Less than two centuries ago, California was still part of Mexico, so it’s a no-brainer that exceptional Mexican food is readily available in nearly every neighborhood in San Diego. Encompassing everything from fish tacos to savory birria and representing some of the most exciting new dining destinations across the city, San Diego’s Mexican restaurants keep us well-fed with our favorites. We’ve gathered 18 of the best Mexican Restaurants in San Diego here so you can spend less time Googling and more time enjoying the best tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that America’s Finest City has to offer.
Cocina 35 is best known for its massive, shareable plates of chilaquiles, from simple Chilaquiles Regulares topped with your choice of a half-dozen salsas, to the best-selling Los Rancheros smothered in ranchero salsa, beef chorizo and sunny side up eggs. A trio of sampler platters show off a range of sweet and savory menu items, including chilorio, beef machaca, tamal gratinado and cajeta toast, while scrambles, omelets and enfrijoladas round out the breakfast menu. Lunchtime faves include burritos, tortas, chile rellenos, tacos dorados de papa and creamy chicken enchiladas. If your sweet tooth is calling, save room for the Concha Rellena, a French-toast concha filled with strawberries and horchata whipped cream topped with cajeta. The new Barrio Logan spot is take out only and has an expanded menu that includes an array of tortas, burritos la línea, antojitos, breakfast tacos and sandwiches. Future plans include a full service dine-in restaurant in Liberty Station plus another take-out–only venue in the College Area.
How to book: Join the wait list or order take out online at your preferred location. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
San Diego enjoys the delicious influence of Baja seafood and flavors across its Mexican food scene, but Mar Rustico, helmed by Priscilla Curiel and next door to her popular Tuetano Taqueria, focuses on Baja Sur-influenced dishes like fresh oysters in salsa verde, battered fish or chipotle shrimp tacos, La Paz-style burritos filled with smoked marlin or beef machaca, an array of ceviches, and a bright, citrus-spiked Clam Chowder. The most popular ceviche bowl is spicy Ceviche Sonora, a mix of seafood bathed in pickled veggies and fresh salsas—add oysters for an additional cost. Mar Rustico has plans to relocate to an as yet undisclosed venue in Chula Vista sometime this year. A few of the best selling items will remain on the Tuétano Taqueria menu.
How to book: A few indoor tables are available on a first-come basis.
Oceanside is having quite a moment, and the restaurant scene continues to impress with the opening of Valle, sister restaurant to chef Roberto Alcocer’s noteworthy Malva Cocina de Baja California. The four-course prix fixe or eight-course tasting menu uses Southern California-sourced ingredients in dishes like Barbacoa de Pato—Liberty Farm duck, green pea puree and grilled onion, and King Oyster with celery root "fettuccine" and porcini butter. Take advantage of the array of Valle de Guadalupe wines available by the glass or bottle, or a lively agave-based cocktail, including a trio of zero-alcohol options.
How to book: Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
Explore the flavors of the Yucatán coast at Camino Riviera, where executive chef Brian Redzikowski’s menu features upscale takes on traditional preparations as well as playful, Southeast Asian-influenced dishes. Standout items include The Taco, a long filet of tempura seabass under a gilding of edible gold leaf, and Sonoma Lamb Shoulder Barbacoa with cucumber, onion, cotija, rattle tail chile aioli, and salsa borracha. Beverage directors Leigh Lecap and Eric Johnson created a similarly inspired cocktail menu; cochinita pibil, papadzules, and various moles like pipián and mole blanco serve as flavor guides and inspiration. Don’t miss out on the Brentwood Corn Ice Cream; it looks exactly like a fresh cob of sweet corn, but dessertified.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
Although Antonio “Tony Tee'' Ley bases his food truck, Corazón de Torta, in Logan Heights, you can find him outside of tasting rooms and breweries throughout San Diego County. Short Rib Guajillo Tacos have rich chile flavor from being slow cooked, with crispy end bits here and there for a crunchy surprise. Carne asada bathed in chipotle meat sauce and gooey melted cheese give “The Dirty” all the juicy flavors you crave, and vegetarian and vegan options like the popular vegan Cauliflower Mole ensures everyone leaves satisfied.
