Best Tacos in Columbia, SC: Top 10 Places to Satisfy Your Cravings

If you’re a taco lover in Columbia, South Carolina, you’re in luck! This city has a variety of options to satisfy your craving for authentic Mexican cuisine. From classic street tacos to fusion creations, there is no shortage of delicious choices.

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Eating your way through Columbia? Been there. So much so I also wrote guides to the best Asian food in Columbia and the best wings in Columbia, too. Yes, I should probably exercise more.

Who makes the best tacos in Columbia?

The best taco restaurants in Columbia are Cantina 76 and Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda, which offer both traditional and modern takes on the classic taco. Tacos Nayarit is a fabulous food truck serving up bold, authentic flavors from the Nayarit region of Mexico.

To help you navigate the taco scene in Columbia, we’ve compiled a list of the top taco spots in the area. Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch spot or a sit-down dinner with friends, there’s a taco joint for everyone.

We’ll also explore the art of the taco and what makes a great one, as well as take a look at some local favorites and takeout options.

So, get ready to dive into the Mexican food scene in Columbia and discover the best tacos the city has to offer. Don’t forget to bring your appetite!

Key Takeaways

  • Columbia, SC has a variety of options for authentic Mexican cuisine, including some of the best taco spots in the area.
  • The art of the taco is important, and there are certain qualities that make a great taco.
  • Local favorites and takeout options are available to make your taco experience even more enjoyable.

Top Taco Spots

If you’re looking for the best tacos in Columbia, SC, you have plenty of options to choose from. From traditional Mexican cuisine to fusion-style tacos, this city has it all. Here are some of the top taco spots in Columbia, SC:

Cantina 76

This restaurant offers a fusion-style take on tacos, with unique ingredients like Korean BBQ, fried chicken, and blackened shrimp. The tacos are served on soft flour tortillas and come with a variety of toppings. You can also enjoy a margarita or craft beer with your meal. 

This restaurant offers a variety of tacos, as well as a great selection of beer and cocktails. The atmosphere is lively and the service is always friendly.

Not only is Cantina 76 one of the best Mexican restaurants in Columbia, it’s one of my top picks for the best restaurants in Columbia. Period.

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Tacos Nayarit

This local favorite is known for its authentic Mexican flavors, unique and flavorful specialty tacos, and generous portions. The Barbacoa and marinated pork tacos are some of the most popular items on the menu.

If you’re looking to try something new, consider ordering the birria tacos. These flavorful tacos are made with tender, slow-cooked beef and served with a side of savory broth for dipping

O try the tamales. These tamales are made with fresh masa and filled with your choice of meat, such as chicken or pork. They are then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed to perfection.

You can enjoy your tacos in the outdoor seating area or take them to-go. It’s no wonder that Tacos Nayarit is one of the top-rated taco spots in Columbia with a 4.7-star rating on Yelp. 

BirriaSlow-cooked beef with onions and cilantro, served with consommé
Al PastorMarinated pork with pineapple and onion
CamaronesGrilled shrimp with avocado and pico de gallo

Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda

One of the most popular places to enjoy authentic Mexican food is at Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda. This family-owned restaurant is known for its delicious, homemade dishes and friendly service.

When you visit Real Mexico, be sure to try their authentic dishes, such as their chile rellenos, which are made with fresh poblano peppers stuffed with cheese and then battered and fried. Another must-try dish is their carne asada, which is a grilled steak that is seasoned to perfection. You can also enjoy a variety of tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, all made with fresh ingredients and authentic Mexican flavors.

With its cozy atmosphere and friendly staff, it’s no wonder that Real Mexico is a local favorite.

Runner Ups

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Taqueria La Poblanita

This food truck serves up some of the best tacos in town and has a 4.5-star rating on Yelp. The chicken tacos are a must-try, but you can also opt for beef, pork, or vegetarian options. The staff is friendly and the prices are affordable.

Coa Agaveria y Cocina

COA Taco Restaurant in Columbia SC

This restaurant offers a modern twist on traditional Mexican cuisine. The tacos are made with fresh ingredients and unique flavor combinations. The fish tacos and the Korean BBQ tacos are some of the most popular items on the menu.

