Some quick taco history: In the 50s Americans were introduced to “taco kits,” which promoted using ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese in a hard shell. This was a marketing ploy to essentially repackage the hamburger and make it more “exotic.”
To be blunt: Tacos with cheese, tomato, and lettuce are white people tacos.
Traditionally, tacos started out as something totally different. Essentially, tacos were nothing more than people using a tortilla to sop up whatever food was on the plate. Families would set out beans, veggie, and meat (only if you were rich!) and people would tear up the tortilla and use it to pick up the food.
Since we all have something different in mind when we hear “taco,” I want to be clear: every time a taco is mentioned in this post, it will be in reference to a specific taco: corn tortilla, a meat option, onion, and cilantro. I typically prefer mine with a salsa verde, but to each their own.
One thing we can all agree on is that the QC has some fantastic Mexican food. With over 40 options, we are definitely spoiled for choice. Last year, I took a few months and dined at each and every Mexican restaurant in our area. Here are my top six taco spots in the QC:
1. Los Primos – Davenport
I’m going to admit it upfront, I have a bit of a Los Primos fetish. Los Primos is really the only “foodie” Mexican restaurant in the QC, making it the number one spot when it comes to tacos.
Los Primos has no real competitors when it comes to meat options. On top of the standard options most places offer, they serve duck tacos, lamb tacos, and even pork belly tacos! Their house speciality meat is “Spicy Pork” and it is a one of a kind recipe. As if it couldn’t get any better, they also have both the best fish tacos and shrimp tacos in the QC.
2. El Mexicano – Moline
Going to El Mexicano feels like you’re going to your grandma’s house, that is, if your grandma was from Guadalajara. El Mexicano is only open for lunch and breakfast, making it a great Saturday morning breakfast spot/hangover cure.
They have a menu full of great food (at great prices!) but the best taco option is their “Tacos Especiales,” which are steak tacos served with cilantro, sauteed onions, and guacamole. If you’re feeling adventurous order the sesos tacos. (I’ll let you google what sesos are.) El Mexicano also gets my vote for the best salsa in the QC.
3. La Finca – Davenport
La Finca has great taco options, but my favorite thing to order are the tripas tacos. La Finca cleans their tripas properly (so they don’t smell like a wet sock) and then fries them up nice and crispy on the flat top. I don’t say this lightly: I have had more than one life changing experience at La Finca. If you go to La Finca and order ground beef, you’re doing it wrong.
4. Zeke’s Island Cafe – Davenport
Now hear me out on this one. I know Zeke’s is not a mexican restaurant, but they made the list because of their fantastic tofu tacos. Zeke’s found the perfect tofu-red cabbage ratio and they top it off with a great creamy sriracha sauce.
5. El Pueblo – Silvis
El Pueblo is a nice little surprise on the far east end of Silvis. From the outside, El Pueblo looks unassuming. Hell, it looks unassuming from the inside too, but it doesn’t matter! Don’t let the looks fool you, it is a great little spot for authentic Mexican food. You can get good tacos all across the QC, but El Pueblo gets my vote for the best steak tacos. Some days I wake up craving them out of the blue!
6. La Rancherita – Rock Island/Moline
La Rancherita is a long time favorite for most QC taco lovers. They have many amazing dishes on their menu, but La Rancherita gets my vote for the best lengua tacos in town. (El Mariachi takes a close 2nd.) I am also a big fan of La Rancherita’s chorizo tacos. They achieve the perfect balance of being greasy but not too greasy.
La Ranchertia has a few tasty vegetarian items as well. If you don’t want meat, but you’re cool with cheese, try their chiles rellenos tacos!
Bonus: Undisclosed Location
Some of the best tacos I’ve had in the QC are served from a semi-secret location in Davenport. You’ll have to ask around about this spot. I’m being covert because I’m not sure if it is totally a legal operation and if they got shut down I would feel horrible.
This post was written by Brandon Carleton, co-founder of QC Mexican Food.
After eating at all of the more than 40 Mexican restaurants in the Quad-Cities, Brandon thinks he is an expert. (He definitely isn’t.) A storyteller by day and foodie by night, Brandon loves all food. Except pickles.