How to book: Find their weekly schedule online or via Instagram and Facebook.
For some of the best birria on either side of the border, head south to Nestor and let Jorge Fernandez serve you his Tijuana-style tacos and queso tacos. Slowly cooked overnight, the beef, chiles, and spices meld into a juicy stew that’s ready to tuck into warm corn tortillas and garnish with a trinity of radishes, cilantro and onions. Order it for self-assembly or get tacos already put together, fried up in birria oil, and ready for dunking in a cup of their outstanding consomme. Customer service here is top notch and questions are encouraged if there’s an item you’re not familiar with. They’ve recently reopened for dine-in service, but plan to get there early anyway—they’re only open 7 am–2 pm Wednesday through Sunday.
How to book: Indoor seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-628-8235 for takeout.
Way back in 1933, Petra and Nati Estudillo opened Las Cuatro Milpas, and there’s been a long line outside their door ever since—but don’t worry, they’ve perfected the art of keeping it moving. The menu is simple, with chicken and pork tacos (rolled or regular style), tamales, burritos, chorizo con huevos, and, on Saturdays only, menudo. When you’re craving Mexican comfort food, this is the place to go. Just don’t wait until the line dies down—they close at 3 pm or when the food runs out, whichever comes first. Cash only, closed Sundays.
How to book: Get in line.
Priscilla Curiel not only managed to keep her flagship restaurant, Tuétano Taqueria, open throughout the pandemic with a combination of Venmo and sheer grit, she also revamped her popular Naturale Deli in National City into Mujer Divina Burrito and Coffee House. Smaller, thinner Tijuana-style burritos de hielera use the same succulent birria that made Tuétano famous, along with combinations like Chorizo con Papa, Campechano, Machaca Ranchera, and a rotating menu of weekly specialties. Coffee drinks are made with organic beans from Chiapas, Mexico, and roasted in Ensenada in drip brews, a variety of lattes, and cafe de olla, alongside an array of breakfast pastries, toasts, and scones.
How to book: A few indoor tables are available on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup.
An homage to Texcoco, the region of Mexico considered to be the origin of barbacoa, Aqui es Texcoco specializes in lamb barbacoa—whole lamb that’s covered in maguey leaves and pit-roasted for hours. Assemble-yourself platos are served family-style and feature loin or rib meat as well as cabeza (cow head), sesos (beef brain), and pancita (tripe), with a complimentary cup of seasoned lamb broth to dip into with each messy, succulent bite. If lamb isn’t to your taste, the menu also includes moronga, a sausage similar to Spanish morcilla, huitlacoche (corn fungus, but trust us, it’s delicious), chapulines (grasshoppers), and additional familiar fillings like grilled quail, chicken or mushrooms.
How to book: Reserve a table indoors or on the patio online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order online for takeout.
El Comal has been serving up homestyle Mexican food at its finest for nearly thirty years. Thick homemade corn tortillas, Oaxaca-style tamales steamed in banana leaves, tacos dorados, Red or Green Posole, and Barbacoa De Chivo are cozy, comforting, and filling. Rounding out the menu you’ll find an array of caldos (soups), cazuelas (braised or sauteed casseroles), and vegetarian dishes.
How to book: Call 619-294-8292 to reserve an indoor or patio table. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order online for takeout.
Lola 55 scores big with locals for their juicy, mesquite-grilled Steak Tacos topped with avocado mousse, smoky pasilla salsa, crispy leeks, and jalapeño toreado. Vegetarian options are equally thoughtful—the Cauliflower taco, stuffed with charred cauliflower, eggplant bacon, avocado mousse, almonds, golden raisins and morita dulce salsa, is especially delectable. Takeout salads aren’t usually inspired, but Lola Caesar is the exception, made in the original style using whole crisp romaine leaves tossed in traditional anchovy dressing and showers of parmesan and pepper, with stout hunks of manteca croutons.
