5 Must-Try Taco Restaurants in Shanghai

By Cristina Ng, 2019-05-03 08:10:00

Have you ever become so obsessed with a particular food item that you started a WeChat group dedicated to it? Laura Anderson has, and when she’s not at her full-time job in the education industry, you might find her planning taco party crawls in Shanghai for large groups. 

Our taco guide, Laura Anderson. Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we went for a mini-tour and here’s where she took us. Free-flow tequila is optional.

1. The Cactus

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

We met up with Anderson on a sunny Saturday at the casual Mexican-style cantina and were pleasantly surprised by the offerings. Turns out their Chinese cook spent some time working at Pistolera, and as a result, their very well-priced tacos are seriously good.

Their specialty is a Mexico City taqueria standard, the costra (RMB68/two tacos), which sees a warm flour tortilla wrapped around a crisp shell of fried cheese that in turn encases grilled sirloin. Beans, guacamole and pico de gallo complete the experience.

See listing for The Cactus

2. Cantina Agave

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Fumin Lu institution Cantina Agave has been serving up Mexican classics with a California sensibility for almost 10 years. All the usual suspects are available, from the robust flavors of guisados (home-style, slow-braised meats) to the lively Baja shrimp with chipotle cream and cabbage slaw (RMB20/one, RMB50/3). We love their traditional fillings, but must confess our soft spot for the American-style seasoned ground beef taco (RMB20/one, RMB55/two), as well as the very unique falafel taco (RMB60/two) created by Cantina’s Armenian-American owner, Raffe Ibrahamian.

See listing for Cantina Agave

3. TY7 Bar x Rastaco

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

This reggae music-loving taco outfit – formerly a Ruijin Lu hole-in-the-wall – has recently joined forces with Shaoxing Lu neighborhood bar TY7. They have six varieties, including a vegetarian option with mixed beans, cheese and corn, but things get interesting when they turn to Mongolia for a slow-cooked fatty lamb filling that melts under its own weight. All tacos (RMB20 each) are served on flour tortillas and topped with lettuce, salsa, jalapenos, pickled onion, cilantro, radish, sour cream and chili sauce.

See listing for TY7 Bar

4. Maya

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

After 10 years in Shanghai, Maya is our go-to Mexican restaurant. Head chef Jonathan Ysensé is well-known for playful mains like Mexican hongshaorou, but he keeps things more classic with the taco fillings. While there are plenty of tempting choices, we favor the US Berkshire pork belly (RMB34) with chipotle cream, mango slaw and pickled onion that balance the meat’s richness. You can’t go wrong with the Argentinian beef brisket and melted cheddar cheese (RMB32) with salsa verde either.

See listing for Maya

5. Tacolicious

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

This new entrant to the scene has carved out a place for themselves as purveyors of decadent double-decker tacos, in which a soft, flour tortilla is joined to a crispy corn shell by melted mozzarella. Our favorites include the veggie-friendly bean and cheese (RMB55/two) and the Szechuan twice cooked pork (RMB65/two), but you should keep an eye out for the weekly specials because chef Thijs Oomens isn’t afraid to experiment. 

See listing for Tacolicious

[Cover image by Cristina Ng/That's]

Hungry for more? Take a look at our other Shanghai Dining Guides