The Great Northern California Taco Trail

Northern California is typically known as a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. From Mount Shasta to cascading waterfalls to National Parks like Yosemite and Lassen, there’s so much adventure to be had in the North State.

But once you get done exploring, you’ve got to eat a nice meal, and there’s no better delicacy in NorCal than delicious Mexican food. Typically, SoCal is famous around the country for it’s Mexican cuisine, but NorCal holds its own when it comes to south-of-the-border inspired meals.

Alas, we have created the Great Northern California Taco Trail, a celebration of the best Mexican food from all areas of NorCal. Let’s start on the North Coast for some carnitas tacos:

Taqueria La Barca – Arcata

Up in Arcata, California sits Taqueria La Barca. Known for their mouthwatering carnitas tacos, this authentic taqueria is one of the best Mexican joints on the California coast. Their tacos have Yelp users constantly praising their food:

“Best Mexican food in Humboldt county,” said Yelp user Nic G. “If you haven’t been here your out of the loop. Carnitas are perfect.”

“Best taqueria in Humboldt county, hands down,” said Yelp user Katy B. “Friendly, open late, and will tastebuds happy. All their meat is marinated to perfection. You will not be disappointed.”

They are also known for homemade chips and giant salsa bar. Let’s see the Taqueria La Barca food people are sharing on social media:

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I made friends. #mexicanfood#alpastor#lengua

A post shared by Nelly (@nellys_adventure) on

Yummy! Now we make our way southeast down Highway 299 to Redding where delicious tacos await at…

Taqueria Los Gordos – Redding

Photo via Visit Redding

Hidden off the Bonnyview exit off the I-5 corridor in south Redding sits this kingdom of taco bliss. And although not easily found to any passerby, you will usually enter to find a crowded restaurant, with the Redding locals craving some of the best authentic Mexican food in the area.

This local staple is known for its giant burritos, incredible customer service and the many options in its salsa bar. Oh yeah, it’s also super inexpensive.

*Note: There are two Los Gordos locations in Redding, this one off of Churn Creek. The locations are very similar, but this one seems to be the favorite among locals.

Let’s get hungry by looking at their delicious food:

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Today’s tacos.

A post shared by Little Meats Taqueria (@little_meats) on

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Julio Escamilla (@chapulingeneral) on

Full yet? Me neither… Let’s head down to Chico for one of the best taco places you’ll ever visit in your life.

Gordo Burrito – Chico

Once a famed taco truck in Chico, Gordo Burrito has used its popularity among locals to purchase nearby restaurant space and create an indoor space for eating. To me, this will always be a taco truck, but one thing that has stayed the same is the amazing food they’ve made for years.

“I’ve tried various other Mexican restaurants in the area and nothing comes close to this diamond in the rough inside a gas station,” said Yelp user Matt P.

From burritos to tacos to tortas, this establishment makes a lot of great food, but shockingly it’s their shrimp plates that will leave you stunned. Their unique recipes make for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.

Note: The owner is also an awesome person. During the Camp Fire devastation, he drove is taco truck to the evacuation center and started feeding everyone for free.

See what’s in store for you at this Mexican food mecca:

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Tacos please!🌮yummy!😋 #tacolove #latelunch #favorite ❤️#lovechico

A post shared by 🌿Jolene Duke 🌿 (@cabinonriverview) on

Don’t think we can beat that? We’re going to try… Let’s head down to hands down the most authentic Mexican food you’ll find in NorCal.

La Fortuna Bakery – Williams

Although Williams, California is small, it actually has a good reputation for its food (see: Granzella’s). And if you were to ask a local, most likely their favorite place to eat is the La Fortuna Bakery, which is home to some truly authentic Mexican food.

They have a wide range of delicious food, but it’s their torta that will leave you wanting more.

“Just go eat here and order a torta. End of story,” said Yelp user Gina G. “They have carnitas during the week and the Fortas are made on house baked rolls. The pan dulce isn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it’s standard good. Go get a torta.”

