The Absolute Best Mexican Restaurants in Atlanta
You could use a margarita right now.
Where can you go when you want Mexican food in Atlanta? It depends on what you’re craving. In Atlanta, you can delight in both regional specialties and their Americanized versions (we see you Tex-Mex). Whether you’re craving a burrito, huachinango frito (fried red snapper), or mole, Atlanta’s Mexican restaurants have plenty of delights to choose from. Many exclusively offered takeout at the beginning of the pandemic, but most of them have since reopened and offer socially distanced indoor dining (and in some cases, patio seating).
Tacos La Villa
A longtime staple of Smyrna, Tacos La Villa serves up excellent tacos, yes, but so much more. Everything from nachos to elote is delicious. They also make incredible birria tacos—tortillas filled with birria (a sweet-spicy beef stew) that are then fried and served alongside broth for dipping purposes—and a fun creation called the birria pizza that's ideal for cheese lovers.
How to order: In person or online
Mariscos La Rivera Nayarit
Nayarit is a coastal state in Western Mexico. Mariscos La Riviera Nayarit is a restaurant in suburban Norcross that serves delicious coastal-inspired dishes. The star of the show is the huachinango frito, fried whole snapper, served with a garlic sauce on the side along with rice. But you can’t go wrong with any of the seafood options, including the piña rey, a pineapple stuffed with seafood like shrimp, scallops, octopus, covered in cheese and broiled until it’s melty perfection.
How to order: Dine in or order online
Chef Adolfo Gonzalez grew up in a small Mexican town as one of eight children. He grew up delighting in her meals and serves his own version of them at his fast-casual restaurant in Smyrna. There are “super” tacos, like the spicy shrimp, and classic tacos with fillings like barbacoa, chicken tinga, and al pastor. You also can’t go wrong with a torta and a trip to the salsa bar is a must.
How to order: Dine in or order online.
If sipping a glass of mezcal in a sophisticated setting on Roswell Road sounds good to you, then you should head over to Casi Cielo. The restaurant is owned by the same group that owns La Parrilla but has a totally different vibe. The menu’s focus is on Oaxacan cuisine, with standouts like the enmoladas (enchiladas topped with a black mole sauce). Vegetarians, there are delicious options for you, too, like the milhojas de verduras, a vegetable Napoleon with Oaxaca cheese, and a jalapeño pesto sauce. Did we mention the extensive mezcal selection?
How to order: Dine-in or order online.
Bell Street Burritos
Folks don’t lie about their favorite burritos, and those in the know will tell you that Bell Street is either at the top (or very close) to it in Atlanta. They’re San Francisco "mission-style" -- meaning big as hell -- and everything inside is cooked for maximum enjoyment, especially the chicken and broccoli, or the pork and green chile. It’s also great that the owner, Matt Hinton, is a former adjunct theology professor at Morehouse, who started doling out delivery burritos after his teaching hours got cut due to budget restraints. He opened his first location in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, and now has two others, and has expanded the menu to include quesadillas, tacos, and more. But seriously, start with the burrito.
How to order: Curbside pickup via Chow Now; delivery through Chow Now, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats
Sometimes it’s not about having the best actual Mexican food -- more so about the entire experience. And you can’t really front on La Parrilla -- Atlanta United’s official Mexican eatery. Yes, it’s a chain, and there’s "fusion" stuff in there that’s totally not Mexican (we see you, barbecue wings) but it’s consistent, they have a great patio, and the basics are banging enough to keep you coming back, whether it’s the skirt steak ranchero burrito, chicken tinga tacos, taquitos or chimichangas. And the biggest reason folks are always packing the house is the way the food matches majestically with some of the city’s best, strongest, and cheapest margaritas and micheladas. Don’t come expecting to be blown away by authenticity -- come here for great deals on mainstream Mexican.
How to order: Curbside pickup online; delivery through Doordash, Grubhub, and Postmates
Taqueria El Rey Del Taco
We have to start at Buford Highway, otherwise nothing else would be legit. And on BuHi, there are many fine traditional Mexican taquerias, but there can only be one king. The video on the website is more than enough proof that they’ve been doing things the right way -- especially those cabeza, barbacoa, or chorizo tacos -- since opening more than 15 years ago, but you should still test them by ordering one of the amazing soups (the spicy lobster is worth every penny of "market price"), or the parrilladas -- specifically the house special for two, which includes beef ribs, chicken, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and cheesy chorizo. Respect the crown.
How to order: Delivery through Postmates and Uber Eats
You hear the term "prison tacos" and immediately think somebody’s being an insensitive jerk. But then you remember that El P has bars on its windows, and sits across the street from the federal penitentiary. Carniceria is a restaurant in the back of a grocery store with tacos under $2 (don’t leave without trying the barbacoa or al pastor), and makes its own carne asada and spicy chorizo tortas, along with a ridiculously great shrimp burrito. It’s also a completely safe way to earn seriously delicious street cred.
How to order: Call 404.624.4774 for pickup; delivery through Postmates
Don’t come here looking for burritos -- they’re not on the menu, though weirdly enough they’re mentioned on the website. But do come here for Tex-Mex tamales, the awesome $12 lunch special, or house specials like mesquite-grilled quail, crispy whole fish, or slow-braised chipotle-molasses short rib. And everybody swears by the puffy tacos, though the basic hard-shelled joints are fantastic, too.
How to order: Curbside pickup online
Don Chon Mexican Restaurant
When’s the last time you’ve been to a Mexican buffet? Was it under $10, fresh, and actually good? Probably not. While COVID-19 is unfortunately going to prolong your desire to try Don Chon’s buffet, you can eat cooked-to-order burritos, corn-shelled tacos, legit pozole and menudo soup, and platefuls of some of the best slightly spicy shrimp ceviche in town. Now get your ass to this nondescript Tri-Cities rectangle of a restaurant for a to-go order that’s worth your time and taste buds. Be careful with the three pepper sauces, especially the orange one -- it’s not there to look cute. But if you wash it down with a hibiscus agua fresca, you’ll be fine.
How to order: Call 404.762.6864 for pickup or delivery
Taqueria La Oaxaqueña
If you think you’ve had Atlanta’s best Mexican, but have never visited this OTP-South restaurant, you’re sadly mistaken (and don’t blame Google Maps). It’s right on Mount Zion, and has been around in some form for more than 20 years, starting out serving immigrant workers, stepping up into a food truck, and graduating to brick-and-mortar. Try the Mexican sausage and steak taco (wildly underpriced at $3.50), fresh fried huaraches, salsa verde pork ribs, super-stuffed gorditas, and stupid good chicken mole tamales. There’s also the house specialty: a large, crispy tortilla topped with refried beans, Oaxaca cheese, jalapeños, avocados, and your choice of meat. It looks kinda like a Mexican pizza had a baby with a taco salad -- but it tastes way better.
How to order: Call 770.960.3010 for pickup; delivery through Postmates
The Original El Taco
Alma Cocina, the sexy Peachtree Street spot that’s one of the best Mexican restaurants in town, has unfortunately halted its takeout services during the pandemic. Luckily, The Original El Taco -- a sister concept in Alma Cocina’s restaurant group -- is still pumping out quality Tex-Mex and Oaxacan dishes and family-style meals. While the restaurant is currently only operating Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5-8pm,all food, wine, and beer is 50% off to-go.
How to order: Call 404.873.4656 for curbside pickup