Our Bean & Cheese Tee was an instant hit when we first dropped it. Almost everyone in San Antonio calls bean & cheese their favorite taco. However, those who don’t consider bean & cheese the best taco (like me) prefer carne guisada, and they'd ask us when that delicious classic would make it on a shirt. So we finally came out with the tee, and it’s been a big success! In honor of our Carne Guisada Tee, we spent this past weekend on the hunt for the best carne guisada taco in San Antonio. Trust me when I say that’s no easy feat in a city that boasts more Mexican restaurants than there are stars in the sky.
About a month ago, we asked our social media followers who made the best carne guisada in town and got a “healthy” number of recommendations. We took those responses and narrowed them down to the nine most mentioned places. Then, we got in the car, preemptively downed a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and set out to find the best stewed-meat tacos IN THE WORLD.
We tried thick gravy, thin gravy, bland gravy, spicy gravy, chewy beef, dry beef, homemade tortillas, store-bought tortillas, overcooked tortillas, undercooked tortillas, and on and on. But, rather than go through and rank all nine, we decided to only mention our top three choices. None of the restaurants we tried disappointed, these are just the three standouts (in no particular order).
4602 Callaghan Road
The most straightforward of all the carne guisada tacos we had. The flavors were mild but present, not overseasoned (as most places tend to do), and definitely not underseasoned either. The gravy was a little on the thin side, but it worked with the rest of the taco. Ramona’s was actually the first place we tried where the meat wasn’t dried out. It was juicy and broke apart easily when you bit into your taco. If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for a quick bite that won’t disappoint, be sure to check out Ramona’s Café.
Roy’s Taco Hut
246 Old Highway 90 West
Pulling up to Roy’s, I knew we were in for a treat. The drive-thru line backed up all the way to the street and the parking lot was full. You know a restaurant is doing something right when people are willing to wait 20 minutes in the to-go line when there are a dozen other restaurants just minutes down the road. Even their menu was impressive; they offer carne guisada multiple ways: you can get it with beans; with beans and cheese; with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and avocado . . . basically any combination of bean and some other topping you can think of.
Now let’s get down to the reason for our visit, the taco. The meat itself was great, big chunks of beef (about an inch and a half in diameter) that tasted like they had been stewing for hours. The gravy was thick and had a nice tang from the seasonings. The flavors weren’t overpowering, but were robust. You could tell a lot of effort and thought went into the seasonings. One of the big standouts for me was the flour tortillas. They were handmade and left your fingers with a light dusting of flour. No two tortillas were shaped the same; in fact, the tortilla used for one of our tacos was shaped more like a polygon than a circle.
Overall we were really impressed with Roy’s carne guisada. This may be my new favorite. Maybe . . . Probably . . .
I’ll definitely be back.
Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant
5923 Culebra Road
I think Lupita’s had the best overall carne guisada taco. The flavors in the gravy were rich and developed. The gravy had a little bit of kick to it, which really made it stand out. And the meat was definitely the best of all the places we tried. It was so tender that it fell apart as soon as I put my fork to it. The overall taco had the texture and flavor of a stew that had been simmering overnight.
Full disclosure, I’m a little biased toward Lupita’s. Nydia’s family have been loyal patrons for years and have gotten me hooked. It’s family friendly with a great staff and eclectic décor. The food is delicious and well-priced. It’s probably one of my favorite overall Mexican restaurants in San Antonio.
All that aside, though, their carne guisada is still great and I highly recommend it.
Let us know if you agree with our rankings or if you have a better place. Keep in mind I grew up on the north side and thought Sombrero Rosa was the best taqueria in town until I got my driver’s license and started exploring more of the city.