17 Essential Mexican Restaurants in San Francisco You Need to Try Right Now
From our favorite spots to snag a Mission Burrito to regional specialties spanning Jalisco, Oaxaca, and beyond.
Mexican food and San Francisco go together like tacos and margaritas, burritos and rice, and taquerias and the Mission. And although this city obviously has a ton of the latter that are perfect for when that Mission burrito craving hits—we also have a number of excellent Mexican spots for whatever you're in the mood for, whether it’s fish tacos, a fancy two-Michelin-starred tasting menu, the best margarita in the world (yup, we said it and we stand by it), or something else along those lines. Bookmark this list of our favorite Mexican restaurants in SF and look forward to a meal full of vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients, and a fair amount of tequila.
This vibrant Jaliscan-Californian restaurant in the heart of the Mission is always a good time thanks to its colorful and quirky decor, excellent playlists, friendly servers and bartenders, and a delicious menu of unique dishes and creative cocktails. The entire food menu is worth delving into, but go-tos include the Ceviche, Queso Fundido, and Fried Avocado Tacos. As far as drinks go, you can’t go wrong if you stick with any of the mezcal and agave-based creations (though there’s also a good natural wine selection if that’s your thing).
How to book: Walk-ins only.
This modern Mexican restaurant from the husband and wife team behind Son’s Addition is all about chef Nick Cobarruvias’ bold interpretations of the Mexican comfort food he grew up eating in Texas, made using traditional techniques. All of the tacos and tostadas are made with fresh house-ground masa and while there are a couple of meat options, the menu is heavily focused on vegetables with dishes like a Roasted Carrot Tostada with jalapeno hummus and Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with spicy cashew crema. Otra also serves a hearty brunch on the weekends, with options like a Fried Egg Torta, Chilaquiles de Chorizo con Huevos, and Chorizo Breakfast Tacos.
How to book: Reservations are only available for parties of six or more, but you can join the waitlist on Yelp for indoor and outdoor dining.
“Masa, masa, masa!” That’s the star ingredient in almost all of the dishes at this Oaxacan restaurant that opened up on 24th Street at the end of 2021. At the helm is chef Isai Cuevas who worked in SF restaurants and sold tamalitos at farmers markets for over 15 years before opening up his own spot. The menu includes lots of tacos (including a fried chicken option), tamales, sopes, and enchiladas in one of the best mole negro sauces in town.
How to book: Walk-ins and indoor dining only (with a parklet in the works).
After a brief closure, this two-Michelin-starred fine dining Mexican restaurant reopened last spring in a much larger space in SoMa with indoor and outdoor seating. The tasting menu continues to be ambitious and unlike anything you imagine of when you think of “Mexican food” though it is very much just that—chef Cantu takes Mexican ingredients and techniques to new levels while also 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. (As well as the appropriate bill that comes along with all of that.)
How to book: Reservations are required and can be made on Tock.
If you feel like it’s a lot to ask of you to trek “all the way” to the Outer Richmond for Mexican food, just trust us that one bite of Cielito Lindo’s Quesabirra Tacos will convince you it was well worth it. (Also, come on—SF is only 7x7; it’s not that much of a trek!) The tortillas are perfectly crispy, the beef perfectly juicy, and the overall effect is perfectly indulgent. The gigantic tortas are also worth an order as are the Pan-Fried Enchiladas. Basically, show up hungry or find a way to get hungry if you know what we mean (you do).
How to book: Walk-ins (counter service) and indoor dining only
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
After nearly 100 years, this 24th Street classic is still a neighborhood favorite for tamales (in flavors like shredded pork, shredded chicken, caramelized butternut squash, and sweet corn masa). The tamales are always a solid bet, but the chile colorado and chile relleno are also hard to pass up. The brunch menu is limited—chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, machaca, and chorizo con huevos—but as you can see, has just what you need after a big night out (including a Tecate or two).
Cadillac Bar & Grill
Cadillac Bar & Grill opened in 1982 as a spinoff from the original location that opened in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in 1926, and has been serving San Franciscans in style (white coats and bow ties) ever since (well, except for a hiatus from 1999 to 2012, but let’s not be nitpicky). The food is straight-to-the-point Mexican and Tex Mex with go-tos like sizzling fajitas, enchiladas, and the beloved puffy tacos (quick-fried masa tortillas with a choice of baja fish, lobster, carnitas, chicken, skirt steak, or spicy Beyond Beef). And, of course, you can not (or should not, anyway) sit down for a meal here without ordering the top shelf Cadillac margarita, which comes in a glass, bigger glass, or pitcher. Obviously, the bigger glass or pitcher is the way to go.
