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Zona Rosa San Jose
Photograph: Courtesy Zona Rosa

The best Mexican food in San Jose

Craving something authentic? These restaurants serve up the best Mexican food in San Jose.

Written by
Shoshi Parks
&
Clara Hogan
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Eating is probably one of our favorite things to do in San Jose. The South Bay city has a huge diversity of stellar restaurants, but the Mexican food in San Jose is definitely a standout. In fact, there are so many quality taquerias in town that some nights it’s nearly impossible to make a decision on where to get your post-bar snack. You can get flavorful tacos and burritos in almost every neighborhood – especially in Downtown San Jose, an area that is bustling with shops, galleries, and bars — but a handful of Mexican restaurants in San Jose really go beyond the pale.

From no-frills hole-in-the-wall joints to upscale dining complete with cocktails and farm-to-table ingredients, these are our picks for the ten restaurants making the best Mexican food in San Jose. So good, you'll be booking your next visit the capital of Silicon Valley as soon as possible (check out the multiple ways to get to San Jose from San Francisco.) Enjoy! 

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in San Jose

Best Mexican food in San Jose

Winner of the 2018 San Jose Mercury News’s best taco award, Zona Rosa handmakes all of its tortillas before stuffing them with fresh ingredients—creative combinations include chorizo with mole negro and black bean puree and sweet potatoes and tempura scallop with asparagus chipotle glaze. Zona Rosa also serves big, bold margaritas in flavors like hibiscus and cilantro-jalapeno that pair perfectly with heartier specialties like chile relleños stuffed with pork, chorizo and butternut squash and vegetarian blue corn enchiladas with poblano chiles and sweet potatoes. During brunch hours, don’t miss the carnitas Benedict made with chipotle hollandaise and the bottomless guava-orange mimosas for just $12.

Everything you need to know about LUNA is right in the name: Local, unrefined, natural and authentic. Chef and co-owner Jo Lerma-Lopez has gone to great lengths to live up to those standards; it took her six months just to find a certified non-GMO strain of corn to use in her tortillas. LUNA’s menu boasts dishes like wild salmon tacos with pineapple jalapeño salsa and chile rellenos filled with grass-fed beef. Chow down in the tasteful dining room, on the light-strung back patio or order from the outdoor to-go window. 

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Chef Maria Flores keeps things spicy at this bright and colorful taqueria in Cambrian Park. The menu reads like a culinary tour through Mexico: A tender, roasted goat dish from the highlands of Jalisco, pork marinated in citrus and achiote from the Yucatán, and mole de Puebla made with six types of chile peppers and six varieties of nuts and seeds. Standard taqueria favorites – tacos, burritos, nachos – are made with care and the salsa bar has a wide variety of flavorful sauces, including a peanut version rarely seen north of the border.

This family-owned downtown taqueria is open daily for breakfast and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Angelou’s cooks up traditional favorites like enchiladas, pork in chile verde, and carnitas, but the biggest draws are the Moco Loco and Cali-Moco burritos, which include an egg along with meat, cheese, rice (or fries for the Cali version) and salsa. Angelou’s also has a wide variety of tasty treats for vegetarians, including a taco de papa (crispy tacos stuffed with potato and mozzarella), chile rellenos, and veggie burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos.

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A former taco stand, Dia de Pesca is now a charming Mexican restaurant with a large, lively patio. Given its name, it should come as no surprise that fresh seafood is the star here, from oysters prepared with chorizo to crab and octopus tacos and multiple styles of lime-marinated ceviches and seafood cocktails. If you like your shrimp with a side of alcohol, order the super chavela or super michelada; Each comes garnished with eight juicy prawns.

In Mezcal’s brick-walled, folk-art–strung dining room, the Gomez family serves authentic southern Mexican dishes, including three different styles of mole (estofado, coloradito, and negro), chapulines (grasshopers sauteed in garlic, lime and salt), and a variety of other Oaxacan delights. Behind the bar, you'll find bottles from ten different mezcalerias and ten tequileiras to drink straight or in cocktails like jalapeño margaritas and palomas. When your meal is through, Oaxacan coffee and hot chocolate, made in a clay olla with cinnamon, are an excellent after-dinner treat.

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Family-owned Adelita’s has been soothing Latino food cravings in this corner of San Jose for more than 20 years. Owned by Mexico-born Felipe, former chef at the famed La Taqueria in San Francisco, and his Chilean wife Patricia, Adelita’s serves dishes from both culinary traditions including Chilean churrasco (steak and melted cheese on a torta), seafood stew made with prawns, octopus, clams and squid, and tomatillo enchiladas. A variety of healthier options, including gluten-free and low-carb dishes and a whole slew of vegan delights (burritos, enchiladas, flautas, tamales and more) really makes Adelita’s stand out from its peers.

This brightly painted taqueria specializes in Sinaloan cuisine from Mexico’s Pacific coast. And where there’s a coastline, there’s seafood. But we aren’t talking just your standard ceviches. El Camaron has coconut shrimp and Mexican-style sushi. It's got octopus tacos and shrimp empanadas. It's got seafood stews and whole grilled fish. In short, this is the spot for seafood lovers of all fins. 

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A true hole-in-the-wall, Chavelas isn’t much to look at. But atmosphere isn’t why you’re here. You’re here for super tasty barbacoa fajitas served with mounds of sour cream and guacamole, or for enchiladas smothered in tangy sauce, or for super burritos exploding with carnitas. Or maybe you’re just here for micheladas garnished with grilled shrimp for just $8. Whatever brought you in, you’ll walk out full, happy and planning your next visit.

Sure La Vic is a local chain but this taqueria (along with its locations on N. 4th Street and E. Santa Clara) makes super hearty favorites that will fill you up for less than $10. The secret is in its orange sauce, a tangy, spicy salsa so good that they sell it by the bottle. Will La Vic blow your mind with their freshness and quality? No. But for no frills burritos and tacos, especially late at night, La Victoria can’t be beat.

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