The 43 Best Mexican Restaurants in America
Explore roadside taquerias, quaint cantinas, and new innovative hotspots.
The vastness of Mexican cuisine is a mighty thing to behold. Luckily we have restaurants here in the U.S. that bring us a taste—spicy, rich, and bold tastes—of its magnitude. Fine dining menus change with the seasons yet consistently push culinary boundaries.
Then there are humbler institutions, such as the taquerias where dishes are simple but flavors are complex. You also have places that have been making their signature dish so long that it’s basically illegal to make it anyplace else (more on that later).
There’s incredible diversity within the regional cuisines of Mexico, from tangy shrimp ceviches to lush, hours-simmered mole and beyond. It’s impossible to account for them all. And yet, here we are, with a collection of some of our favorite Mexican mainstays—43 restaurants, to be exact. Dive into a bowl of birria or unfold a handmade tamal. We think you’ll be thoroughly pleased that you did.
For many in Boston, there’s just one source for Mexican food: this tiny brick restaurant in Eastie (a second location has since opened nearby, in the Orient Heights section of East Boston). Many come for the Chicken Mole alone, but the allures are plentiful. Take the bracing, award-winning guacamole, for example, or the 10 different tacos, burritos, and entrees like Carne Asada and Enchiladas de Mole (seriously, order anything with any variety of mole sauce—it’s just that good).
Along a buzzy stretch of downtown Phoenix, find this rising-star restaurant climbing to the top of every discerning epicureans must-visit list. And for good reason, too. Bacanora is as real as it gets. Everything that finds its way to the table is fired to perfection over the kitchen’s wood grill. And there’s simply no shortage of flavor. Its tight but well curated menus, vibrant atmosphere, and compact dining room set the scene for an unbeatable culinary experience. Bacanora effortlessly brings a taste of Sonora to this arts district neighborhood.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s Barrio Café is a master class in the art and tradition of Mexican cooking. The menu brims with reimagined takes on popular staples. Think: tableside Guacamole sprinkled with pomegranate, and an inventive version of Chiles en Nogada, which is a must-order for first timers and a favorite among regulars. For two decades, the Calle 16 restaurant has been a pillar in the community and has been showered in praise, including multiple James Beard nominations. Today, it ranks among the best restaurants in the city—and the country.
San Francisco, California
After a brief closure, this two-Michelin-starred, fine dining Mexican restaurant reopened last spring in a much larger space with indoor and outdoor seating in San Francisco’s South of Market district. The tasting menu continues to be ambitious and encourages diners to reframe their idea of “Mexican food” though it is exactly that—Mexican ingredients and techniques that chef Val Cantu takes to new levels while highlighting the Bay Area’s seasonal bounty. You never know what you’re going to get as the tasting menu changes nightly, but you can expect a meal with exquisite presentation, service, and food. (Just expect the $$$ bill that comes with all of that.)
San Diego, California
Explore the flavors of the Yucatán coast at Camino Riviera, executive chef Brian Redzikowski’s upscale take on traditional preparations alongside playful, Southeast Asian-influenced dishes. Standout items include The Taco, a long filet of tempura seabass topped with edible gold leaf, and Sonoma Lamb Barbacoa with cucumber, onion, cotija, rattle tail chile aioli, and salsa borracha. Drinks are similarly buoyed by the spirit of the Yucatán; 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, which looks exactly like a cob of fresh sweet corn but dessertified.
This Passyunk staple sports a big outdoor patio (and cozy colorful indoor dining room) perfect for crafting your ideal custom-order taco and burritos. Don’t be afraid to pile on the guac and cheese on your al pastor taco, and definitely don’t be afraid to stop by for brunch, when an early blood orange margarita is perfectly acceptable.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Carnitas El Cunado is one of the best reasons to visit the 22-acre Broadacres Marketplace. The stand is all about pork—and nothing but pork. Chef Gustavo Parada cooks the meat for hours in a large pot, following traditional methods that filter out much of the fat, but retain a clean, buttery flavor. It's not an exaggeration to say the final product could be the best carnitas in Las Vegas. Stick with the tender shoulder, or mix in a combination of stomach and skin for extra crunch and flavor. The pork is best experienced as a taco or tostada, delicately topped with pickled vegetables and pico, although you can go for something heavier by ordering a burrito or torta.
