Did you know National Taco Day is Sunday, October 4th? Who doesn’t love tacos? It’s a hard dish to mess up, and with all the unique varieties that are popping up these days, there’s definitely a taco out there for everyone. Indianapolis is no stranger to the taco joint, but which one is the best?
Obviously taste is subjective, but I set out to find the best tacos the Circle City (and a few surrounding towns) has to offer – just in time for National Taco Day!
Nada – Downtown Indianapolis
Located in downtown Indianapolis, right across from Circle Center Mall, Nada is a regional chain. Not only do they serve tacos, but their drink menu is quite extensive and they have salads, soups, quesadillas and larger plate dinners.
We started off our meal with the chips and salsa trio, which includes fire-roasted tomato ancho salsa, tomatillo verde cruda salsa and the hottest of them all, the habanero “kreeper” salsa. Of the three, I thought the tomato ancho salsa had the best flavor. The other two were ok, but not my favorite.
I finished the meal with churros, which were actually the best thing I ate! The caramel dipping sauce that came with them? Delicious!
Now let’s talk about the tacos. I ordered the Chicken Carbon tacos, which comes with three chicken tacos topped with chile de arbol salsa, crema and chihuahua cheese. Going to be honest here – they weren’t all that special. I could barely taste the salsa on the tacos, which made me think they might have actually left it off. The soft taco shells didn’t taste homemade, although they might have been. They weren’t bad, but I could make better at home. I also got a side of street corn, which wasn’t up to my street corn standards, so if I eat here again, I will pass on that.
One thing I didn’t like: there are several different kinds of tacos you can choose from, but you can’t mix and match because they are all different prices. I would have liked that option so I could sample more than just one kind. Maybe others are better!
I would try eating here again, but there are better taco places around town. Three stars to Nada.
Salty Cowboy – Zionsville
This Mexican Cantina style restaurant gets rave reviews on Yelp. It’s almost an hour drive from the south side of Indianapolis, but we had the time, so I decided to check it out. Located in the darling town of Zionsville, The Salty Cowboy is nestled off the main shopping street in downtown.
We ordered chips and salsa to start and while both kinds were good, the red salsa was by far the winner here.
As for our food, I got a fish taco and a pollo rojo taco. My mom got a HUGE burrito and we both enjoyed our entrees. With the tacos, I thought the pollo rojo was the best – I would definitely get that again. The fish was fine – nothing exceptional, but the chicken taco reminded me of my favorite taco Bakersfield used to have but took off the menu.
So it was a successful restaurant adventure, but I don’t think these are the best of the best that Indianapolis has to offer.
Condado – Broad Ripple and Downtown Indianapolis
Condado is one of my favorite places to get tacos in the Indianapolis area and it has some bonus options that others don’t. When you order, you fill out a menu that reminds me of taking the SAT – fill in the little bubbles next to the options that you want and then turn it in to your server.
The chips and queso are ok, as is the salsa verde. But there is better in the city. It helps if you add chorizo or one of the other add-ins, but by itself, it’s kind of plain.
Let’s talk about the tacos! I LOVE the Ju-Ju shells. You get a combo of a hard shell and soft shell with chorizo and queso in the middle. I almost always get this one and stuff it with more chorizo, cheese, beans, rice and the chimichurri, which is amazing.
I’ll also sometimes get the firecracker shell, which is a spicy hard corn tortilla shell with a coat of seasoning.
There are options for gluten free and vegan diet needs and really, something for anyone. Since you pick what goes on your taco, you don’t have to ask them to leave anything off and you get exactly what you want.
That’s a major plus!!
Try to get in this hip taco joint on Mass Ave on a Friday night and you’ll likely have an hour wait. The tacos are delicious (even if they did get rid of my favorite one – RIP pollo rojo) and the salsa verde is the best I’ve had.
My mom says the margs are also good, as is the queso. I think they also win in the best queso in the city – it’s so different from anything else I’ve had. Maybe it’s a different cheese? But you definitely have to get both the queso and salsa verde when you’re there!
I also recommend the short rib taco or the pollo verde. If you don’t live in Indianapolis, you can find other locations as they’re spread out across the Midwest and a few spots in the south.
For a long time, Bakersfield was my go-to. And I still love it, but then I fell in love with…
Don Juan Taqueria
Finding this place was a happy accident. Located on the south side of town, near the University of Indianapolis, this is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area. There’s nothing fancy about the building – in fact if you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably miss it. It’s located in a strip mall between a cash advance place and a Papa Johns, but don’t let that fool you. Don Juan Taqueria is legit.
