In case you haven’t heard, Austin, Texas is a pretty cool place. 

So cool that about 150 people move here each day. But what’s drawing masses into the city? Is it the music venues and festivals celebrated for showcasing both legendary acts and up-and-coming artists alike? Or is it the picturesque parks and hiking trails with rows and rows of greenery? No, it’s probably the coffee shops. It has to be coffee shops. There’s so many of them tucked away across the city and they’re each so charming, serving up their own unique take on the caffeinated beverage. 

But what’s even more celebrated than these Austin gems? The breakfast taco. 

Tacodeli taco with refried black beans, bacon, avocado and jack cheese

In Austin, the breakfast taco is synonymous to the city’s culture and can even trigger a passionate debate amongst locals favoring different taquerias. Some prefer the larger chain restaurants while others swear by the smaller mom and pop shops downtown. But which one has the better taco?

Here at Protect America, we love our city and believe this very important question deserves an answer. So we sent a team of brave, dedicated and hungry team members (Alyssa and Sarah) out into the wild. Their mission was simple–go taste the breakfast tacos and return with a verdict. 

But where would they go, you ask? We left this up to three reliable office foodies: Brittney, Ravin and Chad.

The Reliable Foodies’ Choices

Britney suggested Tacodeli because of her love for The Otto, a patron favorite offering up organic refried black beans, double bacon, avocado, and jack cheese all served on a soft flour tortilla. 

Ravin’s chose Torchy’s as her favorite taqueria because she liked their expansive menu while Chad said his go-to stop for early morning tacos was Papalote. 

After jotting down the names of these restaurants and performing a quick search on Google maps, Alyssa and Sarah were on their way. 

Alyssa and Sarah seated at Tacodeli about to eat their tacos

Tacodeli

The mission began at Tacodeli, a popular taco shop with endless reviews and articles available online singing their praises of the soft handmade tacos. But even with all the positive light, Alyssa and Sarah still felt anxious before ordering up their meal. This uncertainty stemmed from Tacodeli’s unusual approach of dressing some of their breakfast tacos with mashed potatoes. However, for the sake of all future tourists curious to know if the mashed potatoes are worth the hype, Alyssa went ahead and ordered a taco with a heap of gooey potatoes. 

Overall Verdict:

“The taco was really good and I did like the potatoes, but there was nothing miraculous about it.” Alyssa. 

“I ordered The Otto. I really like the unusual pairing of avocado and black beans in a breakfast taco. It’s kind of creamy but savory at the same time.” Sarah 

Alyssa scores Tacodeli 7 and Sarah score Tacodeli 7

Torchy’s

Next up, was Ravin’s choice-Torchy’s. 

Torchy’s is a vibrant Austin staple with loud decor and unconventional names for different items on their menu. The unusual names match the equally unique taco fillings that range from fried chicken and fried portobello mushrooms to Jamaican Jerk chicken. Many locals prefer to stop by for the queso, another key food group for any Austinite. Our team, however, would not be ordering queso or tacos with jerk chicken. We had a mission to complete which meant we had to find two breakfast tacos to taste. 

At first, Alyssa and Sarah were too distracted by the Round Rock location’s quirky charm to focus on the glossy menu’s extensive offerings. This was because the restaurant was large, loud and decorated with bright red tiling across the walls while a neon sign lit up one section of the room. After taking in the ambiance for a few minutes, the team was finally ready to order.    

Alyssa and Sarah dancing outside of Torchy's

Overall Verdict:

“I got The Wrangler. I love how full the taco was and the way all of the flavors blended together. The brisket was juicy, the tortilla was on point and my stomach is happy.” Alyssa

“I got the Dirty Sanchez. I usually never order anything this bold so the explosion of flavors was really different. That said, this has probably been one of the best breakfast tacos I’ve had in a while. The carrots and poblano chile adds a nice kick.” Sarah

Alyssa scores Torchy's 9.5 and Sarah scores Torchy's 8.5

Papalote

Just as Alyssa and Sarah were about to swear off breakfast tacos for the rest of eternity, it was time to hop in the car and journey off to the final stop. This was Papalote, a much smaller storefront with a simplified menu that lacked the frills of the other two restaurants but had a knack for sticking with the classics. 

After tasting iconic staples at the previous restaurant, the team decided to end the day by building their own taco. This gave them the freedom to taste the flavors they might’ve missed out on before.  

Overall Verdict:

“I built my taco with egg, bacon, cheese and beans. This taco was a solid choice. The salsa added a lot of flavor and spice, but I wish the tortilla had been warm and fluffy.” Alyssa

“I added eggs, cheese, salsa and chorizo on my taco. This was definitely a more traditional breakfast taco. The muted flavoring was kind of nice. I’m a huge fan of the red salsa and chorizo. I was expecting a little more from the tortilla but I would definitely build my own taco here again.” Sarah

Alyssa scores Papalote 7 and Sarah scores Papalote 7.5

Who Had The Best Breakfast Taco?

Picture of Torchy's sign

Six tacos and a couple pounds later, the team piled back into the car for deliberation. Both team members could agree that each taqueria had something special, offering-in true Austin fashion-unconventional spins on a traditional staple. Overall, the three restaurants were great in different ways and could please any tourist’s curious breakfast taco taste buds. However, for a tourist looking to make just one stop and one stop only, our team believes that stop should be none other than Torchy’s. Yes, each restaurant was flavorful and delicious, but Torchy’s unusual food pairings made for an unforgettable taco. When you combine that with their fun atmosphere, you get an unforgettable, unequivocally Austin experience.