New York, New York
Brother duo and co-owners Santiago and Sebastian Ramirez Degollado named their new Tribeca restaurant Casa Carmen as an homage to their beloved 83-year-old grandmother, Carmen “Titita” Ramirez Degollado. (Grandma also happens to be the “matriarch of Mexican flavor” and owner of legendary El Bajío in Mexico City.) Casa Carmen’s traditional Mexican food centers around recipes learned from and perfected by Titita. Don’t overthink your order. Go for signature dishes like the Tostada de Pato en Escabeche (pickled duck tostada with refried beans and lettuce) and Empanadas de Plátano con Frijol (plantain empanadas with charred chipotle salsa).
Las Vegas, Nevada
Casa Playa presents upscale Mexican cuisine in a lounge-like environment with the warm amber glow of an elaborate floral light fixture dominating the space. Executive chef Sarah Thompson has put together an intriguing menu that shows off a coastal Yucatan Peninsula influence, reflected in bright, flavorful seafood dishes like a shareable Surf and Turf (with lobster and Wagyu carne asada), Blue Shrimp Ceviche, or flavorful Grilled Branzino. The margaritas are on the strong side, while the Vitamin Sea cocktail is a sweeter mix of tequila and citrus juices. Save room for desserts like a Tres Leches cake with whipped ganache or a mangonada prepared with a touch of mezcal.
Family owned and operated for over 30 years, Casita Tejas is a spot that instantly feels like home thanks to colorful oilcloth-adorned tables and bowls of chips and salsa arriving before you’ve even had the chance to peek at the menu. No matter what you opt for, it’s going to be delicious. Still, the real star of the show is the Norteno, a large flour tortilla rolled with steak, grilled onions, rice, and cilantro, smothered with salsa suisa and melted monterey jack cheese.
Los Angeles, California
Good drinks, good music, and a cool interior to tie it all together—this Silverlake spot serves incredible Mexican mariscos in an intimate setting, where you’ll find chef and owner Octavio Olivas behind his marble countertop in a slick white suit prepping a wide range of seafood dishes, like fresh oysters on the half shell topped with tangerine, pomegranate seeds, and spicy serrano chiles, and a Striped Sea Bass Ceviche with a xni-pec salsa. If you’re looking for a refreshing drink to balance out the chile-fueled heat, Olivas also makes one very good Michelada with a homemade mix you certainly won’t want to miss.
Over in the former Calle Onze space on 11th, chef Thomas Bille (Belly of the Beast) takes on Mexican-American cuisine in a way that fits right in with Houston’s Mutt City moniker. Slather handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe. Dig into equally clever and tasty Pozole Dumplings finished with pork broth with almond salsa macha. Soy-glazed and wood-fired Pollo a la Leña and a stunning Duck Breast in fig mole are not to be missed. There are beautiful cocktails to match—think Oaxacan Old Fashioneds and a West Tejas cocktail made with corn-infused tequila—and a cajeta and marshmallow hit Xocolatl (Chocolate) Tamal you’ll want for dessert.
New York, New York
Snagging a reservation here a couple of years ago was almost impossible, especially after the Obamas stopped by for a date night. While the frenzy has abated, chef Enrique Olvera’s first NYC restaurant and highly lauded contemporary Mexican spot with an inventive approach continues to remain electric. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Duck Carnitas, which is cured for days with spices and Mexican Coke before served family style with blue corn tortillas made in house. Finish your meal with the popular (and very Instagrammable) Cornhusk Meringue with corn mousse for dessert.