You won’t find this taqueria on any national ranking lists, but anyone who frequents the I-5 corridor typically learns that this is the best food option along the way. Let’s see what authentic Mexican food looks like:

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The #alpastor was bomb at #Lafortuna today #Williamsca #williamscalifornia #tacos #norcal #grubbin #pioneerday #pioneerday2017

A post shared by £ Nobody Can Touch My Swag £ 😎 (@johnniebeeee) on

Over half-way done! Still have room in your stomach? Let’s head up into the mountains to visit the best taqueria in Tahoe.

Taqueria Jalisco – South Lake Tahoe

Here’s another great NorCal Mexican food destination that isn’t easily found. Located in the back of a parking lot in the middle of South Lake Tahoe, you’ll find a big, inexpensive burrito waiting for your belly in this hidden gem.

“This is the best Mexican food I have found in SLT,” Said Yelp user M R. “People are nice. Place is extremely casual, clean and offering great food. If you want a low key ‘hole in the wall’…… ya gotta come on by.   You will be thankful”

For those who have found this spot, they keep coming back. Here’s the delicious views you’ll find here:

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I was gonna post a snowboarding video, but then I tried west coast Mexican… 👍👌

A post shared by Silvia (@_leesilvia) on

So good! Okay, let’s finish off the Taco Trail by heading to two world-renown places in the NorCal cities.

La Favorita Taqueria – Sacramento

Located on Florin Road sits what many consider to be the best Mexican food in Sacramento. La Favorita Taqueria is a popular restaurant for locals, so it can be busy, but waiting for your food will make the insane portions well worth it.

“You’ll think you’re dining in Mexico and you can watch the senoritas making tortillas the old-fashioned way while you stand in line to place your order,” said Yelp user C. M. A.

The most popular dish is probably their burritos, but you really can’t miss with anything on the menu. From tacos to tortas to a visit to their giant salsa bar, there’s some Mexican food goodness for everyone here (there’s also a churro stand outside). Let’s take a look at the cuisine:

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Oh yes! #food #foodie #foodporn #foodgasm

A post shared by DJ Eclectic (@djeclectic) on

Now that was delicioso! I know you’re stuffed, but you can fit a little bit more as we head to the big city to stuff our face in this world-renown taqueria.

El Farolito – San Francisco

Conveniently located in San Francisco’s Mexican food wonderland, the Mission District, sits El Farolito, which has been recognized worldwide for its burritos. Although it competes with La Taqueria across the street (which was recognized by NBC as the best burrito in America), El Farolito is known by San Francisco locals as the best burrito in the Mission, and thus, the best burrito in the world.

There’s not much that can be said for the taqueria who has garnered national attention and over 4,500 reviews on Yelp (mostly positive). It’s a small, cash-only location with little room to move, but once you order one of their cheesy burritos, you’ll get lost in your own world. The line can be long during lunch and dinner hours, but it’s well worth the wait.

Let’s look at some of the cheesy goodness:

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If you’ve had a long day of traveling, head to El Farolito straight from the airport for a burrito pick-me-up. #EEEEEATS #InfatuationSF 📸: @eatdrinklovejen

A post shared by Infatuation San Francisco (@infatuation_sf) on

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I love you, burrito. #missionburrito. . . #siblingtime #sf #carneasada

A post shared by Cassie Cheng (@casscette) on

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Sloppy, massive, and exactly what you need at 12AM. @taqueriaelfarolito is your late night SF move. @infatuation_sf #EEEEEATS 📸: @ehgg

A post shared by The Infatuation (@infatuation) on

Phew, I’m full! That does it for the Great Northern California Taco Trail. Of course, there is a ton of great Mexican food in NorCal, and I’m sure you think we missed something. Let us know what we missed in the comments!

Zach O'Brien

Zach O'Brien is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Active NorCal


  1. my husband loves speedy taco in McKinleyville they dont have ground beef so i wont eat there 🙂

  2. Tacos Mary in the college town area of Chico has been around far longer than Gordo Burrito and is better(opinion). I’ve been going there since 2004-5. If I want a burrito and I’m in Chico, thats where I go. Oh and they’re open late.

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