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The 10 best Mexican restaurants in Boston

Looking for the best Mexican restaurants Boston has to offer? We’ve dug deep for authentic burritos, tacos and more.

Photograph: Courtesy the Painted Burro

Mexican restaurants? Boston? The two things don’t always seem to go together—this is pizza, oyster and chowder territory, right?—but that’s only if you’re not looking hard enough. If you know where to find the good stuff, Mexican will soon be near the top of your things to do in Boston. There are great restaurants in Cambridge serving house-made tacos that would make Californians proud, while the North End is home to a torte whose reputation is known the state over. And let’s not get started on Momma King’s burritos! Here we celebrate the bounty with our guide to the best Mexican restaurants in Boston. Get eating.

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Best Mexican restaurants in Boston

1

Tenoch

It’s all about the torte here, the traditional Mexican pressed sandwich made with Telera (like a thick French roll). The sandwich’s meat or vegetarian base is generously topped with Oaxaca cheese, chipotle mayo, onions, avocado and tomatoes. Rest assured that the requisite tacos, quesadillas and burritos are all here too, along with Mexican sodas for the full authentic experience. The recent opening of a new branch in Davis Square (there’s also a Medford outlet and a food truck) caused heart palpitations among Somervillians happy to wait in half-hour lines for their dinner.

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The North End
2

Olecito

Ole Mexican Grill is its higher-end counterpart, but we love Olecito for its simplicity. Ole’s chef Erwin Ramos is also behind this takeout menu, which cuts to the chase: tacos, burritos, tortas and quesadillas, all delivered quickly and with a smile. Highlights include the Baja taco (battered shrimp instead of fish), the Solana torta and the overstuffed burritos that automatically come with sour cream and guac.

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Cambridge
3

Villa Mexico Café

Some of the city’s best Mexican food was once served out of a Beacon Hill gas station. Julie King, or “Momma King,” gained a huge cult following for her tamales, flautas and especially her grilled burritos. After the gas station closed in 2013, King secured a permanent space downtown from which to care for her devotees. No fish tacos or other Americanized dishes here, just the classics, all prepared in traditional Mexican fashion and made to order.

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Downtown
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4

Lone Star

Prepare to wait and be jostled while you do. Lone Star attracts hordes of Allston students happy for $4 tacos and a plethora of under-$10 accompaniments: grilled street corn, refried bean tostadas and ceviche (what’s up with the $9 chips and guac, though?). Potent tequila cocktails include the oddball-but-delicious Hombre sin Nombre (Blanco tequila, Peychaud's bitters, mole bitters, agave, Chartreuse).

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Brighton
5

El Pelon

Loyalty means something in this town. When El Pelon burned down in a 2009 fire, longtime fans patiently waited through the rebuild, visiting the Brighton outpost in the meantime. The original Fenway location reopened in 2011 with the same “authentic Mexican” tagline. No reinvented classics here, just the classics themselves, from fried plantains to the house tacos, including a terrific, cornmeal-crusted fish varietal. Only a Mexican coke will do in this instance, which El Pelon can also supply.

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Fenway and Kenmore
6

The Painted Burro

No doubt, this is taqueria food reinvented, but deliciously so. Why have pork carnitas enchiladas when you can try the duck carnitas version instead? Craving a new kind of taco? Give the BLT or roasted beet a second look. Then there’s the street-style hot dog torta, topped with chipotle ketchup and agave mustard. The other story here is the cocktails—not just the nine different margaritas, but also hybrid concoctions like the Madagascar old-fashioned (banana-infused bourbon, muddled orange and cherry, house bitters).

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Somerville
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7

El Centro

El Centro splits the difference between higher-end sit-down and nondescript takeaway joint. The cozy, brightly colored space lets you indulge in eavesdropping and a few well-made margaritas, but the food is straightforward and crowd-pleasing: freshly made guac (topped with chorizo if you so desire), chimichangas, chicken mole and no less than 10 different tacos (fish, chicken, steak, carne asada).

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The South End
8

Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar

Want a little nightlife with your chips and salsa? Lolita Cocina is a Back Bay hotspot swimming in tequila and unbuttoned young professionals. You can opt for a proper entrée (fresno salmon, garlic lime chicken), but why bother when fried chicken tacos are on the menu? Some of the guacamole varieties experiment with bizarre ingredients (lobster? cashews?)—but here, have another pitcher of ginger peach sangria. The light-night menu is surprisingly robust, with a special nacho platter that includes smoked bacon.

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Back Bay
9

Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar

Tacos and oysters on the same menu? Sure, why not? Loco just wants to make you happy. The tacos are decidedly new-wave; varieties include blackened swordfish, root beer-braised chicken and of course, fried oysters. Purists may balk at appetizers like puffed nachos and duck taquitos with plum sauce, but it’s nothing a few coconut margaritas can’t fix.

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South Boston
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10

Naco Taco

The name is fun, the space is high-spirited and the menu cuts to the chase. Your order basically comes down to this: tacos or tortas? These are no safe offerings though. Want a beef tongue taco to accompany your fried plantains? How about a pig’s head torta to go with your Negra Modelo? The tortillas are house-made (yes, that means lard is involved), and the tequila cocktails are stiff, though the considerable beer list is the real draw. Come summer, the 100-seat patio is the place to be.

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Cambridge

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