Where to find the best tacos in Des Moines, Iowa

Tacos may have come into prominence in the 18th century in the silver mines of Mexico. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a professor of history at the University of Minnesota who studies Mexican food, found that the word “taco” referred to the little charges miners used to excavate the ore, according to an article in Smithsonian magazine.

Now tacos are so rampant in restaurants that they have their own sections on menus and day to celebrate with discounted versions.

Here in the Des Moines metro, you can find tacos all over the city. Here’s a look at five you should try.

This newcomer in West Des Moines took over the former Rusty Taco space, now outfitted with Day of the Dead decor. Blue Agave serves street tacos with three per order, wrapped in corn tortillas made in house. Try cochinita with slow-cooked pork, fish that can be fried or grilled, shrimp, or even veggie with zucchini, squash, corn salsa, and avocado. Each comes with side options such as black beans, cilantro white rice or spicy veggies and quinoa. Prices start at $13.

Find it: 9500 University Ave. Suite 2108, West Des Moines

George Formaro took numerous trips to Mexico before opening Malo in 2014 in the historic Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Des Moines. The tacos here come three to an order with a choice of flour or corn tortillas or lettuce for the wrap. Options include chicken tinga, mahi-mahi, al pastor (marinated pork shoulder), wood-grilled skirt steak and vegetarian options such as crispy onion and avocado or Portobello mushroom. Prices start at $11.99.

Find it: 900 Mulberry St.

More:The 33 essential restaurants of Des Moines: 2022 edition

The cabeza, tripa and lengua tacos at Tacos La Familia in Des Moines' River Bend neighborhood.

The casa de la barbacoa in the River Bend neighborhood serves street tacos in a small space along Sixth Avenue in Des Moines. Order barbacoa (lamb) pata de res (beef feet), camaron (shrimp) or picadillo (beef and potatoes). Try the taco ahogados (fried tacos) with corn tortillas dipped in beef birria and fried with melted cheese that start at $3.50 or street tacos with double corn tortillas that start at $3.

Find it: 1610 Sixth Ave., Des Moines

Try one of 10 proteins on your tacos at Tacos Mariana's.

Tacos Mariana’s in the King Irving neighborhood restaurant serves 10 different protein options in its tacos that come with two soft corn tortillas made in house. Try proteins such as carnitas, pollo, chorizo, and asada, as well as cabeza (beef head), tripas (beef intestine) and birria (shredded beef). Prices start at $1.25 or head here on Wednesdays or Thursdays for 99 cent tacos.

Find it: 1305 University Ave., Des Moines

More:9 places to eat near Drake University including Indian, diner fare, burgers, ice cream

Tasty Tacos uses a fluffy fried taco shell.

Richard and Antonia Mosqueda opened Tasty Tacos in 1961, and since, it’s grown to six locations for Mexican food in the Des Moines metro. The fluffy flour version comes with options such as seasoned beef, beans, chicken, steak or pork starting at $3.50, while the crispy corn shell versions (same options) start at $2.35.

Find it: 1400 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines; 6326 Mills Civic Pkwy., West Des Moines; 5847 SE 14th St., Des Moines; 2900 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines; 2401 SE Delaware Ave., Ankeny; 8549 Hickman Road, Urbandale

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