Food & Drink

The 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in Memphis

Stacey Greenberg Published On 08/17/2015 Published On 08/17/2015

Choosing your go-to Mexican restaurant is much easier said than done. While it is tempting to find your favorite and stick with it, you’d be doing yourself a disservice. You could easily eat at a different one every day for a month (maybe even two) and still not be tired of refried beans. Regardless of whether you go on a burrito bender, these 10 Mexican restaurants in Memphis should be on your radar.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana

Germantown
What you’re getting: Filet mignon tacos

Las Tortugas is unlike any other Mexican restaurant in town. From tortugas made with freshly baked bread to the exquisite tacos, everything is blow-your-mind delicious. Let Pepe or Jonathan order for you, or go with the daily taco selection. Served with pico de gallo, a slice of avocado, cilantro, a side salad, and house-made salsas, they are sure to hit the spot. Add a side of elotes (grilled corn with Cotija cheese) and some agua fresca.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

El Toro Loco

Multiple locations
What you’re getting: Big Cheeser

El Toro Loco is the perfect place to sit on the patio and drink pitcher after pitcher of margaritas. The standard fare is all very tasty, but come fiesta time, order the Big Cheeser: it’s a meat patty spiced-up with jalapeños and covered in cheese dip. The cheese steams the bun a bit and makes it extra delightful.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant

Midtown
What you’re getting: Choriqueso

Another great Midtown spot for day-drinking, Los Compadres has the super fun "margarona" option as well as the off-menu "chelado" -- plus, a Cuban menu is also available. Supplement your drinking and standard chip consumption with the choriqueso -- a spicy mixture of chorizo and cheese. There’s definitely enough to make it a meal or share with friends.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Babalu Tacos & Tapas

Overton Square
What you’re getting: Mix & match tacos

Babalu definitely wins for best patio at a Mexican restaurant -- the people watching in Overton Square is top notch. This spot is ideal for sharing, so order some guacamole and watch as it's made at your table, then share some tacos. Spice seared yellowfin tuna, grilled shrimp, and fried oysters are the clear favorites. The blue corn tortillas are made fresh daily.

Courtesy of Agave Maria

Agave Maria

Downtown
What you’re getting: Elote

Agave Maria is packing them in Downtown thanks in part to its beautiful space, welcoming bar, and margaritas on tap. The food is a bit more elevated than at a more traditional restaurant, and it’s also tapas style so expect to share. Mexican street corn is a rarity on local menus, and here it's served as two small pieces, so it’s up to you whether to share.

Flickr/Memphis CVB

Elena’s Taco Shop

Bartlett
What you’re getting: Carne asada fries

Elena’s is our only Mexican restaurant that serves it up California style, and the best part is the extensive salsa bar. Seriously, why doesn’t everyone do this? Tacos are clearly the specialty, but the carne asada fries are a major crowd pleaser. French fries with meat, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and guac -- yes, please!

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Mi Mexico

Summer Avenue
What you’re getting: New Mexico breakfast

Everyone knows the most authentic Mexican spots are on Summer Avenue, and Mi Mexico is no exception. Don’t let the “breakfast” part throw you off -- the New Mexico breakfast includes a tamale, a tostada, a taco, and rice & beans. It’s a great sampler platter that’s good any time of day, but this spot also offers traditional taco samplers, if that's more your thing.

Swanky's

Swanky’s Taco Shop

Multiple locations
What you’re getting: Build your own

Swanky’s is a lot like Chipotle, in that you can design your own tacos, burritos, salads, etc. It has the added bonus of table service at dinner. The choice of meats and toppings is extensive and you can really get exactly what you want.

Las Delicias

Las Delicias

Multiple locations
What you’re getting: Chips & guac & salsa

The house-made chips, guac, and salsa are so damn good that Las Delicias had to start packaging them to sell all over town. To have them at their absolute freshest, though, go to the restaurant and have your fill. Whether you want to save room for anything else is up to you.

Stacey Greenberg/Thrillist

Bucanas

Summer Avenue
What you’re getting: Molcajete

Bucanas may not look like much on the outside, but on the inside it’s a serious restaurant and late night dance club. Sit in one of the big, comfy booths and order a molcajete to share with friends. It’s basically a giant volcanic bowl filled with sizzling beef, shrimp, chicken, cactus, and chorizo dip, and comes with rice, beans, tortillas, and other fixings. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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1. Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana 1215 S Germantown Rd, Memphis, TN 38138

Far from the usual Tex-Mex, Pepe Magallenes and his son Jonathan redefined Memphis's idea of Mexican food when they brought authentic Mexico City cuisine to an unassuming shopping center just outside the Memphis city limits. There's a line out the door most days for lunch for the supremely fresh fish tacos, guacamole, tortas, elote, and aguas frescas. Ask Pepe and Jonathan to choose for you or opt for one of the daily specials.

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2. Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant 3295 Poplar Ave Suite 101, Memphis, TN 38111 (Midtown)

The Mexican menu at this spot is pretty standard, but the Cuban menu is what's really special. They also offer fun drinks like the margarona, which you can enjoy alongside choriqueso: a spicy cheese and chorizo mixture to eat with chips.

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3. Babalu Tacos & Tapas 2115 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 (Overton Square)

Jackson-based Babalu might have tacos in its name, but that doesn't mean it's an exclusively Mexican restaurant. Tapas and empanadas are on offer here, but so are fried gulf shrimp, cubanos, and a much-lauded burger. It's made with Aspen Ridge Natural Angus beef and topped with roasted Roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese, Haas avocado, smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, and served on a sweet sourdough bun. As for the tapas and tacos menu, we recommend sharing orders and starting with guacamole, which will be made fresh at your table, with sundried tomatoes.

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4. Agave Maria's 83 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 (Downtown)

This downtown spot brings crowds almost every night, thanks to the welcoming space, great food, and margaritas on tap. Yes, you read that right. Margaritas. on. tap. Why haven't you been yet?

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5. Elena's Taco Shop 6105 Summer Ave # 101, Memphis, TN 38134 (East Memphis)

Elena's promises to use the freshest ingredients in their SoCal inspired menu of tacos, tortas, burritos, and rice bowls. Fish tacos scream Cali, and steak street tacos are all Mexico, but it's more unique dishes like carne asada fries that bring people back. Pro Tip: Take advantage of their extensive salsa bar.

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6. Mi Mexico 3967 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122 (East Memphis)

The authenticity of the food at Mi Mexico is undeniable, and options like taco samplers and the New Mexico Breakfast (which is really just a sampler) give patrons the chance to try an assortment.

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7. Bucanas 4522 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122 (East Memphis)

Don't let the unassuming location and exterior fool you: Bucanas brings it with killer Mexican served to patrons in giant booths. Late night it becomes a popular dance club, but as long as they're serving food you should definitely be there ordering molcajete with a group of friends (beef, shrimp, chicken, cactus, and chorizo dip).

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