Photo: Hugo Yu

These days, it seems like every taco in town comes on a house-nixtamalized, fresh-pressed masa tortilla, heavy with the scent of warm corn. But the past couple of years have also seen these tortillas’ wheat-based equivalents beginning to get a similar level of respect. If you’ve only ever had the industrial, shelf-stable versions — musty, strangely gummy — you’re missing out on what residents in northern Mexico have known for generations: Gently sweet from the grain with a rich pliability that (almost always) comes from lard, they can make just as big an impression as their corn counterparts when they’re given the proper level of respect. Who makes the very best? I spent the last weeks trekking around the city to find out.

1. Santa Fe BK
178 N. 8th St., nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
Santa Fe BK griddles its oversize tortillas every morning — the restaurant offers breakfast burritos during the day (or until it sells out of them), and a full dinner menu at 5 p.m. with dishes such as green-chile stew — but when I arrived early one afternoon, I saw a heated display case holding pre-assembled burritos, and I became worried. Those concerns were assuaged the second I took the first bite. The tortilla (holding thick scrambled eggs, green chiles flecked with bits of charred skin, and caramelized hash browns) was tender, with a light dusting of flour on the exterior. I figured they had to be made with lard, but the restaurant confirms they’re vegan. A 10-pack to go costs $10, and I plan to pick one up anytime I’m in the neighborhood.

2. Corima
3 Allen St., btw. Division St. and Canal St.
There are a few things that set the chef Fidel Caballero’s flour tortilla apart from everything else on this list. For one thing, it’s served as a bread course halfway through a $100 tasting menu. Then comes the technique: I watched someone in the open kitchen cook one side of the dough on an inverted wok while simultaneously blasting the exposed side with a blow torch. The result is floppy, chewy, and flavorful in a way that doesn’t rely on too much fat (the base is sourdough). It’s also available à la carte, of course, but either way you have it, it comes with a chocolaty spiced butter on the side that should promptly be spread across the warm bread.

3. Los Tacos No.1
Multiple locations
This popular mini-chain’s hand-size flour tortillas are the thinnest I’ve ever had, made nearly transparent with lard, as a sign behind the grill warns pork-averse customers. They’re sturdy enough to contain a pile of crispy pastor shaved off the spit, but their thinness is also their fatal flaw as they are fast to dry out and must be consumed immediately.

4. Yellow Rose
102 3rd Ave., nr. E. 13th St.
This Tex-Mex favorite has built its reputation on the strength of its flour-tortilla tacos. In a lineup, these were some of the thickest of the bunch, the added volume a result, I assume, of the pinch of baking powder used in the recipe. That’s not a bad thing, considering the substantial guisadas contained within. It’s a great match. I would also love to dip these in a bowl of chili or have for breakfast with honey and butter. When it’s not busy, you can order a stack of six to go for $9, which they’ll cook to order and send out in a steaming plastic bag.

5. Vista Hermosa
Multiple locations
After trying both, I am certain there is no difference between the tortillas offered at Tacombi or their Vista Hermosa grocery-store brand. They’re easily the best flour tortillas you can buy at a Whole Foods: medium-size and relatively thin, with flaky layers that separate when ripped and a slight chew from the addition of cassava flour.

6. Border Town
Multiple locations (depending on the day of the week)
After waiting in line for 55 minutes, plus another 45 minutes to actually receive my two tacos from this madhouse pop-up that first launched during the pandemic, I was underwhelmed by the slender, foil wrapped cylinders in my bag. The lardy tortillas have garnered such a sterling reputation that I was disappointed to learn I couldn’t order any on their own (blame demand, I suppose). Instead, when I unwrapped my order — filled with papas rancheras — most of the tortilla stuck to the foil. Thankfully, a second attempt unraveled smoothly: It was well-made, and similar in flavor to Los Tacos No. 1, though slightly thicker and softer. I didn’t dislike the tortilla itself, but much like its foil wrapper, I was unable to extract the tortilla from the time and effort required to actually purchase one.

7. King David Tacos
Multiple locations
King David imports its white-flour breakfast-taco tortillas from Texas, and given the trouble, I wish they were treated with a little more respect: Whether you get them from one of the various outposts or at King David HQ in Prospect Heights, the petite, heavily filled tacos are pre-assembled and wrapped in foil. The tortillas are pillowy in a way that reminded me of mass-market varieties. The tortillas themselves didn’t seem to offer much flavor to the tacos, either.

8. Wolfnights
Multiple locations
This fast-casual mini-chain calls its wraps “flatbread,” but they are, for all intents and purposes, tortillas. Upon ordering, a ball of dough is set under a mechanical press to be flattened to a 12-inch diameter before being cooked until its surface begins to blister. The breads are offered in a handful of flavors — turmeric, ginger, date and pumpkin seed — but I went with the “plain” one for my Howling wrap to better assess its place on this list. As a wrap, it was effective for containing a mass of greens, chicken, fried pickles, and sauce. While the charred bits added some welcome flavor, the bread itself was too gummy to enjoy on its own.