Thanks to a rooftop boasting skyline views and a menu that’s equal parts quality and affordable, El Alma is a popular hub. Here, chef Alma Alcocer showers Austin with Mexico City–born gems like Crema de Elote and Roasted Duck Relleno, among other enticing dishes. Happy hours run daily between 3 pm and 6 pm, and the weekend brunch from 10 am to 3 pm is well worth booking days in advance.
Most restaurants can’t claim a history that goes back a century. Tucson’s El Charro Café is an Arizona institution that has been in business since 1922. This Tucson mainstay holds the title of the oldest Mexican restaurant in the nation and it’s still managed and operated by the original family. El Charro’s Tucson-style fare covers everything from tableside guac and classic queso fundido to original recipe enchiladas, handmade tamales, and trays of messy quesabirria tacos. But you’re likely here to acquaint yourself with the loaded lineup of chimichangas. El Charro Café invented the crispy handhelds, after all. El Charro’s tenure in Tucson is certainly worth celebrating. We suggest starting with a round of house margs for the table.
Restaurateur Stephen Starr’s El Rey is all about modern meets homemade. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday and features discounted tacos and $5 classic margaritas, but stop by anytime for Blue Shrimp Ceviche, Brisket Quesadillas, and Veracruz-style Paella made with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, squid, and more. El Rey also offers a nice setting for a lazy brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4 pm.
There’s no debating the fact that green chile is beloved in Denver. There is, however, plenty of debate when it comes to proclaiming who’s got the best. The answer: this small yet mighty counter-service spot that continually rises above the rest. In the kitchen, a team of hard-working women spins magic in those giant pots, and the result is a vibrant green concoction that you can enjoy with or without pork, served in a bowl with a side of tortillas, or ladled over burritos or eggs for huevos rancheros. The deep, rich flavor is so flat-out addictive you may just find yourself taking the long way to work for an early morning fix, served to-go in a styrofoam cup.
Delve into flights of mezcal, a Mexican agave spirit that’s as excellent on its own as it is in one of this restaurant’s expertly crafted cocktails. The spirit pairs perfectly with fresh salsa verde or shareable appetizers like a tlayuda, essentially one big nacho topped with shredded pork belly, beef, or chorizo. Heirloom corn tortillas are the flavorful foundation to the restaurant’s tacos and chips.
Los Angeles, California
Located inside Mercado La Paloma, Holbox is one of the market’s many outstanding Latin American food stalls. Chef Gilberto Cetina, whose family owns and operates Chichen Itza, opened this Yucatecan spot in 2017. His mission is simple: Combine the freshest local seafood with some Mexican flair to create some of the best mariscos in town. You can’t go wrong with the Mesquite-Grilled Octopus served on top of a nutty almond pipian, the Coctel Mixto, with the kitchen’s savory, sweet, and spicy coctel sauce, or the fresh Kanpachi Tostada topped with a beautiful piece of Santa Barbara uni.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Spanish for “shed,” a nod to its iconic sister restaurant in Santa Fe Plaza, The Shed, adobe-style La Choza specializes in the New Mexican take on Mexican cuisine. There are comforting enchiladas, burritos, chile rellenos, carne adovada, and the like, served with whole pinto beans and hominy. A deluge of green or red chilies can (and should!) be applied to practically any dish, and if you refuse to choose a camp you can always give yourself the gift of Christmas-style—which is to say, go ahead and get both.
Denver’s first pozoleria is home to, of course, long-simmered stews that are created by James Beard Award finalist Jose Avila. The man knows his way around hominy and broth. In addition to the five types of pozole (rojo, blanco, verde, negro, and vegan), the tacos and costras—griddled cheese “tortillas” wrapped around meaty fillings—are pretty darn comforting, too. Go super savory with the beef birria and bone barrow version, or tropical with the red snapper, pineapple butter, and citrus slaw taco or costra.
