17 Essential Mexican Restaurants You Need to Try in San Diego Right Now

From fresh Baja California seafood to Tijuana-style birria and more, it’s easy to find great Mexican food in San Diego.

Camino Riviera
Photo by James Tran, courtesy of Camino Riviera

Exceptional Mexican food is readily available in nearly every neighborhood in San Diego. It makes sense, since less than two centuries ago, California was still part of Mexico. 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 17 of our favorites 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.

Mar Rustico

Old Town
$$$$

San Diego enjoys the delicious influence of Baja seafood and flavors across our Mexican food scene, but Mar Rustico, helmed by Priscilla Curiel and next-door to her popular Tuetano Taqueria, focuses on Baja Sur-style dishes like fresh oysters in salsa verde, Burritos Choyero (choyero is a term for locals from Baja Sur) filled with smoked tuna and chipotle shrimp, an array of ceviches, and a bright, citrus-spiked Claw Chowder. The most popular ceviche bowl is Ceviche Sonora, which is the spiciest option, with seafood bathed in pickled veggies and fresh salsas—add oysters for an additional cost. Happy hour deals run from 2–5 pm Monday through Thursday, with a 16-ounce bowl of Ceviche de la Paz offered alongside a bottle of beer for $16.99, or one Fish Taco or Marlin Burrito with a bottle of beer for $9.99. Ask your server about other happy hour specials.
How to book: A few indoor tables are available on a first-come basis. Order for takeout In person or online via Toast.

Valle

Oceanside
$$$$

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. Valle uses Southern California-sourced ingredients 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 and marinated cauliflower, garam masala, garlic chips, and sage. 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. A vegan menu is also available.
How to book: Reservations can be made online via SevenRooms. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Camino Riviera
Photo by James Tran, courtesy of Camino Riviera

Camino Riviera

Little Italy
$$$$

Explore the flavors of the Yucatán coast at Camino Riviera, executive chef Brian Redzikowski’s menu explores upscale takes on traditional preparations as well as playful, Southeast Asian-inflluenced 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. Beverage directors Leigh Lecap and Eric Johnson created a similarly inspired cocktail menu, laced with 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; it looks exactly like a fresh cob of sweet corn, but dessertified.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Corozon De Torta
Photo courtesy of Corazon de Torta

Corozon De Torta

Logan Heights
$$$$

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 quesatacos. 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’re still doing takeout only, but plan to get there early anyway—they’re only open 7 am–2 pm Wednesday through Sunday.
How to book: Walk up or call 619-628-8235 for takeout.

Las Cuatro Milpas

Barrio Logan
$$$$

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 whenever 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, Tuetano 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 in late 2020. Smaller, thinner Tijuana-style burritos de hielera use the same succulent birria that made Tuetano famous, along with combinations like Chorizo with Potatoes, Chicharron in salsa verde, 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: In person or online via Toast for pickup.

Aqui es Texcoco

Chula Vista
$$$$

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 slow-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 chicken or mushrooms.
How to book: Reserve a table indoors or on the patio online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Blind Barber
Photo courtesy of 1800 Tequila

Aged in both American and French oak barrels and finished in port wine casks, 1800 Cristalino Tequila is an ultra-premium, crystal-clear añejo meant to celebrate life’s special moments with taste. So, this Cinco de Mayo, elevate your experience and raise a glass with 1800 Cristalino instead—your taste buds will thank you.

El Comal Mexican Restaurant
Photo courtesy of El Comal

El Comal

North Park
$$$$

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Lola 55

East Village
$$$$

Lola 55 scores big with locals for their juicy, mesquite-grilled Filet Mignon Tacos topped with avocado mousse, smoky pasilla salsa, crispy leeks, and jalapeño toreado. Vegetarian options are equally thoughtful—the Squash Blossom Relleno, with house-made beet chorizo stuffed inside the flower and deep-fried, 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 toasted bread.
How to book: Indoor and patio seating is on a first-come basis. Call 619-542-9155 or order via Toast for takeout.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Pacific Beach and Hillcrest
$$$$

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.

Puesto

Multiple locations
$$$$

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

The Taco Stand

Multiple locations
$$$$

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; tender, 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 location or order online via Toast.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Tacos El Gordo
Photo courtesy of Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo

Multiple locations
$$$$

Tijuana is well known throughout Mexico for its street tacos and that’s exactly what inspires Tacos El Gordo. Think spicy pork adobada, asadas, 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.

Tahona Bar

Old Town
$$$$

Right next to El Campo Santo cemetery sits Tahona, San Diego’s best mezcaleria. The menu is short and tight, consisting of shareable antojitos, tacos with a half-dozen 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: Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order in person or call 619-255-2090 for takeout.

Available for Reservations

TJ Oyster Bar

Multiple locations
$$$$

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.

Tuétano Taquería

Old Town
$$$$

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, 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. Order for takeout In person or online via Toast.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.