Some might say Jackson has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, and now that food trucks keep popping up, it seems impossible to decide where to go when you're in the mood for a good taco. While plenty of our local establishments have excellent options, a few have dipped their toes into more daring ingredients, bold flavors, and unconventional combinations.
In honor of National Taco Day, we partnered with SnagMob to present to you Jackson's Top Taco Tour, a culinary trip through some of our city's best restaurants with the most unique tacos that will blow your mind and have you coming back for more. But at the end of the day, there could only be one winner, and only you could decide! Check out which taco won your vote.
Crab Cake Tacos
Casa Marina | 76 Old Hickory Boulevard, Suite D
Chef: Juan Garcia
Meal: Three tacos (two at lunch) with rice and black beans
Tortilla: Flour, soft
Meat: Handmade crab cakes
Toppings: Shredded lettuce, pickled red onions
Sauce: Chipotle mayo and house dressing
Tasting notes: Sweet, subtle, creamy
Learn more: Facebook
When Juan Garcia moved to Jackson in 1998 to establish Casa Marina, he wanted to make sure his menu items were unique from other Mexican restaurants in town, so he decided to explore a personal love for seafood. The menu now offers salmon, Mahi Mahi, and shrimp items—not to mention their famous crab cake tacos.
Juan makes his fresh cakes with blue crab, making sure the keep the inside soft, outside un-greasy, and flavors subtle; he doesn't want the meal to reek of fish. The lettuce allows for additional crunch against the smooth pickled red onions. These toppings also help soak up the sweet flavor of the vinaigrette-like house dressing while the chipotle mayo lining the bottom of the tortilla balances things out with just a hint of spice.
I visited Turkey a few years back, and Casa's use of onion and tomato reminds me a lot of those flavors. Their salsa also carries a lot of sweet flavors and balances their saltier rice—which, I might add, isn't your typical Mexican rice. Packed with veggies (corn, peas, carrots, etc.) and full of that distinct hint of sweet onion, it's more like a Mexican fried rice in my mind.
Casa Marina's crab cake tacos are perfect for anyone who is looking for something a little less meaty, enjoys seafood, and prefers sweet over spicy.
Smoked Duck Tacos
Coyote Blues | 4 Stonebridge Boulevard
Chef: Barry Cooper
Meal: Two or three tacos
Tortilla: Corn, soft
Meat: Smoked duck
Toppings: Monterey Jack cheese, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo
Sauce: Sweet fig barbecue infusion, chipotle raspberry sauce, chipotle blueberry sauce
Tasting notes: Tender, sweet, meaty
Learn more: Website; Facebook; Twitter
With two locations in Louisiana and one coming soon to Mississippi, Coyote Blues has been around the block and few times, but that doesn't mean they're not excited to try new things. Just this week they'll be launching two new tacos—Ahi Tuna and Brisket—not to mention they're already existent Grilled Tilapia, Fried Oyster, and more. But it seems that one of their options keeps rising to the top for being both a flavorful crowd-pleaser and a adventurous standout: the Smoked Duck Taco.
Most of us don't really know what duck tastes like, but don't let that scare you away because its tender meat has a texture similar to pulled pork but a unique flavor worth exploring. What makes this one so special, though, has more to do with the delicate notes found in the sauces. The meat is held together with a sweet fig infusion reminiscent of a dolled up barbecue glaze, making every bite count. But don't forget the chipotle raspberry and blueberry sauces that make the medley of pico, lettuce, and Monterey Jack come together for a fruity twist with a subtle kick. And what a great pick for cheese—something creamier to balance the sharp flavors.
This taco is extra full, but the harmony of ingredient textures and strong but thin corn tortilla holds it up well. And while the two tacos may relieve your hunger, don't hesitate to try any of the unforgettable Cajun-style sides for just $1-$3, like their poblano rice, roasted corn succotash, or poblano cheese corn grits—if you're not stuffed from their incredible chips and salsa options.
This taco is excellent for anybody with a kick for sweet-and-salty, who appreciates a well-treated meat, and who doesn't mind a little adventure.
Tulum Fish Tacos
Tulum Fresh Mexican Grill | 71 Carriage House Drive
After moving to Jackson from San Diego, Daryl Fortner was determined to bring Southern California-style Mexican to West Tennessee. And what better vehicle for some seaside flavors that beer-battered tilapia? But not just any beer: a dark Mexican one, of course.
The Tulum fish taco has been Daryl's top-seller ever since the restaurant opened in 2010, and I can tell why. The sensation of biting into this taco is similar to that of taking a good sip of a cold Coke on a summer afternoon: refreshing and cool with a little bit of kick. And that seems appropriate since all the ingredients are fresh and meals crafted in-house. The fish has that perfect crispy exterior without any thick crust or oily coating, and while the meat is flavorful, there's no lingering "fishiness." I'm so glad they don't go light on the pico and cilantro as they amplify the fresh quality of the meal, and the colorful red cabbage adds a satisfying crunch. The creamy refried beans, sweet and spicy salsa options, and addictive rice turn this light treat into a feast.
The real star of this meal, though, is the "Xcaret" secret sauce, the likes of which I haven't found anywhere else. Think the sweetness of a glaze with the creaminess of a ranch dressing with the kick of a chipotle aioli. Yep, it's impossible to describe, but it's unforgettable and is the perfect untraditional dip for an untraditional fish taco. You'll never settle for tartar sauce again.
Tulum's fish tacos are now established as a Jackson classic, just right for any seafood-lover with a soft spot for fresh flavors and appreciation for culinary secrets.
West Alley BBQ & Smokehouse | 215 West Main Street
West Alley recently updated their menu to transform some favorite barbecue classics into unique, updated meals. Just this September, they introduced their BBQ taco, available as a lunch special each Tuesday for just $6 (along with $3 margaritas and tequila shots). This bite gives all the satisfaction of their famous pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw in a new format.
It's clear the moment you take a bite into this taco that the meat is the star—as it's always been at West Alley. Their pork is cooked slow and low, and the barbecue sauce is intermingled perfectly to not overpower the meat's distinct flavors or create a saucy mess. This taco will require a napkin, though, as it's so stuffed to the brim that it might spill out the other side! (In fact, one taco might be enough for you lighter eaters.) There's just enough of their freshly made vinegar slaw to give a little texture and hint of creaminess, and the bacon bits and chives add to the color and vibrance of the taco. Plus, the ballpark-style nachos add the kick and crunch the meal needs.
West Alley's BBQ taco is a winner for any taco purist: meat, veggies, and the perfect pairing sauce. Ask for the hot barbecue sauce if you like it spicy.
And the winner is...
Tulum Fish Tacos!
Thanks for voting!
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She and her husband Jordan live in Midtown and are active members of City Fellowship Baptist Church.
tags Jackson TN, Tennessee, Katie Howerton, SnagMob, taco, Mexican, restaurant, local, local restaurant, local business, Juan Garcia, Casa Marina, crab cake, duck, Barry Cooper, Coyote Blues, barbecue, BBQ, cooking, Daryl Fortner, Tulum Fresh Mexican Grill, fish, seafood, tilapia, West Alley BBQ, Bardo Brantley, #OurJacksonTable