Miami’s Best Mexican Restaurants for Cinco de Mayo and Beyond

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila…

People from outside Miami are sometimes shocked we don’t have an abundance of Mexican restaurants like they do in, say, L.A. or Austin. Because having so many Spanish speakers means we must also kill the quesadilla game, right? Riiiiiight. Truth be told, we may not have as many taquerias as we do ventanillas, but we still boast a solid crop of Mexican restaurants ranging from the down-and-dirty to the see-and-be-seen. So whether you’re looking to slam margaritas or sink your teeth into a tantalizingly complex Oaxacan mole, here are the best Mexican restaurants in South Florida.

There may be no more impressive Mexican restaurant in Miami than this spot inside Icon Brickell with a front row seat of the Miami River. Go early, and you’ve got a waterfront view; show up later and you’re inside with lavishly high ceilings, ornate decorations, and a roving Mariachi band that supplies ample amounts of energy and class. The food is spectacular, with tacos filled octopus carnitas or sauteed ribeye plus inventive entrees like braised short ribs in agave demi glaze. But, fair warning, be sure to pack your wallet—if you’ve ever wanted to experience a $27 taco, you’ve arrived.
How to book: Reserve a table via OpenTable.

Guadalajara

Pinecrest

Sometimes nostalgia makes things seem better than they were, like when you go back to Chuck E. Cheese and realize what you ate at your fifth birthday party probably wasn’t even pizza. Not the case with Guadalajara, which was THE Mexican restaurant for anyone who grew up in the Palmetto school zone and still holds up today. It’s not just the family-friendly staff that makes it a destination for folks fresh out of their parents’ homes. It’s the deep red salsa that comes with a side of hot greasy chips. It’s the fresh guac that still tastes better than any hoity-toity tableside mumbo jumbo. And it’s the taco plates that still seem as enormous today as they did when you were in short pants. Cheap, unpretentious, and it registers as delicious in every part of your brain.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Bartaco

Aventura

Purists might cringe at seeing a spot that describes itself as “inspired by the beach culture of Brazil” on a list of best Mexican restaurants, but we can’t omit a place that has what we’re not ashamed to admit are the absolute best margaritas in Miami. Here, they’re made with fresh-pressed juice as opposed to sticky-sweet syrups and mixes, as are all the cocktails on Bartaco’s menu. The drinks are the undisputed champs, but the tacos ain’t half bad, either. And though a falafel taco, cauliflower taco, and ahi-crusted tuna taco might not be everyone’s idea of Mexican food, culinary interpretation is irrelevant when they taste this good.
How to book: Reserve a table or join the waitlist via Bartaco’s app.

Serena

South Beach

Sure, you might have to wade through an inevitable sea of sash-wearing tourists to get to your table atop the Moxy hotel’s breezy rooftop. But if you can manage to block out their perpetual celebration, you’ll find the best new Mexican restaurant in Miami. Not that anyone should be surprised—none other than Coyo’s Scott Linquist developed the menu here, a more upscale version of the beloved cuisine he peddles at street level. And when you’re enjoying aguachiles, ceviches, and tuna tostadas on a warm summer night gazing out over South Beach, nothing else will matter.
How to book: Reserve a table via OpenTable.

Taqueria Hoja
Taqueria Hoja | @hojataqueria

Slip down a fluorescent side hallway inside downtown’s Ingraham building and you’ll suddenly find yourself in the heart of Oaxaca, where a smoky, steamy taco shop is serving up insane food to those in the know. This literal hidden gem takes a little work to find, but the payoff is high: A laid back setting full of people who’d rather not be seen chowing down on koji sweet potato, peanut, and almond tacos or shrimp and potato flautas. These are the kind of inventive and unusual flavor profiles people come back from Mexico raving about, stashed away in downtown Miami.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Tacos El Carnal

Little Havana

You want luxurious touches like undented chairs and clean restrooms? Stay in Coral Gables, fancy man. You want the flat-out best grilled meat served on a tortilla anywhere in Dade County? Then hit this little storefront on Flagler, set just far enough from the touristy part of Little Havana to maintain its undeniably gritty charm. Taking down a plate of chicken or steak tacos while crammed inside one of this joint’s sticky booths remains one of the great Miami experiences. And while the digs are far from impressive, the grub will definitely impress your stomach—which is really all that matters, anyway.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served, extra-sticky seating.