Perched on the fifth floor of Austin Proper Hotel, La Piscina brings elevated Mexican fare—literally—to downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District through its fresh ceviches and oysters that are fresh-off-the-boat-tantalizing (just a squeeze of lime and you’re good to go). As for a heartier dish, the Cochinita Pibil (pork shoulder and belly in banana leaf with rice, beans, and tortillas) is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. And if you want a bit of drama, they’ll give you the whole shebang via table-top sizzling Fajitas or Crepes Flambees loaded with fruit, Cointreau, and ice cream. Plenty of mezcal and handmade Oaxacan dishware abound.
This quaint, little taqueria located on East College Avenue might look adorable, but at Los Ninos you'll find straight-to-the-point menu items that pack quite the tasty punch. Street tacos served on homemade corn tortillas are an easy pick at Los Ninos, and come stuffed with a near limitless selection of meats, including steak, rotisserie, pork, shredded chicken, fried shrimp, or fried fish. And their queso, a homemade chipotle cheese dip that’s nothing short of divine, is easily one of the best in The A.
New York, New York
Los Tacos No. 1 is the brainchild of two friends from Southern California and another from Tijuana, Mexico. With their powers combined, this taqueria and literal taco stand (seating is at waist-level booths only) offers some of the best Carne Asada, Adobada, and Pollo Asado Tacos across the city in places like Chelsea Market, Times Square, and three more outposts.
After a couple of years popping up at various bars and coffeehouses around Nashville, the culinary community are anticipating chef Julio Hernandez’s restaurant debut in the Gulch. He started his business making and selling tortillas from imported heirloom corn Hernandez nixtamalized himself (a process that soaks and hulls kernels to render them tender and primed for grinding). But his experience as a talented chef eventually got him back into the kitchen again. His gorgeous tacos, spicy quesabirria, and overstuffed gorditas should be highlights of his upcoming brick-and-mortar.
This ode to maize doesn’t mess around when it comes to its cornstuffs. Nixtamalized masa is ground on site to make Mexico native and former Xochi executive chef Fabian Saldana’s sublime fare shine. Barbacoa de Res, which comes with scratch-made tortillas, is slow cooked in agave leaves before falling apart at the touch. Pan-seared Pescado comes swimming in a bright segueza corn sauce. Fresh Corn Esquites (Mexican corn salad) is addicting as ever, as is the Corn Tres Leches. Here, the kernel is king.
Mescalero, New Mexico
As the name suggests, this charming adobe restaurant sits on Old Road on Mescalero Apache land, just off Highway 70. New Mexico-style favorites populate the small menu of enchiladas, tacos, and a pretty damn good chicken fried steak. The only way to experience the best of everything, however, is to order the Old Road Combination Plate: a platter piled with two enchiladas (one red sauce filled with cheese, one chunky green sauce loaded with beef), a fluffy chile relleno, a soft-fried beef taco, refried beans, rice, and a giant flour tortilla for dredging up every last drop of sauce. Save room for hot, flaky sopapillas and honey for dessert.
Brooklyn, New York
The wood-fired Mexican fare designed originally by chef Justin Bazdarich (Speedy Romeo) is what helped the Greenpoint spot earn one Michelin star after opening in 2018. The stunning interior features high ceilings, a white-washed aesthetic, plants hanging from a skylit ceiling, and woven chairs. The scene at Oxomoco is a total vibe, like you just walked into the coolest restaurant in CDMX. Don’t skip the Escabeche, any of the tostadas, the Beet “Chorizo” Tacos, or a variety of tequila and mezcal-focused cocktails.
A downtown Decatur staple, Raging Burrito has been “rolling fatties” since 1996. Conveniently located in The Square, this eatery is known for its unique burrito offerings. Among the favs are the Jerk Burrito, which is made with jerk chicken or tofu sautéed with their famous pineapple salsa and roasted red pepper. Another solid burrito choice is the Raging Queso Burrito because… well, queso. And when the weather is ideal, the garden patio at Raging Burrito is the perfect place to wash down your meal with a Raging Margarita or a Raging 151 Punch (it’s basically the tropics in a glass).
