Let’s Taco ‘Bout It: Must-Try Tacos in Chapel Hill and Carrboro

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Moroccan tacos, Sandwhich, $9.95 for 3, $4 per taco.

Moroccan On My Mind

What started as a passing experiment for Janet Elbetri of Sandwhich one Saturday morning in 2015 with an impulse-bought press turned into team-building tortilla madness. The delicious result sold out that first day in an hour and a half and has been a solid special ever since. The Moroccan influence of their tacos comes from Janet’s original business partner, Hich Elbetri. “We put our heads together when we developed the menu nearly 13 years ago, and so the menu has always been a nice Moroccan-American-eclectic combo of things,” Janet says. When Sandwhich started making tortillas in house, it was only natural to spice the pork shoulder, chicken or roasted butternut squash as Hich would. Since the start, tuna salad tacos and brunchy tacos have also been added to their repertoire.

UPDATE: Sandwhich will close its doors September 21 at 4pm… so grab your tacos while you can!

Butternut squash red curry tacos, Lucha Tigre, $3 a la carte for lunch, $11.99 for 3 in the dinner Taquiza plate.

Bold Strokes

For a bite that “is nutty, a little sweet, with a pop of bold flavor from the red curry,” look no further than one of executive editor Jessica Stringer’s favorites: the butternut squash red curry tacos at Lucha Tigre consisting of pureed butternut squash and red curry, topped with a crema drizzle, radish and cilantro. “It fits perfectly with our fusion concept of an Asian flavor (red curry) paired with a veggie into a taco,” says managing partner Khoa Dinh.

Baja tacos, Chronic Tacos, $3.99 each.

Bite of the Beach

Whether it’s beer-battered and fried or specially seasoned and grilled, shrimp or line-caught mahi mahi combine with baja sauce, house-made pico de gallo, cheese and cabbage for Chronic Tacos’ signature southern California dish. “It’s a no-brainer for us to serve a piece of California culture here in N.C.,” says Chapel Hill- native Sean O’Neill, director of restaurant operations for Meadowmont’s Chronic Tacos location – which is owned by his parents, Tim and JeanMarie O’Neill.

Carnitas tacos, Carrburritos, $7.20 for plate of two.

A Seasoned Favorite

For the last 20 years, if you were craving tacos, you’ve likely been sent to Carrburritos. I’m a fan of the carnitas variety – slow-roasted pork made tastier with beer and garlic, then shredded lean. “We’re originally from California,” owners Gail and Bill Fairbanks say, “where emphasis on fresh food made daily was a big deal. Everything we do [at Carrburritos] is made every day.”

Tuna tacos, elements, $9 for 2.

Fused with Flavor

Representing a marriage of Vietnamese, Japanese and Mexican cuisine, elements’ fresh bigeye tuna tacos made with local veggies like arugula, bell peppers and tomatoes, house-made Kabayaki sauce and spicy mayo appeal to the adventurous palate. “[The ingredients] all balance together to create bursts of flavor for every bite,” says Events Coordinator and Office Administrator Van Chuong. Vegetarians, try their crispy tofu variety.

Fried oyster, sesame ribeye and duck tacos, bartaco, $3.50 each.

Taco the Town

As fast as bartaco at University Place popped up, it was filled with customers who had heard about or tried their famed varieties in places like Asheville or New York. Chapel Hill’s menu features everything from fresh-juice cocktails to fruit skewers for the kiddos, but it is mainly separated between “tacos” and “not tacos.” My interest was piqued by the sesame ribeye, fried oyster and duck tacos, but dynamic flavors can be found elsewhere, too, in offerings like tuna poke and mushroom mole tamales.

Photo courtesy Babalu Tacos & Tapas

Gather Round

Sharing is caring when it comes to Eastgate Crossing’s newest addition Babalu Tacos & Tapas and their tapas-style menu where classic Latin flavors come alive with a Southern twist. From a traditional Latin ceviche to shrimp and grits to, of course, lots and lots of tacos, there is something for everyone. Come for the signature guacamole prepared tableside so guests can customize the flavors to their liking.  –Tia Nanjappan

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Photography by Briana Brough


Chicken enchiladas and a roasted pork taco with guacamole from the Mon-Wed Latin Grill taco truck. Photo by Sarah Arneson

Moveable feasts

Carrboro is blessed with a bounty of all types of food trucks, and one of the longest-running and most beloved is the pair of taco trucks collectively known as Latin Grill. In business for a decade now, the two chefs split the week at the Fitch Lumber parking lot on North Greensboro Street. (They’ve expanded, addressing the frequent complaint on the mostly 5-star Yelp reviews of past years: that the truck wasn’t open nightly.) Latin Grill has a dedicated clientele of both walk-up and drive-up customers.

A couple of evenings a month, either my husband or I will ask the other, “truck tacos?” Then we’ll walk the few blocks from our house and place our order. (It’s usually a taco each, and sometimes guac or rice and beans to share – but everything we’ve tried is delicious.) We fill up a to-go container or two of the creamy verde salsa and carry it all home to enjoy with a couple of beers. And sometimes, if we’re feeling fancy, we even transfer some of the food to our own plates. –Sarah Arneson


From Acme to Atlas

If you’re looking for something gluten-free, Atlas Taco Bar is the place for you! Acme Food and Beverage Co.’s owner Kevin Callaghan is opening this taco bar at South Green, a new shopping center expected to be finished in Carrboro in late 2018. Encompassing the same lively energy as Acme, the taco bar will also use only locally sourced ingredients to embody the fresh flavors inherent on Acme’s menu. “I really look forward to creating the team that will launch Atlas,” says Kevin. While there is no tentative opening date as of yet, this is one to add to your list. –Tia Nanjappan

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Laura Zolman Kirk

Associate Editor Laura Zolman Kirk is a Kentuckian turned Chapel Hillian and totally in love with this special slice of North Carolina.
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