**NOTE: We tried to visit COA to eat but they were closed on Monday night when we were in Columbia so we will have to give you our take the next time we are back in Columbia. It was a local favorite suggested to us to try.

Tacos El Puebla

This food truck has a loyal following for its authentic Mexican street food. The tacos are made with homemade tortillas and a variety of meats, including chicken, beef, and pork. The prices are affordable and the portions are generous.

El Salto

One hidden gem is El Salto, located on Bush River Road. This authentic Mexican restaurant is known for its delicious tacos and guacamole, as well as its extensive selection of Mexican beer.

Las Palmas Taco Truck

If you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy some delicious tacos, head over to Las Palmas Taco Truck. This food truck offers affordable tacos that are packed with flavor.

The carne asada tacos are a fan favorite, but don’t be afraid to try something new. They have some of the cheapest tacos in Columbia (but don’t like the price tag fool you):

Carne Asada$2.50
Al Pastor$2.50

Related Article: After a dinner of tacos, doesn’t it sound great to keep the gastro-journey going and eat one of Columbia’s best desserts?

Authentic Mexican Cuisine in Columbia

When it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine, it’s all about the flavors and spices. Many dishes are made with a variety of spices, such as cumin, chili powder, and oregano. These spices give the dishes their unique and delicious flavors.

If you want to experience authentic Mexican cuisine in Columbia, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, burritos, or enchiladas, you’re sure to find something delicious at one of the city’s many Mexican restaurants.

RestaurantSpecialty Dish
Real Mexico Restaurant Y TiendaChile Rellenos, Carne Asada
Tacos NayaritTamales
Taqueria La PoblanitaTacos
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Takeout and Parking Options

When it comes to parking, some areas of Columbia can be a bit tricky to navigate, but there are plenty of parking options available near the city’s top taco restaurants.

For example, if you’re visiting the Beltline area, you can find plenty of street parking near Moctezumas Taqueria, which offers a range of delicious tacos and other Mexican dishes.

If you’re visiting the Vista area, there are several parking garages and lots available that are within walking distance of some of the city’s best taco restaurants.

For example, the Vista Parking Garage is located just a few blocks from Tazza Kitchen Trenholm Plaza, which offers a variety of tacos and other delicious dishes. 

Tazza Kitchen is also one of the best places for brunch in Columbia

Tex-Mex In Columbia

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If you’re in the mood for a little Tex-Mex flavor, head over to Tex Mex Columbia. This restaurant offers a variety of dishes, from fajitas to burritos to enchiladas. Their tacos are also worth trying, especially the shrimp tacos

While not a traditional Mexican restaurant, Moe’s Southwest Grill offers a variety of Tex-Mex dishes that are worth trying. Their tacos are customizable, so you can choose your protein and toppings to create the perfect taco for you.

Shrimp TacosGrilled shrimp with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and avocado sauce
FajitasSizzling strips of steak or chicken with peppers and onions
EnchiladasCorn tortillas filled with your choice of chicken, beef, or cheese, topped with sauce and cheese

The Mexican Food Scene in Columbia

Columbia, South Carolina may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Mexican food, but the city has a surprisingly vibrant scene. From food trucks to sit-down restaurants, you can find a variety of options to satisfy your cravings for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes.

One of the unique aspects of the Mexican food scene in Columbia is the presence of food trucks. These mobile kitchens offer street-style tacos, burritos, and other dishes that are perfect for a quick lunch or snack. Some of the most popular food trucks include Tacos Nayarit, which I’ve mentioned, and The Wurst Wagen, which serves up delicious German sausages.

If you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant experience, there are plenty of options as well. Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda is consistently ranked as one of the best Mexican restaurants in Columbia, serving up authentic dishes made with fresh ingredients. Cantina 76 is another popular choice, offering a modern twist on classic Mexican dishes.

The Art of the Taco

Tacos are a staple of Mexican cuisine and have become increasingly popular in the United States. The perfect taco is a work of art that requires a combination of fresh ingredients, flavorful meats, and a balance of textures and flavors.

One of the key elements of a great taco is the tortilla. Corn tortillas are the traditional choice and are preferred by many for their authentic flavor and texture. Handmade tortillas are even better and can take a taco to the next level. Flour tortillas are also a popular choice and are preferred by some for their softer texture.