I started off with Mexican street corn and it’s the best I’ve found in the city. You can even add extra toppings like crushed Fritos, but I stuck with the original seasonings.
Now for the tacos – you order the base, which is your meat and whatever else comes in the taco, then you add toppings like tomatoes, onions, cilantro, etc. at the taco bar. This is perfect for me! Because while I love sauces and cilantro, I really don’t like onions or peppers on my food so I don’t have to ask them to leave it off.
My tacos were fantastic. The tortillas hit the spot and the flavors of the meats were well seasoned. I tried the salsa verde on my chicken and the medium on my potato/chorizo taco.
Dessert was churros – I think I would have liked the filling sauce in a container but they looked very pretty when served so I see why they present them that way.
I’ve gone back several times since then and just can’t get enough. Service was great too – friendly, informative and prompt. Also, dirt cheap prices! All my food was only $13 and some change. Can’t beat that. Go try them out!!
Sangrita Saloon – Broad Ripple
We ate at Sangrita Saloon right before the pandemic shut everything down in 2020. It was my birthday dinner and let’s just say I was not impressed. It was not good – at all.
I have zero complaints about the service – some of the Yelp reviews mention that was an issue for them, but we had two people waiting on us and they did a great job.
My complaint is with the food and the portion size related to the price. My tacos sounded great! And they weren’t bad, but they were pretty bland. I got the braised pork which was supposed to be cooked in cola, however it didn’t really taste any different than regular roast pork. There wasn’t much taste to the salsa either. The second taco was a potato with some habanero crema and the shell was deep fried. I did like that twist, but the other flavors were just boring.
The street corn was not good – it tasted like they opened a can of corn and just threw cheese and seasoning on top. I expected a grilled version but this definitely needed work.
My husband’s chicken dish was $15 for about a half a plate of food. Very small portion in relation to the price.
I don’t think I will go back and I’d suggest you find other taco joints in Broad Ripple to eat at. We left hungry still.
Blue Cactus – Franklin
A much needed addition to the taco scene in Franklin, Indiana! Blue Cactus hasn’t been open long and business is booming. There was a minor hiccup with getting seated – I put my name in and came back after I didn’t get a call discovered there was some mix up with the waiting list. Seems like they’re a little overwhelmed and still ironing out the bugs, but they did seat us after checking in, so I’m glad we didn’t have to wait more.
We got chips, salsa and queso to start. Salsa is ok. Queso is very good. Next up was the tacos. I had the Corner Tacos – three for $12 and a choice of a side. Comparable to the prices of the upscale spots in Indy, so no complaints here. Corner Tacos come with potatoes, chorizo, a sauce and topped with cheese. They were good, but not spicy. I like a kick to my food and expected that with the chorizo but was a little disappointed by that. Also, you have to get three of the same tacos. I would rather mix and match. I think that’s a downside to the menu.
My mom got shrimp tacos and she said her food was very spicy! So next time, I’ll try a different one and see. The side of Mexican rice was delicious- perfectly seasoned and I wanted more.
Also tried the Octopus mixed drink – a margarita mixed with Sangria. Sweet and tart. A great combo.
Recommend trying this place out if you’re on the south side – Franklin really needed something other than MOE’s and the traditional Mexican restaurants that don’t specialize in tacos.
Loco Mexican Restaurant and Cantina
I expected chain level Mexican food from Loco Mexican Restaurant and was pleasantly surprised! Chips and salsa brought out for the table were fresh – salsa was good, not quite hot enough for my liking but sometimes that depends on who made it and the day.
Ordered the barbacoa tacos – delicious soft shells and it also came with a side of rice and beans that were not the typical refried beans I was expecting. They had a nice smoky flavor and I think some kind of sausage in them? Rice was good – pretty typical for this kind of establishment.
Also had a strawberry daiquiri which really hit the spot. I could have had two, but I was eating alone and driving!
Definitely recommend checking Loco Mexican Restaurant out and there are a couple of locations in the Indianapolis area.
While I wasn’t able to get to every place on my list thanks to COVID, after a year of working on this post and trying seven different taco joints all over the Indianapolis area, there’s a clear winner in my mind.
Don Juan Taqueria is HANDS DOWN the best taco joint in Indianapolis!
Have you been here? What do you think? Any place I need to try? I will periodically revisit this post and add new places, so if I find someone to knock the champion out, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Here’s a ranking of all the taco joints I tried, in case you’re curious where the rest stand. Happy eating, friends!