Bakan

Wynwood

The airy patio and best-in-town mezcal selection make al fresco dining at Bakan a true year-round delight. But this is far more than a simple smoky cocktail situation. The menu is an irresistible mix of interesting and affordable, recently adding gems like Alaskan King crab ceviche, duck enchiladas in red sauce, and short rib tacos to an already outstanding lineup. The moles hold their own against anything not made by your abuelita, and the drinks are worth the trip by themselves. But the best part? You’ll never once look at the menu and think, “Wow, I never knew a taco could cost THAT much.”
How to book: Reserve a table via OpenTable.

Coyo Taco

Multiple locations

When you’ve got a line wrapped around the front of your storefront every weekday at 3 pm, you’re obviously doing something right. Because as much as Miamians loathe lines, we’ll always brave the one at Coyo, whether it’s for overstuffed meaty burritos, addictive tacos, or standout elote de la calle. With over a dozen different fillings from cactus to pastor to crispy duck, it’s the kind of place you can hit over and over without ever getting bored. Just make sure to send a member of your crew in ahead of time to scope out seats—finding one at lunchtime can be a full-on war.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

El Rinconcito Latino

Multiple locations

This suburban staple is actually owned by the same family as fellow traditional favorite Jacalito, and is big on homey Mexican proteins like cochinita pibil, chorizo, lengua, and beef cheek. But even for non-adventurous eaters, the tacos, rice, and beans here are as good as you’ll find at any California hole-in-the-wall. Many of the locations scattered in the western suburbs offer outdoor seating, if you feel like some fresh air with your frijoles. Just don’t plan on doing much after your meal—nobody’s ever described this joint’s cuisine as “light.”
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Rocco's Tacos

Ft. Lauderdale

There are a good many people around South Florida who have stories about poor decisions made at Rocco’s, but food is never one of them. The spot known for pouring tequila down the throats of unwitting bar patrons actually makes some pretty fantastic guacamole, and perhaps the lone good decision you can make during a night out at Rocco’s is ordering the carne asada tacos. Not only do they soak up the aforementioned tequila, the meat tastes more like a flame-grilled deliciousness and less like grease, a rare find at upstanding institutions such as these.
How to book: Reserve a table via OpenTable.

Talavera

Coral Gables

Partly because it’s been around over a decade and partly because it sits on an unassuming lot on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Talavera often gets overlooked when it comes to Miami’s top Mexican restaurants. But this grand dining room has quietly been dishing up some of the best food in the 305 without the need for much acclaim for years. You’d be hard pressed to find a weak spot on the menu, but the moles are really top-notch: a rich, chocolatey, spicy sauce ladled over piles of perfectly cooked chicken, steak, and pork belly or draped atop a steaming plate of enchiladas. It might not be the only place in town for quality mole, but it’s the undisputed winner.
How to book: Reserve a table online.

Since being taken over by the team from Ball and Chain, this longtime taqueria has gone from understated hole-in-the-wall to legitimate Mexican heavyweight with a much-improved menu as well as an upstairs speakeasy hidden behind a candy shop. But even if you’re not headed up to Los Altos, it’s still a solid spot to crush margaritas and imported beers at the bar. And don’t sleep on the Oaxacan-style tlayudas—kind of like a Mexican take on pizza with a tortilla crust—which this spot has fully mastered.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Taquiza

Miami Beach

The big, fluffy blue corn tortillas that have become the trademark of this South Beach taqueria add some much-needed variety to your standard taco fare. So can filling said blue corn with grasshoppers—or chapulines, as insiders call them. Even if you’re not into bugs, Taquiza is more than equipped to play the hits with crowd-pleasers like smoked carne asada, verde-spiced chicken, fried mahi, and barbacoa topping the list plus plenty of fresh-made margaritas to wash down all those pillowy tortillas.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Tequiztlan

Miami Beach

Once upon a time there was this spot on Lincoln Road called El Rancho Grande where pretty much everyone with an office job in South Beach—all 40 of them—would gather after work for the best margaritas in Miami. Of course, it was eventually priced out and moved over to Sunset Harbour, then reopened at Tequiztlan. That means land of Tequila, if you’re not up on your Spanish, and they’ve got over 200 varieties best experienced in the signature margs, specifically the Polanco (basil-infused Herradura anejo, paleta, fresh strawberries, and agave nectar).
How to book: Reserve a table via Resy.

Matt Meltzer is a contributor for Thrillist.