavored tacos albeit very, very expensive.
Tacos: 10 / 10 — perfectly seasoned, good flavor, perfectly size
Price: 3 / 10 — overpriced despite being perfect tacos
Service: 10 / 10 — friendly, talkative and attentive staff, fast
Sitting on the outskirts of the heart of Providence, High Tides Grill & Tiki Bar is a newly opened restaurant with a clean preppy tiki theme. While their menu’s prices are slightly higher than average, much of the food is not your typical American fare and instead based on the theme and represented culture. But, some of the high prices do show, especially with the tacos – two small tacos for $15! They must be sprinkled with gold I thought. However, as it turned out, the only gold I found was the flavor itself.
There’s something to be said for food that takes more than a day to cook. After ordering two tacos, one with fried mahi and the other with jerk chicken, I wasn’t expecting much and felt like I was getting scammed looking at the price tag. After waiting for some time, the food arrived and the person at the bar enticed me with a conversation about how they prep their food as well as the culture behind it. He stated they put a lot of effort and research into not only the decor but also the food itself – the jerk chicken alone takes at minimum a full day to marinate. And boy, did it show.
Perfection is the word to describe it. The mahi fish taco was on another level than any fish taco I’ve eaten. It tasted like fish but didn’t have that overbearing fishy aftertaste that many have, and the toppings and condiments that dressed this fish complimented it in a such a way without diminishing any of the other flavors. Similarly, the jerk chicken was something else to behold – all the types of chicken I’ve eaten simply couldn’t compete, and the stuff inside the taco really elevated it. It was truly a magical taco experience that left me wanting more despite my wallet crying. I’m sure to come back again when I save up!
So while the tacos didn’t contain any gold, the flavor was just that. And that $15 price tag for two small tacos? Absolutely worth it.
Summary: Food truck with great tasting Asian tacos.
Tacos: 9 / 10 — well seasoned, interesting flavors, sized well
Price: 5 / 10 — prices are fair but could be slightly cheaper
Service: 7 / 10 — friendly staff
Mings Asian Street Food is yet another food truck of many in Rhode Island that parks itself at various locations serving Asian-based cuisine. I find myself skeptical of food trucks as they’re very hit or miss. Some will reward you with the best food you’ve ever had while others will give you stuff that doesn’t deserve to even be on a plate. Fortunately for Mings which gave me tacos with an Asian culinary twist, it landed hard on the “best food” I’ve had.
I first must admit, I’m not a fan of “Asian” food in America. Indeed, much of it ends up being heavily Americanized with the strong additions of sugar, salt, fats, and unhealthy ingredients that scream “Western!” Not this food truck however. Right off the bat, biting into it, I could just taste the freshness. It seemed like every single ingredient was prepped just minutes before hand. It also didn’t have any overbearing tastes or saturated Americanized flavors and instead offered a more robust flavor that I haven’t had with Asian cuisine. Then again, I haven’t had an Asian taco before either!
Mings did a wonderful job with their cultural twist of tacos and Asian cuisine. Who could have thought of doing it like that in the first place? The blend of culture was there, alive, and perfected. Perhaps on first thought of making such a taco, they may have sounded a bit crazy, but their craziness paid off. Speaking of crazy, I’m kind of going crazy waiting to go back and get a few more!
3. HG80 (Now called ‘Tacofied’)
Summary: Food truck with fresh, locally grown ingredients.
Tacos: 8 / 10 — decent seasoning, fresh tasting, sized well
Price: 5 / 10 — prices are fair but could be slightly cheaper
Service: 8 / 10 — friendly and talkative staff
Is that a chicken I hear? It can’t be…no, it’s HG80 food truck! HG80 food truck prides itself on the most freshest ingredients they can source from the local area. On top of this, they often run campaigns where money from part of the purchases goes to charity. While their prices are a little high, everything else is to love about them, including their amazing tacos.
The tacos were basic. Just a few ingredients put together, no razzle or dazzle. Yet, out of all the places I visited, they were one of the best. There’s something to be said for freshness – it’s almost cheating because of how little and complex the ingredients they use need to be. Like their short to-the-point tacos, I don’t have much to say about them. The only way you could come close to replicating that level of freshness is to make your own tortilla from freshly grown corn, grow all the vegetables yourself, and then farm some cows and chickens – I think you get my point. If you want something that is so fresh you can almost hear the chickens clucking, this food truck is the truck to find.
Summary: Authentic Mexican tacos. Homey atmosphere.
Tacos: 8 /10 — well seasoned, authentic tasting, sized well
Price: 6 / 10 — prices are OK but could be slightly cheaper
Service: 5 / 10 — fast, staff could be more talkative
La Mexicana Mini Mart & Tortilleria is one of those places that only knowledgeable locals know about. Indeed, it’s a very small shop that’s hard to miss that is both a restaurant and houses a connected Mexican mini mart. As the name suggests, they serve authentic Mexican food and at cheap prices to bat. While they don’t do anything crazy, their authenticity is perhaps the best I’ve experienced.
Like HG80, their tacos are basic. A few ingredients put together with Mexican based spices and marination that separates it as a true Mexican taco unlike anyone else on this list. Often, many places in Rhode Island will advertise genuine Mexican tacos but often fall short on what they’re advertising for and give you more Americanized tacos. Instead, La Mexicana hits the nail on the head for producing the real stuff – tacos that taste like something you can only get in Mexico and found no where else in the small ocean state. For a second, it almost feels like you’re in Mexico but instead, you’re there, in La mexicana, eating the best Mexican tacos you’ve had. Indeed, it’s a place you’ll absolutely want to visit again.
