Torchy's Is the Taco Giant of Texas

In Austin, Torchy’s is the beloved hometown chain that delivers “damn good tacos” every time.

Torchy's Tacos Queso
Photo: Trey Ellis

To name any lone taco as the best in Texas would be unimaginable, an affront to the many cultural threads that weave together this colossal state and to all the cherished tacos within it. There's the original street version, a palm-size corn tortilla customarily topped with only meat, onion, and cilantro with sauce on the side—no frills. There's the indulgent barbecue kind, made famous by Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ, which showcases Texas' signature brisket on a pillowy flour tortilla. There's the holy breakfast taco, a hangover cure and hearty road trip essential all in one scrambled egg-laden bite. And then you have Torchy's Tacos.

An Austin, TX institution for 15 years, Torchy's started with a vision, an old trailer, and a bright cherry red Vespa. "I handed out a lot of free chips and salsa on that scooter to drum up customers," founder and CEO Mike Rypka says, laughing. Before long, locals were calling Rypka's creations "damn good tacos," which is now the brand's slogan.

"They'd come up to me in the early days and ask, 'What are you putting in these things?' " he remembers. From the first mobile trailer to a whopping 102 locations in 11 states, Torchy's Tacos makes the Tex-Mex experience feel completely new for everyone—both the longtime Austinite and the out-of-stater who has never eaten a taco. Believe it or not, they're out there.

The menu includes inventive options with tongue-in-cheek names like the Democrat, the Republican, and the Trailer Park, along with a green chile queso that has garnered fanatic popularity. Everything is made fresh in-house daily, including all six sauces, and you'll find a full-service bar of margaritas at most locations. "As brands grow, they tend to look for shortcuts," says Rypka, who still lives in Austin. "We try really hard to keep it authentic."

The flagship Torchy's Tacos on South Congress Avenue buzzes with people at all hours, starting with the early birds at breakfast and keeping it up until the late-night crowd spills in. Just like the city it hails from, Torchy's mashes together folks who couldn't be more different, and it's the tacos that keep them coming back.

Rypka's favorite thing to order? Queso, always. "To this day, if there's a bowl of queso in front of me, I can't stop eating it," he says, a sentiment shared by many Texans. There may never be a consensus on the best taco in the Lone Star State (nor should there be), but Torchy's at least wins the congeniality vote., Flagship: 512-916-9025, 1822 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704

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