What’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’ for the taco world in 2024?

A look at gentrification, “corporate tacos” and the state of the taco wars in the new year.

By Kristen CabreraJanuary 12, 2024 4:11 pm,

The start of the new year can be a time for new beginnings, self-reflection, and taking stock of what worked and what didn’t in the previous year.

Some trendy magazines and social media influencers call these the “ins” and the “outs,” and there’s no more perfect place for a list like this than the culinary world of the taco.

Taco journalist Mando Rayo joined the Standard to share his list of what’s in and what’s out for tacos in 2024. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: So, Mando, we should go through your list of what’s in and what’s out in the world of tacos, shall we?

Mando Rayo: Yeah, let’s do it. I mean, you know, what’s in is definitely eating more tacos in 2024. What’s out is the diet. How about that? Let’s start with that.

Well, I like what you’re starting, man. But as you look more closely, we’ve talked about everything from the authenticity of tacos to different varieties of tacos. Where should we begin? I mean, there’s been a lot of attention focused on, you know, taco trailers and maybe some unexplored gas station tacos. That might be worth a taste.

Yeah, definitely. You know, as I think about this year and what was hot last year and what people should really focus on this next year, this idea around you know, those small businesses. I would say like, that’s what’s in. You know, it’s like really focus on those hyper local businesses – those taco shops, those taco trailers. That’s in in 2024,.

What’s out is calling anything in a meat market or gas station tacos, if you will, “underground.” They’re not underground. They’re there. They’re not like, you know, not part of the mainstream. They may not be in like the gentrified neighborhoods that you go to, but they’re still there, you know, making tacos for the people that need kind of fast, quick, on-the-go.

You used the word “gentrified.” Could you tell me a little bit more about gentrified tacos and where they are in 2024?

Yeah, for sure. And I would say they are out.

You know, this idea around taking the taco and putting a high price tag on it… I equate that with corporate tacos, too. *cough* Torchy’s! *cough* Sorry. Um, I have a cough, you know, this season.

Yeah, so I would say that’s out. Support the small businesses and the local places. Stay away from those gentrified places. You know, $8, $9 a taco in Austin? That’s not surprising.

There’s so many more places to visit. And this idea around, you know, supporting those small businesses. There’s a lot of businesses that shuttered this last year. So that’s a real focus on like, hey, you know what? Use your money to support the small mom and pop shops.

» MORE MANDO: Austin’s Taco Mile takes eaters off the trendy taco path

You mentioned those price tags and I’ve seen a lot of really expensive tacos. What’s the most you ever paid for a taco? I mean, when you’re not doing reviews and that sort of thing.

Sure, sure. I mean, you know, I’ve definitely paid, like, maybe $8 for a taco. But it’s not like an everyday thing for me. You know, I’m always looking at the bulge on my wallet. I think I like to keep that bulge on the wallet, you know what I mean?

I hear you, I hear you. And of course, you’re talking about basically saving that money and using it to support small businesses. As opposed to going the corporate taco route.

I think a lot of attention has been focused, certainly in the past couple of years, on tacos in large part because we see all these really highly stylized taco feeds that whet our appetites. What do you think about those? Do you think that that’s sort of leading a run on tacos and that that’s going to continue into this new year?

You know, I would definitely call that out in 2024.

Over-stylized taco feeds, they’re everywhere. For me, like, what’s out is those over-stylized taco feeds and what’s in is your taco feeds going back to that authenticity, right? Over to the realness of cooking at home and what that makes you feel. Whether it’s your mom or your mom’s sister or or the cool tía, you know, she’s cooking up some good stuff in her home, in her kitchen. You could see it right there.

So I would say, what’s out is those oversize-stylized taco feeds, what’s in is your tía’s taco feeds.  

Those taco wars that we’ve experienced in the past – where are those headed?

That’s definitely out. That’s been out since 2008. So please stop bringing them up!

It’s all about the taco love, folks!

It is all about the taco love. Every city in Texas has amazing places. It shouldn’t be a competition. It should be more about the taco love.

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