Best Mexican restaurants in Philadelphia
It’s set in the Italian Market, but Blue Corn is distinctly Mexican, bringing a dose of south-of-the-border culture and tradition to South Philly. Start with salsa served with—you guessed it—fresh blue corn tortillas before moving on to sopecitos, gorditas and tacos packed with vibrant, authentic flavors. Entrees like turkey breast with mole sauce, sautéed shrimp, and pan-fried pork chops leave diners feeling full and happy. Tropical cocktails in flavors like tamarind, mango and guava complete the Mexican dining experience.
This bright and airy taqueria in the Museum District serves a California-style Mexican menu that’s fresh, simple, fast and tasty. Steps from major Philly landmarks like the Barnes Foundation and the Franklin Institute, Buena Onda is a convenient stop for sightseers. The menu specializes in fish and seafood tacos but also offers classic options such as carnitas tacos, tortilla soup and nachos. Order from a selection of beer and sangria, or opt for an agua fresca to wash down your meal.
The team behind Oyster House opened Mission Taqueria upstairs from their original outpost in 2016. With a prime Rittenhouse Square location, the eatery draws energetic lunch, happy hour and dinner crowds who flock here for tacos, salsas, snacks and ceviches. Try unexpected options like softshell crab tacos or coconut-hazelnut salsa. Like the food, the décor here is eclectic, incorporating a combination of heavy elements like cinder blocks and neon wall art with light wood, hanging plants and an open-kitchen design.
From Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, the team behind nine shops and restaurants in Midtown Village, Lolita draws customers looking for delicious food in a casual yet elegant atmosphere. The menu features modern versions of classic Mexican fare, such as guajillo-braised short rib nachos and Korean pork belly tostadas. A recently acquired liquor license makes it unnecessary for patrons to BYOB anymore, as the bar now serves beer, wine, sangria, tequila, cocktails and an enticing selection of margaritas in unexpected flavors like blood orange and cucumber-jalapeno.
The motorcycle that towers above the massive center bar sets the tone for fun at Stephen Starr’s Midtown Village Mexican spot. The atmosphere is lively, and the margaritas go down so easy they’re downright dangerous. Start your meal with a selection of homemade salsas and guacamoles before moving on to main dishes ranging from tacos and enchiladas to carne asada and red snapper. Before you’re done, stop by the photo booth and hang your snapshots on the wall to leave your mark on the popular eatery.
Iron Chef Jose Garces brings a taste of Mexico City to University City at this two-story hotspot. The street-level taqueria offers a casual and approachable menu; upstairs, diners can munch on small plates of modern Mexican fare. The restaurant’s location invites a loyal following of students from nearby University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, who love the gourmet tacos, burritos and more than 100 varieties of tequila. Insider tip: For a truly unique experience, request the four-seat booth built into a real Volkswagon Beetle.
A cross between casual Mexican café and neighborhood diner, El Rey comes from the mind of Stephen Starr, who took home the 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur. Dark lighting and cozy booths create a relaxed, cool atmosphere in ritzy Rittenhouse Square. The menu features dependable versions of classic dishes such as sopas, chilaquiles and tamales alongside more creative options like duck carnitas and zucchini blossom and corn quesadillas. For a can’t-miss deal, order the fast-lunch, which includes two courses and chips and salsa for just $10.
Brightly painted walls, intricate woodwork and colorful Mexican tiles create a cozy ambiance at this Headhouse Square eatery. Pronounced “so-cheet,” Xochitl keeps diners coming back with hearty traditional dishes like pollo frito, short rib tamales and fried plantains. While the food draws patrons from all over the city, the bar is a destination in its own right. Xochitl is open until 2 a.m. nightly, which makes it a popular stop for late-night cocktails and fun atmosphere.
Aztec-inspired murals adorn the outside of Queen Village’s Quetzally, where the interior is simply decorated and the menu is extensive. Tilapia, shrimp, chicken tinga and barbecued lamb are just a few of the tasty fillings for the restaurant’s selection of cheesy tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas and more. Looking for an unusual dish? Try the Perro Caliente Hot Dog, which comes with bacon, tomatoes, onion, mayo, mustard, ketchup and jalapeños. Top off your meal with a Jarritos flavored soda and deliciously sugary churros.
With salsa dancing on Tuesdays and Latin-style parties Sunday night, the lively scene is just as enticing as the food at Lucha Cartel. The menu includes staples like tacos, guacamole and empanadas, though dining duos with big appetites order the parrillada for two, a Mexican-style barbecue dish with steak, choizo, chicken, shrimp, cactus, onion and cheese. Set in the heart of Old City, the restaurant’s name refers to the traditional masked Mexican wrestlers, which are incorporated into the interior décor alongside funky Dia de los Muertos-style imagery.
Fishtown hipsters rejoiced when the team behind successful Center City restaurant Jose Pistola’s opened Sancho Pistola’s on West Girard Avenue. The Mexified craft beer bar and restaurant is a go-to neighborhood hangout, thanks in part to cheap happy hour deals and half-price nachos and tacos from midnight until 1 a.m. The menu features mouthwatering versions of Mexican favorites like ceviche, guacamole, nachos, and tacos filled with deliciousness from land and sea. On weekends, the eatery offers South of the Border brunch options like chilaquiles and juevos rancheros.
Tucked away in Point Breeze, Café Ynez attracts both neighborhood locals and eaters who are in-the-know about Philly’s can’t-miss Mexican fare. The menu fuses Aztec, Spanish and modern components into a bounty of flavorful dishes ranging from tacos and burritos to unique nightly specials. Café Ynez is BYOB, with plenty of mixers available for margaritas and other boozy cocktails. Limited seating often means there might not be a table immediately available, but the food is worth the wait.