The filling is another crucial element of a great taco. From steak to chicken to fish, there are endless possibilities for taco fillings. Some popular options include carne asada, barbacoa, carnitas, and al pastor. For seafood lovers, shrimp tacos are a delicious option. Vegetarians can also enjoy tacos filled with grilled veggies or beans.

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The toppings and sauces are what really bring a taco together. Salsa, pico de gallo, and queso are all great options for adding flavor and moisture to a taco. Cotija cheese is a popular choice for topping tacos, as it adds a salty, crumbly texture.

When it comes to street tacos, simplicity is key. These tacos are typically small and filled with just a few ingredients, such as marinated pork, onions, and cilantro. They are often served on two small corn tortillas for added stability.

Burritos and tortas are also popular Mexican dishes that are similar to tacos. Burritos are essentially giant tacos wrapped in a flour tortilla, while tortas are sandwiches made with a soft, round bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some top-notch Mexican restaurants in Columbia, SC, especially around Devine Street?

Columbia, SC, especially around Devine Street, boasts a rich selection of Mexican restaurants. Some of the crowd favorites include:

  • Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda: Nestled on Devine Street, this gem is renowned for its “real deal” authentic Mexican cuisine. With a 4.5-star rating on Yelp and TripAdvisor, it’s a must-visit. Don’t forget to try their fresh guacamole and chicken nachos.
  • Tacos Nayarit: A favorite among locals and coworkers on a lunch break, this spot has a 4.7-star rating on Yelp. Their street tacos, paired with a selection of premium tequilas, are a hit.
  • Cantina 76: Located on Devine Street, this restaurant, with a 4.4-star rating on Yelp, offers a modern twist on traditional Mexican dishes. Their cantina margarita, made with low-glycemic agave nectar, is a must-try.

I’m craving tacos! Where should I head in Columbia, SC?

For those in Columbia with a taco craving:

  • Tacos Nayarit: Known for its mouthwatering street tacos, it’s a top pick with a 4.7-star rating on Yelp. Their pollo (chicken) tacos with a squeeze of lime are a delight.
  • Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda: This spot, with a 4.5-star Yelp rating, offers flavorful tacos that remind many of home. Their tres hombres taco trio is a popular choice.
  • Tacos & Tequila Cantina: Rated 4.3 stars on Yelp, this place is celebrated for its creative taco options and a vast selection of premium tequilas.

When’s the best time for Taco Tuesday in Columbia, SC?

Many Mexican eateries in Columbia, SC, including those around Lexington and Cayce, host Taco Tuesday specials. While most celebrate on Tuesdays, it’s wise to check with individual restaurants.

Some even offer unique twists, like tacos with red onion and crema or chips with fresh guacamole on the side.

What’s on the menu at Cantina 76 in Columbia, SC?

Cantina 76, known for its innovative approach to Mexican cuisine, offers:

  • Bangin’ Shrimp Tacos: Crispy shrimp meets slaw and a zesty aioli sauce.
  • Queso Fundido: Dive into melted cheese, chorizo, and pico de gallo. Add a side of refried beans for a fulfilling experience.
  • Sweet Potato Nachos: A unique blend of black beans, cheese, guacamole, and a sweet potato puree. Perfect for a quick meal with coworkers.

Any new Mexican dining spots in Columbia, SC?

For those looking to explore:

  • Taqueria El Jarocho: A recent addition to the Rosewood neighborhood, it’s quickly gaining traction for its genuine Mexican dishes. Their chimichangas are a must-try.
  • La Isla Bonita: A fusion of Puerto Rican and Mexican flavors, this newbie in North Columbia is worth a visit.

Seeking top-tier restaurants in downtown Columbia, SC. Any suggestions?

Downtown Columbia, SC, especially around Devine Street, is a food lover’s paradise:

  • The War Mouth: Southern-inspired dishes meet craft cocktails. Perfect for Saturdays with friends.
  • Bourbon: A blend of Southern flavors and an extensive bourbon list makes it a local favorite.
  • Hampton Street Vineyard: For those seeking a fine dining experience, their seasonal menu and vast wine list won’t disappoint.