Revolver Taco Lounge contains multitudes. First, there is the casual taqueria with a takeout window from which come myriad taco creations. Think: carnitas-style octopus with charred leeks and duck breast tacos to rival any fine dining institution. Then there’s the Purépecha Room, Revolver’s backspace where an ever-changing tasting menu is chef-owner Regino Rojas love letter to Michoacán cuisine. He shares the kitchen with his mother, Juanita, and his aunt, Teresa, the tortilla whisperer. One night, diners can be treated to a lacy corn and chayote soup with a dash of tableside cornhusk embers or a delicately seared duck breast fanned along the rim of a plate of pipian (pumpkin seed mole) dotted with raspberries.
This East Austin institution has long been hailed as the number one purveyor of authentic Mexican cuisine, and it indeed lives up to the hype. The bright and welcoming outpost sources local heirloom corn from Central Texas to make their famous masa in house, and the resulting ultra-fresh tortillas arrive filled with flavor-packed seasonal offerings like confit brisket and oak-smoked pork chops. Weekend brunch sees their take on delicious pastries (including a Beef Kolache), while the Sunday through Thursday happy hour provides fantastic boozy deals.
What started as a small store in Falls Church has developed a groundswell of followers as it spread throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland, and, soon, a location coming to Cathedral Heights in Washington, DC. The menu spans traditional taco fillngs—proteins like chicken, grilled beef, or chorizo topped with onions and cilantro—to more elaborate creations. For fans of the al pastor taco, go ahead and give La Gringa a try. Pork and pineapple are paired in a quesadilla with seared cheese, onions, cilantro, and sweet chili sauce. In addition to the slate of tacos, empanadas are available all day for $4 each.
Costa Mesa, California
When discussing Taco María it’s obligatory to first get it out of the way that this is anything but a standard taco joint—though, if you head there at lunchtime and get yourself some tacos jardineros, filled with bright chorizo, shiitakes, crispy potatoes and queso fundido, you’re likely to be pleased with your decision. Dinner, however, is not a time for tacos, but for chef Carlos Salgado’s constantly evolving prix fixe meal. Elegant presentations and innovative flavors tip a hand to Salgado’s prior stops in high-end kitchens like Coi and Commis before opening his taco truck, and then opening a perfect marriage of the two.
Los Angeles, California
Excellent Guerrero-style dishes, including some Afro-Mexican specialities and delicious tamales, make ordering just one nearly impossible. Everything on its menu, from its smoky Pozole Rojo with shredded pork to the super crispy Pescadillas—fried tacos filled with shredded bass, onion, cilantro, and a tangy green salsa—sings. Chef Maria Elena Lorenzo’s family tamales recipes come in both corn husk and banana leaf varieties, with sweet and savory options available for masa fans everywhere. The pork and salsa roja filling is tender enough to eagerly cut through with your plastic fork, while the equally tasty cheese and jalapeño option gives just the right level of cheese pull with some needed heat.
Chef Emmanuel Chavez is on a mission to restore the cultural value of maíz, and we’d say he’s succeeding. Utilizing the ancient nixtamalization technique to process heirloom corn into masa for off-the-charts fresh tortillas, Chavez turned his modern tortilleria-gone-pop-up experience into a full blown brick and mortar, offering 13-seat tasting menus by reservation and walk-in service for Sunday brunch. Things to look forward to: Tlacoyos, Sopes, Quesadillas, Masa Pancakes, Pozole, Carne Asada.
When he’s not whipping up some of the best French food in the city as chef-owner of Le Bouchon, Oliver Poilevey is in the trenches alongside chef and partner Marcos Ascencio (NoMI, Guildhall, Bar Lupo) serving some of the city’s best Mexican fare at this Bucktown taqueria. Inspired by some of Mexico City’s top taco joints, the two opened a space primed for carry-out but welcoming to diners, too, thanks to what will soon be a year-round patio. Take your pick from a medley of signature tacos—namely the Duck Carnitas, a riff on duck a l’orange with date puree, sunchoke-habanero salsa, and Cara Cara oranges, or the Morcillo, a blood sausage taco with red onion-apple slaw and macha salsa. Don’t miss the Churros.
