San Antonio vs. Austin: A breakdown of Texas’ (borderline) taco civil war


Ashlee Morales

In case you were living under a rock (or outside of Texas) in 2016, you’re aware that San Antonio and Austin, TX became involved in an epic taco war. It all began in mid-February, with the publication of an article in Austin Eater written by Matthew Sedacca crediting Austin as “the birthplace of the phrase breakfast taco.” Despite Sedacca stating that Austin was merely the birthplace of the phrase and not the breakfast taco itself, social media was in a frenzy over the article. People were outraged over the claim that Austin was the birthplace of the beloved San Antonio breakfast staple.   

As expected, San Antonio was set aflame, appalled that anyone could think anything taco related originated in Austin. A petition began circulating which demanded “that the City of Austin throw Matthew Sedacca out of an unmarked van well outside the boundaries of the state, or make equally suitable amends…” To an outsider, all of this might sound a bit overdramatic, but here in Texas, tacos are serious business. On Saturday Feb. 27, Mayor of Austin Steve Adler officially declared war against San Antonio in the Great Breakfast Taco War of 2016.

The official “war” was relatively short-lived, lasting only two-and-a-half weeks from its official declaration. On Mar. 10, both cities’ mayors met in Austin and exchanged breakfast tacos from their respective cities in what may have been the most delicious peace offering in Texas history. For many Texans, however, the war is far from over. Austin and San Antonio have been in quiet competition for as long as I can remember, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. The Great Breakfast Taco War was just the most tangible and recent battle. For those who reside in Austin and San Antonio, this war remains unsettled and (likely) always will.

Focusing solely on breakfast tacos does both cities a great injustice and, frankly, doesn’t capture the full complexity of the taco debate. Because there are so many different (and delicious) ways to execute the creation of an amazing taco, it’s only logical that different variations of the taco are taken into account when deciding which city does tacos best.

Obviously, there are some unique Austin staples with tacos that are hard to beat. Torchy’s Tacos made a name for itself with its humble beginnings and “damn good” variety. For the right price, you can buy a Democrat or Republican in any state, but it was Austin that gave us the kind that come wrapped in a tortilla and topped with delicious queso or pico de gallo. Torchy’s became a go-to spot for those visiting Austin and now has locations across the state — including one in San Antonio.

Juan in a Million (an Austin staple) has also made a name for itself, especially in the realm of breakfast tacos. After appearing on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food in 2008, Juan in a Million’s monster-sized Don Juan El Grande breakfast tacos brought the modest restaurant some clout. Its affordable prices and delicious, authentic food make Juan in a Million a worthy opponent in the taco war against San Antonio.

As someone who grew up in North Austin but has always had familial (and now collegiate) ties to San Antonio, I have to say, I don’t think there is really much of a debate to be had. After moving to San Antonio, two words changed my life forever: puffy taco. Puffy tacos originated in San Antonio and are the brainchild of Henry and Ray Lopez. The two brothers were experimenting with different food items and discovered that deep-frying corn dough created puffy tortillas. They took this delicious revelation and created the beloved puffy taco. Henry’s Puffy Tacos is now a local restaurant chain, but you can find puffy tacos at various restaurants around the city. Life changing.

San Antonio is already way ahead of everyone when it comes to having taco trucks on every corner. You can pick a random taco truck on any night of the week, and you’re going to get delicious, authentic and affordable tacos. In my area, off of Huebner Road, El Gallito is a popular taco truck that is always busy at dinner time and late-night hours. The mini tacos are so flavorful, you’ll swear you’re getting them from somewhere closer to the border, and that authentic quality is much easier to find in San Antonio.

Although there is a clear winner in my eyes, I truly hope the Austin v. San Antonio taco debate continues forever; because as long as there is a debate, there will be plenty of delicious tacos.