How to book: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-542-9155 or order online for takeout.
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood is a beloved San Diego institution—nobody does Ensenada-style fish tacos better. But there’s more to the menu, including breakfast burritos, crab and shrimp tostadas, and tortas stuffed with meat or seafood and served on toasted Mexican bread. There’s also tangy ceviches, meal-sized salads, and dinner plates with all the requisite sides.
How to book: A small number of tables are available indoors and outside on a first-come basis. Order takeout in person or online at your preferred location.
Handmade stone-ground blue corn tortillas, sustainable meats and seafood, slow-cooked guisados, scratch salsas, and Mexican lagers brewed at their Mission Valley cerveceria make the Puesto experience memorable. Choose a la carte tacos or order them in trios—Tamarindo Shrimp, Maine Lobster, and Filet Mignon make a great surf-and-turf pairing. There’s plenty of cocktail options as well—margaritas come in nearly a dozen fun flavors, and there’s a fine selection of high-end tequila and mezcal available in tasting flights or by the shot. Local paletas are a refreshing finish.
How to book: Reserve an indoor or patio table online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order online for takeout or delivery.
You can always tell a good restaurant by how they treat their side dishes and condiments. The Taco Stand makes their tortillas, guacamole, and salsas fresh daily, and every dish is made to order. Hand-carved al pastor has the right hit of tangy/sweet pineapple; savory Angus carne asada is meltingly tender; and seafood choices like grilled mahi mahi, spicy shrimp, and batter-fried white fish are fresh and light. Fillings can also be rolled into burritos or grilled as a quesadilla, and local paletas provide a cool cap to your meal.
How to book: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis and varies by location. For takeout, call your preferred location or order online.
Tijuana is well known throughout Mexico for its street tacos and that’s exactly what inspires Tacos El Gordo. Think spicy pork adobada, suadero, asada, cabeza (beef head meat), lengua (tongue), sesos (brains), and other traditional offal fillings on doubled-up tortillas. Besides tacos, the spot serves overflowing sopes, quesadillas, vampiros (crispy griddled tacos), and tostadas.
How to book: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis and varies by location. For takeout, call your location or order in person.
Right next to El Campo Santo cemetery sits Tahona, one of San Diego’s best mezcalerias. The menu consists of shareable antojitos, tacos with eight different fillings, and a few larger plates. Everything is scrumptious, but what you really want to check out is the killer lineup of tequila and mezcal cocktails and tastings. Cocktails come in a half-dozen innovative versions from a twisty Paloma to a smoky Old Town Fashioned. There are thirty artisanal and ancestral bottles of mezcal encompassing a dozen or so different agave varieties, three mezcal tasting kits, and live Spanish guitar music every Sunday.
How to book: Reserve an indoor or patio table online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order in person or call 619-255-2090 for takeout.
Seafood, notably raw and marinated in citrus juice, is the house specialty at TJ Oyster Bar’s three locations. In the best tradition of Baja, ceviches and aguachiles are piled onto tostadas or served cocktail-style. Fried fish, smoked tuna, garlic shrimp, octopus, and stingray are great choices for tacos, and larger entrees like Whole Fish Empapelado (steamed in parchment paper) and burritos are available. Wash it all down with a margarita, mojito, or michelada, or a cold can or bottle from their beer list.
How to book: Indoor seating is on a first-come basis and varies by location. For takeout, call your location or order in person.
Chef/owner Priscilla Curiel moved her tiny taqueria on the main drag in San Ysidro to the Old Town Urban Market in late 2021, making it so much easier to satisfy your birria cravings. Warmly spiced, long-braised birria is tucked into corn or flour tortillas for tacos, or a long bolillo for a satisfying torta. Do get the tuétano, a hefty chunk of beef shank bone that’s roasted until the marrow is lusciously soft, then dunked in birria broth and seared on a grill, ready to spoon onto the birria. And yes, you’ll want to pick up a jar of addictive salsa macha to take home and put on practically everything.
How to book: A few indoor tables are available on a first-come basis.