San Francisco, California
We probably don’t need to tell you about Tommy’s famous margaritas since they’re known around the world (seriously), but in case you’re new here: Tommy’s has famous margaritas and they live up to the hype. The margaritas are definitely the draw, but the food is also good—very much what you expect from a quintessential Mexican restaurant. Not surprisingly, Tommy’s also has an amazing selection of tequila, which the knowledgeable bartenders can tell you all about.
San Diego, California
Chef-owner Priscilla Curiel’s tiny taqueria in the Old Town Urban Market will satisfy your birria cravings. Warmly spiced, long-braised birria is tucked into corn or flour tortillas for tacos, or a soft 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, 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.
After a year of reconnecting with his native country, chef Carlos Gaytan returned to Chicago in 2019 to open Tzuco, a restaurant that approaches Mexican flavors with honed French techniques. Find the two styles interwoven throughout the menu in options like Guajillo-roasted Octopus, Steak Tartare with pickled jalapeno, and Guerrero-style Pork Shank with black bean pureé, pickled red onion, and habanero salsa. Whimsical finales include Sweet Cornbread with caramel popcorn, honey toffee, and saffron ice cream and Rice Pudding served with toasted white chocolate and pink peppercorn ice cream. Brunch is just as exciting, with standouts like Mushroom Cazuelawith salsa macha and goat cheese and French Toast with orange-infused sponge bread, lemon and orange glaze, and fresh berries.
The Oceanside restaurant scene continues to impress with the opening of Valle, sister restaurant to chef Roberto Alcocer’s noteworthy Malva Cocina de Baja California. Valle uses Southern California–sourced ingredients to bring the flavors of the Valle de Guadalupe up north in dishes like Tartara, with Rosewood Ranches Wagyu, grain mustard, pickled golden thread mushroom, local fresh uni, and a marbled rye tuile, and Coliflor, with charcoal-grilled cauliflower, garam masala, garlic chips, and sage. (A vegan menu is also available.) 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.
True, traditional South Texas barbacoa—cow head cooked slowly in an earthen pit—has largely disappeared in a commercial sense thanks to “health codes” and the like. That is, with the vitally important exception of what’s happening at Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Q in the Texas border city of Brownsville, where they’ve been at it so long that the business was basically grandfathered in. Armando Vera oversees the meticulous production of the aforementioned regional specialty. It can be ordered as cachete (beef cheek), lengua (beef tongue), paladar (palate), and surtida (all the bits). Loyal regulars vie for the coveted ojo, or cow eye.
Owner Nee Julie King earned underground local buzz when she began turning out tamales, flautas, and grilled burritos from a tiny kitchen inside a Beacon Hill gas station. Today at Villa Mexico Cafe, she has her own downtown storefront and is still going strong, offering divine take-out that cheers the otherwise sad return-to-office commuter.
The complex flavors of Oaxaca are on full display at this hotel hotspot from Chef Hugo Ortega and Restaurateur Tracy Vaught. Set in Downtown’s gorgeous Marriott Marquis (yes, the one with the Texas-shaped lazy river), you don’t have to book a room to experience Ortega’s sensational landscape of moles—Tamal de Pollo con Mole Negro (chicken tamales smothered in an earthy black elixirs), Camarones en Mole Verde (a zippy green number engulfing head-on shrimp), and Costillas De Puerco en Mole Chicatana (pork ribs with ant mole), plus traditional dishes from Tlayudas (Oaxacan-style pizza) to Moletes (a kind of open-faced sandwich).
Writers: Mary Beth Abate, Meaghan Agnew, Daisy Barringer, Amber Love Bond, Chris Chamberlain, Tim Ebner, Danielle Harling, Rob Kachelriess, Steven Lindsey, Matt Lynch, Sylvio Martins, Marielle Mondon, Nicole Schnitzler, José R. Ralat, Allyson Reedy, Lauren Topor Reichert, Brooke Viggiano, and James Wong.