Austin restaurants battle for top taco prize during national championships

Austin restaurants battle for top taco prize in national championships

Torchy's Tacos
Torchy's Tacos will be vying for glory at the National Taco Championships. Torchy's

Get ready for the great taco takedown. The National Taco Championships — yep, this is a real thing — is heading to town in March to (perhaps) settle once and for all who serves the best tacos in Austin.

Among the Austin competitors battling for the title of “Top Taco” is Eldorado Cafe, Be More Pacific, Torchy’s Tacos, Gabriela’s Downtown, House of the Rising Tanuki-san, and Holy Taco! In all, taco pros from more than 35 restaurants, food trucks, and other spots in Austin will be vying for taco bragging rights.

The taco shindig will take place 11 am-6 pm March 30 in the Austin American-Statesman parking lot next to Lady Bird Lake near Barton Springs Road and South Congress Avenue.

Aside from the taco cook-off, the Austin event will feature a tequila expo, the Ay Chihuahua! beauty pageant for dogs, lucha libre wrestling matches, a hot chili pepper contest, a Day of the Dead wedding, and music performances.

Tickets for the Austin festivities are $15 to $20 for general admission visitors and $120 for VIP guests. The tequila expo costs an extra $20. Admission for kids 12 and under is free. The tacos won’t be free, though — they’ll go for $3 apiece.

Paying for a ticket isn’t the only way to participate. In Austin, the National Taco Championships is recruiting taco judges, volunteers, bands, and DJs, as well as contenders for the dog and chili pepper contests.

The National Taco Championships, which launched in 2010 in Scottsdale, Arizona, is billed as the country’s only sanctioned national taco competition. Other than Austin, this year’s taco tour will make stops in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, before winding up in Las Vegas for the grand championship in November. The top prize: $100,000. 

Noticeably absent from the multi-city competition is San Antonio, which in 2018 joined Austin on Booking.com’s list of the five most taco-obsessed cities in the U.S., as well as Dallas, which D Magazine proclaimed (dubiously) in 2018 is the taco capital of Texas, and the Rio Grande Valley, where tourism boosters have tried (unsuccessfully, we insist) to persuade the rest of us that it’s home to Texas’ best tacos.