5. Fancy-ass, five-star Tex-Mex
Ever been to a super fancy, sit-down restaurant that tries to reimagine and elevate Tex-Mex food? They “upgrade” enchiladas and queso with ingredients such as watermelon compote and mole-vinaigrette tamales stuffed with dates, and as you browse the overpriced tequila list, you’re just thinking, I just want a goddamn greasy street taco with extra grilled onions, do they have any of those? At the Molcajete Encantada, that’s probably asking way too much.
4. National chain Tex-Mex
They’re not all terrible, but they’re not that great. If your only option for spicy food on a trip through the Midwest is Chili’s, you know you’re too far from civilization.
3. Fast food Tex-Mex
I have talked much shit about Taco Bell and other drive-thru Tex-Mex establishments over the years, but have you actually tried the $5 Chalupa Cravings Box at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday? Throw some diablo sauce on that chalupa supreme, munch on those cinnamon twists, and get ready for a long night of digestion once you finally get to sleep.
2. Hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex
Some of the best Tex-Mex food in the country is being served at unassuming, family-owned, strip-mall restaurants that serve bomb-ass barbacoa gorditas and give you way too many flour tortillas with every order. You know you’re in the right place when you grab the menu and it’s a thick fold-out of garish photos of dishes like goat caldo and terrifying-looking prawns laminated in plastic as thick as the Plexiglass from the vice-presidential debate. Everything is good here, but nobody knows about it yet.
1. Late-night taco truck
You will never have better tacos than the foil-wrapped, fresh-off-the-grill, nuclear-red al pastor ones you get at your favorite late-night taco stand/truck, where the grill cooks are blasting Conjunto dance music from a tiny radio and cutting trimmings off a giant slab of steaming meat on a pole. If heaven doesn’t have taco trucks like this, the afterlife needs an upgrade.