5 Detroit Taco Spots That Serve Up Big Flavors

Chicana journalist and founder of Tostada Magazine Serena Maria Daniels rounds up local taquerias that give a national giant a run for its money
Jose's tacos - detroit taco spots
Serena Maria Daniels reveres Jose’s Tacos for its variety of offerings. The Crispy Beef Taco topped with cilantro and onion is a diner favorite.

Pandemic times have forced all of us to seek the little joys in life, and tacos seem to be a source of great comfort. According to a recent survey by the global marketing agency TOP, American taco consumption has risen nearly 13 percent during the crisis. Michiganders, the study shows, rate Del Taco as the No. 1 chain for a taco in the state. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent many a late night in the Del Taco drive-thru line to get my fix of crunchy, cheesy American taco goodness, but if I’m being real, I would much rather hit up a local, Mexican-owned taqueria whenever I’m having a craving for tacos. Luckily, there is no shortage of taco spots in Detroit where one can discover many of the taco’s regional differences. 

Loncheria El Parian 

With taco trucks scattered across Southwest Detroit and its flagship brick-and-mortar La Palapa del Parian situated on Lawndale, this booming local taco empire is beloved by Detroiters of all types. Its specialty? Tacos al pastor. Drawing from the Lebanese tradition of shawarma, the taco al pastor uses pork that’s marinated in sweet pineapple juice and various spicy chili peppers and cooked on a spit (trompo, in Spanish), and stuffs it all into soft corn tortillas. Make sure to order several at a time. La Palapa del Parian, 1633 Lawndale St., Detroit; 313-749-7143

La Jalisciense Supermercado y Taqueria 

This supermarket and restaurant will cover all of your bases: fresh produce, a fully stocked butcher’s counter, and pantry basics as well as an impressive dining area. Highly recommended are the carnitas tacos. Carnitas is composed of slow-cooked pork that, once roasted, is shredded and fried, giving it a bit of a crispy, charred effect. Not every restaurant in Detroit offers carnitas — it’s a bit of a specialty given the amount of time needed to prepare the dish. La Jalisciense is an expert in the genre, making carnitas fresh several days a week. It’s available both in the dining section and in the grocery store, so you can enjoy it at home however you like. Try it as a taco, burrito, torta, or on its own. La Jalisciense Supermercado y Taqueria, 3923 Vernor Hwy., Detroit, 313-551-0522

La Terraza 

A good chunk of the Mexican community in Detroit hail from Jalisco, which sits on the western side of the country along the Pacific Ocean. What does this mean for local taco lovers? The state’s specialty, birria (a goat or beef dish stewed in a fiery consommé) from the rural highlands, and a wealth of seafood dishes are aplenty. La Terraza has made a name for itself with its coastal classics, such as tostadas topped with citrusy shrimp, octopus, or white fish, but its quesabirria is a true homage to Jalisciense culture. It’s made up of a corn tortilla griddled with tender birria and cheese. Add a side of that savory, fatty consommé for dipping and you’re in for a treat. La Terraza, 8445 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-843-1433; laterraza.shopsouthwestdetroit.com

Jose’s Tacos 

The great thing about the menu at Jose’s Tacos, which recently opened a location in Eastern Market, is that it offers a little bit of everything. Whether you’re in the mood for a crispy Del Taco-style taco with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomato tacos dorados — with freshly fried corn or flour tortillas — or a soft taco filled with chorizo, cilantro, and onion, Jose’s is a crowd-pleaser for any preference. Jose’s Tacos, 2510 Market St., Detroit; 313-638-1782 

Taqueria El Rey 

Come for the chicken, stay for the tacos. This takeout-friendly eatery is cash-only and especially known for its smoky grilled chicken and ribs. You can easily make your own chicken tacos when you order the half or whole chicken dinner with charro beans, rice, and tortillas, but the taco menu is worthy of praise on its own. While just about every taqueria offers carne asada (steak), chicken, and chorizo, this place also offers lengua (beef tongue), cabeza (steamed beef head), and buche (tripe) — all considered delicacies in Mexican food culture. Taqueria El Rey, 4730 Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 313-357-3094