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Several Mexican dishes laid out on a table, including quesadillas, tacos and nachos.
Photograph: The Happy Mexican

The best Mexican restaurants in Melbourne

Don't know your ensalada from your enchilada? Your tacos from tostadas? Help is here with our handy guide to Melbourne's best Mexican

Sonia Nair
Lauren Dinse
Written by
Sonia Nair
Contributor
Lauren Dinse
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Mexican food used to be tough to find in Melbourne, but those days are no more – today, our city is blessed with everything from lively cantinas to late-night mezcal bars, and everything in between. If you're craving a taco (or several) and a spicy Margarita, turn up the heat with our guide to Melbourne's hottest Mexican joints. 

Looking for Melbourne's best Italian, too? We've also got you sorted for Japanese and Korean restaurants as well. 

The best Mexican restaurants in Melbourne

La Tortilleria
  • Restaurants
  • Kensington
  • price 1 of 4

It’s largely acknowledged that La Tortilleria does the best Mexican in Melbourne. With its primary colours paint job and Frida Kahlo murals, it’s a lush oasis in an otherwise drab patch of Kensington. Since launching in 2013, they’ve cemented their role as Melbourne’s premier tortilla makers, so even if you haven’t made it to their shop, chances are you’ll have sampled some of their goods around town (the Happy Mexican and Mesa Verde use the crew’s authentic corn tortillas). Come straight to the source for a sumptuous feast of chilaquiles – fried tortilla strips topped with piquant salsa roja, cheeses and smooth crema – and tacos filled with achiote-spiced pork, corn-battered fish or vegan chorizo with roasted potatoes. In proper Mexican fashion, they double-layer their tortillas for extra stability. Plus, everything is gluten-free, and plant-based meat substitutes are aplenty, so everyone can join in the fun.

  • Restaurants
  • Brunswick

It’s hard to beat the buzz of Los Hermanos in Brunswick. Meaning 'the Brothers', this good-times taqueria is filled with rainbow-hued flags and tightly packed tables, though most of its seating is in the undercover rear courtyard – making it a perfect choice for our times. A short and sharp menu dishes out soft tacos with the standout fillings of smoky field mushrooms and maize-battered fish, and flautas – slender tortilla cigars filled with potatoes and your choice of either poblano peppers, chipotle beef or chipotle chicken. You’re either going to love the DIY guacamole or wish the kitchen had just mashed it all together for you. Call us lazy, but we lean towards the latter. There’s no such debate on the Margarita front – these salt-rimmed stunners strike the perfect balance between sour, sweet and downright boozy. If you’re in Fitzroy, visit sister outpost Little Hop for much of the same. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • price 1 of 4

An opening that set Collingwood abuzz in 2016, Hotel Jesus comes courtesy of Mamasita’s Matt Lane and Nick Peters. First things first: this Smith Street stalwart is designed to be fast and fabulous, so don’t expect sterling table service. Instead, tick off a selection of tacos, crunchy tostadas and punchy ceviches. Top picks include grilled slabs of queso fresco, the bright citrus-cured scallop ceviche, and the Mexico City staple of volcanoes – crisp corn tortillas curled at the edges and heaped with toppings that range from adobo lamb to pibil fungi. To drink, knock back mezcal rhubarb sour (a staff favourite), the salt-rimmed house Margarita or a smoky Negroni with the addition of infused vermouth. PSA: the sun-drenched, white-tiled space is eye-wateringly bright – best wear your shades if you’re nursing a hangover.

Birria quesatacos – that is, tacos where beef brisket is braised for hours in a rich, bright red stew, the tortilla itself is fried up with Oaxacan cheese, and a spicy consommé is made for dipping – are traditional to the Mexican state of Jalisco, but many Melburnians encountered them for the first time on the menu of food truck Dingo Ate My Taco. Oscillating between 417 St Kilda Road on Thursdays and Collingwood’s Mill Brewery from Friday to Sunday, the food truck has gained a cult following for its birria – but it’s also one of the few places you can enjoy Mexican corn fungus and beer-battered fried avocado in a taco. With co-founders Katherine Simkins and her husband originally from Austin, the Tex-Mex influence is strong.

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Head to the Collingwood end of Hoddle Street for something other than bumper-to-bumper traffic. Jalisco’s birria finds itself in a taco again on The Happy Mexican’s menu, as does ox tongue cooked in piquant pasilla chilli (lengua) and chicken breast roasted in a heady concoction of guajillo chilli and achiote sauce (pollo pibil). The inviting warm yellow interiors, decked out in the green, white and red stripes of the Mexican flag and bright blue shelves, is the perfect backdrop to enjoy daily alternating specials – think half-price tacos on Tuesdays, $12 burritos on Thursdays and $12 Margaritas on Fridays. 

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Collingwood
  • price 1 of 4

An eye-catching red and white branded food truck – replete with limited seating in the form of bright scarlet stools – Frankie’s is less a roving food truck, more a permanent fixture on Smith Street. ‘Torta’ is the Spanish word for ‘cake’, but in Mexico, it’s synonymous with ‘sandwich’ or in Frankie’s case, a fluffy bun spread with butter and topped with miscellaneous proteins ranging from smoky grilled mushrooms to fresh fish crumbed in house – each finished with pickled onion, lettuce, avocado and coriander. There’s a relatively concise taco selection at three varieties, but keep your eyes peeled for specials like the bone marrow beef brisket and grilled chicken with pineapple and mango salsa. Frankie’s has been building on its alcoholic selection – you can supplement your tortas or tacos with the medium-bodied lager of Modelo Negra or capitalise on the seltzer trend of late by ordering the fermented pineapple beverage of canned Tepache. 

