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Best bites along the Oxnard Taco Trail

Taqueria Cuernavaca Tacos with refried beans at Taqueria Cuernavaca. | Photo by Brallan Perez Favela/Courtesy of Visit Oxnard

In Southern California, you can depend on a few things: near-perfect weather, consistent freeway traffic, and some of the best tacos north of the Mexican border. The vast food landscapes of Los Angeles and San Diego are, of course, home to fantastic tacos. Yet, it was on a recent trip to Oxnard in Ventura County that I discovered why this comparatively smaller city and the Oxnard Taco Trail should be on every taco fan’s radar.

Oxnard’s large Hispanic population is arguably a significant reason why the tacos here are made with superb authenticity. Another factor: Large swaths of local farmland provide many of these taco shops with fresh ingredients.

The happy result is a city that proudly boasts it has the most tacos per capita in the U.S. With so many yummy options, how do you know where to start feasting? Fortunately, the Oxnard Visitors Bureau has created a Taco Trail map.

As I explored the Taco Trail, I was never in my car for longer than 10 minutes between stops, and quite often, could walk from one restaurant to another. Even better, I rarely came across an eatery that was too crowded, nor did I ever wait long for my food to arrive.

This Taco Trail is both fun and relaxing to explore. Here are a few places that should not be missed.

1. Tacos La Bonita

437 S. C Street

Tacos La Bonita quesobirria taco

Quesabirria taco at Tacos La Bonita. | Photo by Nick Rufca

The quesabirria taco—a stewed beef-and-cheese-filled taco with a birria-marinated, red-colored shell—has been making a splash in the U.S. as of late. Its rise in popularity has social media to thank, as users share photos showcasing the taco’s vibrant color and appetite-inducing dips in the accompanying beef consommé.

This trendy taco should be first on your list, and the versions at Tacos La Bonita are stellar. The hearty beef and gooey cheese meld harmoniously together within a crispy shell that maintains its crunch even after repeated dips in the consommé. Polish off the consommé like a soup once the quesabirria taco is gone—this savory beef broth is so darn good that none of it should be wasted.

Read more: Talking tacos with Los Angeles star Danny Trejo

2. Tacos El Brother

1635 S. Oxnard Boulevard

Tacos El Brother hot porky tacos

Hot Porky Tacos at Tacos El Brother. | Photo by Brallan Perez Favela/Courtesy of Visit Oxnard

Tacos El Brother’s menu is filled with an array of delicious offerings, but the popular Hot Porky Taco is a must order. This taco gets its subtle heat from Cheetos Flamin’ Hot, which are ground up like fine bread crumbs and liberally sprinkled over the taco’s filling for added crunch. Beneath those Cheetos crumbles is a surprisingly substantial serving of juicy pork, zesty onion, and fresh cilantro, all smothered against a melted layer of mild mozzarella cheese.

Though this taco’s tortilla is an eye-catching, fiery red, the heat index is low-key, as if not to distract from the meat’s flavor. A side note: The wonderfully moist corn bread works quite well as a sweet, after-taco treat.  

3. Tacos El Diablo

515 S. C Street

Tacos El Diablo churro doughnuts and tacos

Churro doughnuts and tacos at Tacos El Diablo. | Photo by Brallan Perez Favela/Courtesy of Visit Oxnard

Sometimes the best tacos are the ones with the simplest ingredients, and downtown Oxnard’s Tacos El Diablo is a shining example of streamlined, well-prepared ingredients being all that is needed to make a taco stand out. The al pastor and carnitas coming out of this kitchen are outstanding, topped with diced onion and cilantro and served with grilled and pickled onions on the side.

The colorful, charming back patio provides an ideal atmosphere to kick back and take your taco time. The made-to-order churro doughnuts, served warm with fresh, sliced strawberries and a choice of lechera, caramel, or dark-chocolate dipping sauce, make any meal here feel complete.

Read more: Where to find authentic Texas tacos

4. Tacos El Guero

3380 E. Vineyard Avenue

Tacos El Guero truck

Tacos El Guero truck. | Photo by Nick Rufca

Don’t be surprised to find a line at the Tacos El Guero truck, but as any food truck fan knows, a queue is a sign that the food must be good. The barbacoa a la plancha tacos are the best way to sample the mouthwatering beef this taco truck is known for.

Those with indulgent appetites should look no further than the showstopping behemoth known as the barbacoa Pizzadilla. This dish combines (yes, you guessed it) a quesadilla and a pizza in one big meaty, cheesy, dough-laden creation, with enough slices in an order to feed a hungry group.

5. Otani’s Seafood

608 S. A Street

Otani's seafood fish and shrimp tacos

Fish and shrimp tacos at Otani’s Seafood. | Photo by Nick Rufca

At this point, you may want a break from pork and beef. Enter Otani’s Seafood, a beloved downtown Oxnard mainstay since 1908. The menu includes a host of seafood choices—from tempura plates to seafood sandwiches—but you’re here for tacos, of course, and Otani’s fish and shrimp options are absolute winners.

Topped with cool, chopped iceberg lettuce and shredded cheese, the bright freshness of the seafood shines through in each bite. The fish (red snapper) and shrimp can be ordered grilled, which is good, but opt for the fried, which is better–thanks to a delicate breading that adds a light crunch without bogging the taco down.  

Read more: Where to find great fish tacos in San Diego

6. Taqueria Cuernavaca

1802 Ventura Boulevard

Taqueria Cuernavaca tacos and refried beans

A trio of tacos with refried beans at Taqueria Cuernavaca. | Photo by Brallan Perez Favela/Courtesy of Visit Oxnard

Finally, there’s Taqueria Cuernavaca, a brick-and-mortar eatery that serves up delectable veggie tacos alongside meaty options. Both the potato taco and the mushroom taco come topped with jack cheese and a chile pasilla for an added pop. On the meatier side, the pork chop taco arrives with the meat finely chopped and packed with irresistible flavor. The chicharrón taco—tender pork belly smothered in salsa verde—is not commonly found at American taco shops, so sample it here. The home-style refried beans are exceptionally good, and the perfect pairing for any taco.

Nick Rufca is a Westways food critic and the senior producer for YouTube’s The Try Guys.

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