We were bummed when the Taco Shop at Underdogs in the Outer Sunset closed in 2020 due to a tiny kitchen that wasn’t practical for pandemic times and tons of takeout, as it was one of our go-tos for watching the game while eating tacos, but we didn’t have to pout for long since Underdogs Tres opened in the Inner Sunset shortly thereafter. The menu includes all of the fresh fusion taqueria fare SF has come to love: quesadillas, California burritos (with fries inside), and the famous “Nick’s Way” crispy, double-layer tacos. And, yes, they have TVs so you can watch the game, just like at the other spots. Round out your order with Tecates, Modelos, or a pitcher of margs. Check the website for deals like the mid-day happy hour (1–3:30 pm) with $2 tacos, $3 Tecates, and $5 margaritas. (And good news for folks in the Outer Sunset: After a fire forced its closure last year, Underdogs Too is back open.)
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.
Nopalito added a dash of upscale fine dining to SF’s Mexican food scene when it opened on Broderick Street in 2009 as a Mexican-focused offshoot of Nopa. The restaurant is still as buzzy as ever, with crowds settling in for elevated dishes like Mole Poblano and Grilled Asparagus Quesadillas during lunch and dinner, or grabbing tacos and tortas to-go from the walk-up window on 18th St. You’ll also see plenty of patrons enjoying quality tequilas and stellar cocktails—the restaurant has an impressive agave spirits list and tasting flights are available to enjoy in person or to-go/delivered.
How to book: Walk-ins only for dine-in at the Broderick Street location. Walk-up to the window on 18th St.
This underrated mini-chain of taquerias nails the fundamentals: super burritos, quesadillas, one of the best tostada salads in town, and of course, street tacos. Throw in the unexpectedly excellent “street Caesar” salad (with pico de gallo and cotija cheese) as a gesture at eating your greens.
It makes sense that a taco shop on Fillmore Street in Lower Pac Heights would offer a lot of healthy options, like burrito bowls, grilled fish and shrimp tacos, and a comforting bowl of Tortilla Soup, but there’s something for the rest of us, too, including Beer-Battered Fish Tacos, Short Rib Tacos, nachos with the works, and churros. TacoBar offers margaritas, but the sangria is really the way to go.
Don Ramon's Mexican Restaurant
Typically a popular gathering spot for the post-work crowds, this 40-year-old, family-owned restaurant narrowly avoided closing last year due to financial issues. Doing your part to help this Legacy Business stay in business is easy since it pretty much only involves eating delicious food, like the popular Beef Chile Colorado and grilled Fish Tacos, and drinking pitchers of margaritas.
How to book: Walk-ins only for dine-in.
Gordo’s has been slinging its famous burritos since 1977 and in that time has built a very loyal customer base who come back again and again for the classic super burritos. It’s the go-to spot for folks in the Sunset and Richmond, and not just because there’s a dearth of burritos in those neighborhoods. Well, maybe a little, but the truth of the matter is—once you become a Gordo’s convert, you stay that way for life.
Bonita Taqueria Y Rotisserie
It’s hard to conceive of not liking Mexican food, but if someone in your friend group is trying to rain on your fiesta, Bonita offers the best of both worlds: al pastor tacos and carnitas nachos for you, rotisserie chicken and crispy potatoes for them. And nachos to share because who doesn’t like nachos? (If your answer to that redundant question is “someone in my friend group” then, well, we’re very sorry.)
Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
We probably don’t need to tell you about Tommy’s famous margaritas since they’re world-renowned (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 (enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and combo plates). Not surprisingly, Tommy’s also has an amazing selection of tequila, which the knowledgeable bartenders can tell you all about.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only for dine-in. Call 415-387-4747 for takeout.
Padrecito is the spot for elevated Mexican dishes made with local ingredients from small purveyors and farms. The food is also seasonal, which means just as you fall in love with something, you’ll likely have to wait a while before it comes back, but all the better to try new things, like duck chilaquiles, grilled arctic char tacos, and the very addictive guacamole con queso fresco (okay so maybe that’s not a new thing, but it is a thing you should order). Pardrecito also has a lineup of truly creative cocktails (in “normal” times, it’s worth going to the bar side of the space just for drinks). Look carefully at the drawings on the menu to see just how much of each ingredient every cocktail contains.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
This first-ever women-led food hall in the United States was much-anticipated and for good reason. We can’t pick between the two Mexican spots, as they’re both phenomenal. Los Cilantros is all about a large selection of tostadas and fan-favorite Ensalada de Col, a simple and refreshing cabbage salad that’s not to be skipped. Mi Morena focuses on Mexican street food, like fish tacos and quesadilla chilangas. You can also order taco kits, which include everything you need to build 24 or 48 tacos, which seems like a great option for entertaining, a thing we can do now. Every restaurant inside of the food hall also offers a $5 nutritionally complete plate as a way to give back to the Tenderloin community.
Allie Pape is a contributor for Thrillist.