5. Blend PVD (Now called ‘Terra Luna Cafe’)
Summary: Stuffed tacos with tasty Dominican flavors.
Tacos: 8 / 10 — well seasoned, interesting flavors, large
Price: 4 / 10 — Slightly expensive
Service: 8 / 10 — friendly and attentive staff
Blend is a Latin based restaurant with emphasis on Dominican cuisine. The Dominican culinary twists they add on to burgers, tacos, and other traditional American foods is something they do really well. Some of the best burgers and now tacos I’ve had have come from this hidden spot.
While most of the menu fetches a high price, the quality and flavors packed in make it well worth it. The tacos I got to eat were a combination of flavors I haven’t experienced before. Not Mexican as the tacos may infer, but more so general Latin American with a splash of Dominican. Frankly, it’s hard to explain and put into words – it was just really, really good! But what I can put into words is to tell you that you should give this place a shot if you want something different and want food that other places in the area don’t offer. There aren’t any other places I know can pull off such a unique combination! Well done, Blend!
These notable mentions are places that while didn’t make the top 5, are places that I felt are worth mentioning. I’ve included stops where I had a very unique experience, one of the most popular taco shops in Rhode Island, and the worst one of all that I tried and nearly threw out!
Lobster Mania – Xaco Taco
Summary: Nearly perfectly seasoned tacos although on the pricier side. Good atmosphere.
Tacos: 8 / 10 — perfectly seasoned and solid flavor, small portions
Price: 3 / 10 — expensive for what you get
Service: 3 / 10 — slow, not very attentive staff
Xaco Taco is located across the street from #1 on the list, High Tides Tiki Bar. And while they didn’t make the top 5, they were a place where I got to try one of the kings of seafood, lobster! Truth be told, I’ve never had lobster before this time despite living in a state obsessed with seafood. This restaurant was also the only place to serve lobster in their tacos which I found to be both unique and interesting – I had to try it!
People often say that nothing can compete with a warm buttery lobster. I understand now, and I agree. Put into a taco, the taste was amazing. The texture was slightly chewy but so soft and nearly melted in my mouth. More simply, this taco sparked my love for lobster. All the while in the back of my head thinking, how come no one else is doing this?! It works so well! You would think in a state known for seafood that more places would offer such a seafood taco combination. But unfortunately they don’t and Xaco Taco was the only restaurant that served such a treasure. So, if you’re as obsessed about lobster as I am now, you have to visit!
Señor Popular – Tallulah’s Taqueria
Summary: Very popular shop falls very short of expectations. Mediocre tacos, little seasoning.
Tacos: 2 / 10 — little seasoning, very little flavor, small portions
Price: 1 / 10 — overpriced, especially for what you get
Service: 5 / 10 — average service
Tallulah’s Taqueria is often quoted as the best place to get tacos from many Rhode Islanders. They’ve even even previous food competition events! Even if you want tacos from this place, you even may have to wait a bit due to its insane popularity. Unfortunately, from a personal perspective, they were mediocre at best. So, why the hype?
I have a hunch on why Tallulah’s Taqueria is so popular – perfect placement. Located in the bustling college side of Providence, there’s always young hungry students wanting to get a quick bite on their way to class. And lo and behold, there are very few competing taco shops nearby. So, are you a hungry college student craving a taco? You’ll likely come here.
The tacos themselves that I tasted had all the right ingredients and even had a picture perfect finish. But upon taking a bite, I noticed it had absolutely no spices. Yes, you read that correctly! It looks like they forgot to even add salt, I thought. What’s going on? There was some flavor which was provided by the ingredients but it needed seasoning to really let them shine. The tacos were ultimately very lackluster and plain tasting, a huge let down considering some simple fixes may have brought it up near the top spot in my book.
While I’m personally not convinced it’s nearly as good as they say and instead point to the shops unique placement, for the sake of popularity, maybe you ought to give it a try and check it out for yourself.
Gordon Ramsay, Help!! – Rocco’s Pub & Grub
Summary: Chopping up an unseasoned hamburger and putting on a plain tortilla – are these even considered tacos?
Tacos: 1 / 10 — no seasoning or flavor, small portions
Service: 8 / 10 — friendly and attentive staff
Fairly popular, Rocco’s pub is a medium sized restaurant and bar situated along a fairly long stretch of interstate. Their specialty is traditional American food, and unfortunately, it seems that they should stick to that, assuming they even do that correctly.
Tacos are meant to be full of flavor, seasoning, and good ingredients. Rocco’s doesn’t deliver on any of these and instead they give you the bare minimum. A chopped up plain hamburger, some unmelted cheese, and some basic taco ingredients all quickly thrown together on a tortilla. Like Tallulahs, absolutely no seasonings can be tasted or found. They offer complimentary salt, pepper, and hot sauce, but despite drowning my taco in all of them, I still couldn’t taste anything. In fact, it was so bland I almost didn’t finish them, and that’s coming from someone who absolutely hates throwing away food and enjoys eating absolutely anything! If I had to give you some advice on this one, just stay away. Frankly, not even Gordon Ramsay may be able to help this dreadful place.
Blend PVD, Calient, California Tacos, El Charro, El Fuego, El Rancho Grande, El Taconazo, Federal Taphouse, HG80, High Tides Island Grill & Tiki Bar, La Casa, La Mexicana Mini Mart & Tortilleria, Ming’s Asian Street Food, Plaza Bar & Kitchen, Rancho EZ, Revival Brewing Co., Rocco’s Pub, Tallulah’s Taqueria, The Black Sheep, Xaco Taco.