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The best Mexican restaurants in America
Photograph: Nick Murway La Chaparrita

The 20 best Mexican restaurants in America

Our guide to the best Mexican restaurants in America for authentic Mexican food, great Tex Mex, amazing tacos and more

By Time Out editors and Jenny Miller

It’s not easy to narrow down the best Mexican restaurants in America, so lucky are we to be saturated with the cooking of our South-of-the-Border neighbor in all its wonderful regional variety. But as any good mole- or taco-hound knows, some restaurants rise to the head of the pack, from the new-school, innovative cooking headed up by Rick Bayless at his Mexican restaurants in Chicago to the best burritos in San Francisco’s Mission District to out-of-the-way joints in the West and Southwest sure to inspire your next road trip to the best Mexican restaurants in L.A., including the killer Oaxacan cooking at Guelaguetza. Below, the best Mexican restaurants in America—ranked. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter

Best Mexican restaurants in America

Crispy Tripa Taco at La Chaparrita.
Photograph: Nick Murway

11. La Chaparrita, Chicago

Restaurants Mexican South Lawndale

Chicago’s best all-around taqueria specializes in tacos de fritangas, or fried meaty things cooked on a wide metal stovetop called a charola. You seriously can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, from the extra beefy suadero to the intricately spiced longaniza sausage. But the showstopper—and perhaps the best taco in Chicago—is the tripa. Order it crispy, and these little hunks from the cow’s intestine (not, as you would assume, the stomach) arrive as golden-hued and glistening crunchy nuggets.

La Taqueria
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/Wally Gobetz

12. La Taqueria, San Francisco

Restaurants Mexican Mission

The Mission burrito, as iconic to San Francisco as fog and cable cars, is the star at La Taqueria, a stalwart of the Mission District for more than 40 years. While some quibble over the exclusion of rice, no one argues over the tastiness of their behemoth foil-wrapped burrito bombs, filled with beans, cheese, salsa and meats ranging from carne and pollo asada to carnitas, chorizo and lengua. Located in the heart of the Mission District, the tidy no-frills spot also features tacos, quesadillas and a full selection of aguas frescas. Whatever your preference, start off with a basket of chips and the super-fresh guacamole.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Wally Gobetz

13. Casa Enrique, New York City

Restaurants Mexican Long Island City

The owners of Bar Henry branched out to Queens with this 40-seat Mexican eatery, specializing in the regional cuisine of Cintalapa, Chiapas. Brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar, the chef and GM respectively, pay homage to their late mother with traditional plates, including some based on her recipes, such as chicken mole and cochinito chiapaneco (guajillo-marinated baby pork ribs). The white-painted spot features a garden and works from Queens artists.

14. Mariscos German, San Diego

Restaurants Mexican Palm City

One type of Mexican food that shouldn’t be overlooked is the Ensenada-style fish taco, a hotly contested category in close-to-the-border San Diego. The debate about who does it best will never stop raging, but for many seafood lovers the answer lies at Chula Vista taco truck-turned-hole-in-the-wall Mariscos German (658 Hollister St, San Diego), where the fish is breaded to an ideal golden brown crunchiness, then topped with chopped cabbage and creamy sauce. The menu features a other kinds of seafood, like shrimp and marlin, available as tacos, burritos, cocktails or tostadas. One impressive favorite is the tostada loca, a mix of marinated seafood accompanied by crispy tortillas.


15. Frutiland La Casa del Sabor, Arroyo Grande, CA

This casual roadside spot near San Luis Obispo specializes in tortas, supersized Mexican submarine sandwiches that frequently inspire lines at lunchtime. Two hungry people may be hard-pressed to finish the Cubana, a pile-up that includes breaded chicken and beef, pork cooked four different ways, two kinds of cheese, and more. Less gut-busting, but equally popular, are Frutiland’s fish tacos, served on blue corn tortillas with shredded cabbage and the welcome addition of fruit salsa. An extensive menu of aguas frescas (fruit juices mixed with sugar and water) puts the “fruit” in Frutiland.

El Sarape
Photograph: Courtesy El Sarape

16. El Sarape, Boston

Restaurants Mexican

This beloved restaurant in the Braintree neighborhood is generally regarded as the best Mexican food in Boston. Hearty dishes, including enchiladas in salsa verde and a house specialty of chicken or beef stewed with potatoes in a smoky chile ancho salsa, are some of the favorites on the from-scratch menu. There’s sangria to wash it down, and desserts like plantains topped with cajeta (a goat’s-milk caramel) are worth saving room for. A friendly staff and festive, inviting atmosphere, with traditional wooden chairs and colorful South of the Border tchotchkes have kept Bostonites coming back for nearly 30 years.


17. Las Cuatro Milpas, San Diego

Restaurants Mexican Logan Heights

This third-generation Mexican breakfast and lunch joint is a Barrio Logan classic famous for the kind of food your abuela might make, like carnitas, house-made tortillas, fried rolled tacos (a.k.a. flautas) and incredible salsa. At lunchtime, fanatical devotees line up to order at the counter and grab packages of tortillas to go. Seating is no-frills, prices are low and the place is cash only. Official closing time is 3pm, but get there earlier since favorite dishes sometimes run out before then.

L&J Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy L&J Cafe

18. L&J Cafe, El Paso, TX

For classic, stick-to-your-ribs Tex-Mex in a hole-in-the-wall setting that hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1927, El Pasoans know to head to L&J. The menu is borderlands comfort food: hearty soups (including everyone’s favorite hangover cure, menudo, or tripe soup, on weekends), burritos, fajitas and more—as well as Mexican breakfast. A saloon-style bar covered in historic photographs takes up most of the space, with a smaller dining room holding a dozen or so tables.

El Charro
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Daniel Lobo

19. El Charro Cafe, Tucson

El Charro opened in 1922 and now has three locations around Tucson, all open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Beloved dishes include steak tampiqueña, served with an arsenal of accouterments; anything with carne seca, a flavorful semi-dried meat; plus burros, chimichangas and other dishes from Sonora state in Northern Mexico and the Arizona-Mex cannon. Portions are hulking, margaritas are strong and the surroundings always unpretentious and homey.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Daniel Lobo

20. La Super-Rica Taqueria, Santa Barbara

Despite all the French cooking, Julia Child was at heart a down-home kind of girl—so her taco preferences seem like something to be trusted. The legendary cook’s favorites came from this cheery little turquoise-and-white shack on Milpas Street, and she’s not its only well-known fan: word of the place’s most famous regulars (Katy Perry can be spotted here) is partly what inspires lines around the block at lunch and dinnertime. That and the cooking: Corn tortillas are freshly griddled in-house and roasted green chilies top many of the best dishes. The menu is sprawling, but highlights include the Super-Rica especial taco, made with marinated pork, roasted pasilla chilies and melted cheese, and the tamales, whose fillings change regularly.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Wally Gobetz

See the best Mexican restaurants by city


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