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Skirting the periphery of the city in the often-forgotten pocket of West Melbourne, the brightly adorned Hello José has become known for its boozy brunches – a $65-per-person deal that encompasses two hours of bottomless beers, bubbles, sangria and tacos. But what it’s lesser known for are its exquisite chipotle chilli chicken wings; take your pick from tangy- or sweet-coated wings served to you by the sixes. The house-pressed soft corn tortillas are handmade to order, and vegan taco lovers are well catered for with cactus enveloped by tomatillos and black beans as well as a plant-friendly iteration of chorizo that swaps out fatty sausage meat for well-spiced, minced cauliflower.

Si Senor Art Taqueria
  • Restaurants
  • Balaclava

Balaclava’s beloved local Si Senor Art Taqueria – now with an outpost in Hampton – is a feast for the senses. Having recently moved from its cavernous 2013 site that used to be a former Chinese takeaway spot, Si Senor now sits a few blocks away in a much larger venue on 219 Carlisle Street. Large custom artworks and murals backdrop your enjoyment of ten different varieties of tacos (classics like battered flathead and chorizo sit alongside the more unusual grilled prawns and smoked lamb shoulder), while the covered backyard is ideal for Melbourne’s ever-changing weather. Happy hour remains firmly a feature of the present at Si Senor if you arrive before 5pm – think $14 Margaritas and $6 Coronas. 

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North Melbourne institution El Sabor has history behind it. Born and bred in Mexico City, Cesar Duran took over El Sabor after opening one of Melbourne’s first tortillerias, El Cielo, in Airport West in 2012. El Sabor’s menu features your usual suspects like quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas and chilaquiles but also spotlights more homestyle dishes like black beans soup steeped in chicken broth and cream as well as alambres, a popular Mexican staple where grilled chicken, beef or tofu (the last a speciality of El Sabor’s plant-friendly menu) is topped with capsicum, onions and mozzarella. The expansive two-storey venue has two distinct moods: noisy and vibrant downstairs, with intricately wallpapered interiors, an ornate chandelier and a more formal register upstairs. 

Saporito Taquito
  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • Southbank
  • price 1 of 4

Perhaps the most enduring appeal of no-frills Saporito Taquito lies in its proximity to Malthouse Theatre and the surrounding arts precinct. If you’ve ever struggled to find someplace to dine either before or after a show, look no further. What Saporito lacks in décor it makes up for with convivial waitstaff and a diverse menu. Soft and pillowy, steamed banana leaf-wrapped cornmeal dough pockets of vegetable tamales and baked sweet corn cake with a mezcal cream sauce – dubbed ‘tipsy corn’ on the dessert menu – find their counterparts in four varieties of tacos, chicken tostadas and pork gorditas. When we visit, the pollo pibil tacos off the specials menu is a standout; each generous morsel of chicken is coated in a concentration of flavour from the achiote paste, notes of citrus and garlic.  

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Acknowledging the provenance of each item on his menu is important to Superchido restaurateur Daniel Pineda. CDMX – shorthand for Ciudad de Mexico, or Mexico City – is peppered across the menu, as are Jalisco, Veracruz and Yucatan. The relative newcomer to Seddon was started up by Daniel Pineda, a former engineer who fell in love with Mexican cuisine when he visited and who has spent his time since recreating what he tasted for the benefits of westsiders. Popular regional specialties like al pastor, birria and conchinita pibil are complemented by a drinks menu with the likes of horchata – both with and without rum – and cocktails that extend beyond Margaritas to include a fiery Paloma and super Iced Tea with Gin and Supermaté Soda.

  • Restaurants
  • St Kilda

South of the border, the standout is Radio Mexico. Pull up a rickety chair on the footpath or slip into the thatched-roof cantina for top-notch tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas. At $7.50-$9.50 a pop, these are some of Melbourne’s pricier tacos, but you’re paying for generous, inventive toppings, such as the guajillo-marinated tofu with sweet-sour hibiscus flowers and garlic butter-grilled scallops with pork crackling. If you like your taco with a bit of extra crunch, order the costras: crisp tortillas with a grilled cheese crust loaded with slow-cooked pork and slaw. Extra love goes into the drinks, too, like the Herradura Margaritas with freshly pressed lime juice, and the cajeta caramel milkshake. Northsiders now must cross the river for Radio Mexico; the Northcote outpost is sadly no longer. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

The queues that snaked their way up to what used to be the iconic Recorded Music Salon have all but disappeared, but Mamasita remains a trusty go-to, particularly for those with sensitive stomachs who don’t want their Mexican with a side of a belly ache – there’s a dedicated FODMAP menu, and staff are well-versed at serving coeliacs and vegans. After all that time, we’re still digging the cochinita pibil tacos with meltingly soft, slow-roasted pork and burnt tomatillo salsa, the punchy tuna tartare tostaditas, and the perennial Mamasita bestseller of street corn slathered with chipotle mayo, salty queso and lime. The drinks offering has always been strong – the Tamarind Margarita alone is worth its salt (rim), but if the tartness of tamarind isn’t to your liking, take your pick from five other Margaritas, micheladas (Mexican beer with sangrita, lime and salt), wines and a healthy non-alcohol selection. 

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