The best Mexican food and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area – San Francisco Chronicle

Perhaps the most visible legacy of Bay Area food is the Mission-style burrito, that hulking beast of a wrap that feeds many of us for lunch, dinner or a second dinner. Widely credited to El Faro and perfected at El Farolito, the burrito’s ubiquity and status as a beloved regional icon speaks to how deeply Mexican sabor has seasoned the Bay Area. It reaches beyond the Mission District to Oakland’s Fruitvale, Redwood City and the backroads of Wine Country.

Our Mexican food scene isn’t static, though: It has gone through so many phases, bringing us gooey, crackly quesabirria tacos; farm-to-table guacamole; vegan takes on loaded nachos and tamales; and enough taco trucks and brick-and-mortar taquerias that connoisseurs can regularly duke it out over whose late-night antojitos reign supreme. Even if you think you know Mexican food, here’s hoping that this list of the top Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area can add a few new spots to your roster.

If you’re looking for other guides, you can also check out my picks for top Middle Eastern restaurants or top pizza.
Check the boxes to filter by dining features or click on the images to get info on each restaurant.
Aguachiles el Tamarindo
Al Pastor Papi
La Casita Chilanga
Chuy's Fiestas
El Buen Comer
El Farolito
El Garage
El Molino Central
La Tapatia Mexicatessen
La Taqueria
Los Carnalitos La Mejor Comida Chilanga
Luna Mexican Kitchen
Rico Rico Taco
Tacos El Tucán
Tacos Oscar
Vegan Veganos
3053 International Blvd., Oakland
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Seafood tostadas and experimental birria tacos distinguish this Fruitvale truck.
Adorned with a giant cartoon shrimp, the bright Aguachiles el Tamarindo truck (parked in the brick-and-mortar Aguachiles el Tamarindo lot) is hard to miss. Just one branch of the El Grullense group of restaurants from Enrique Galindo and family, it’s one of the few places in the Bay Area where you can enjoy smoked marlin tacos ($4.50) and the eponymous aguachile, a piquant shrimp ceviche marinated with lime juice, salsa negra, cucumber and onion. The lime juice “cooks” the shrimp just right, giving it a delightful texture somewhere between creamy and bouncy. Showstopping seafood towers ($16) are dressed in salsa and chile powder, and stacked with raw cucumber, red onion, avocado and add-ons like mango, which diners tackle with shards of crunchy corn tostadas. The expansive menu is also peppered with relative oddities that actually work really well, like an over-the-top burrito stuffed with Hot Cheetos and rich birria ramen. There’s plenty of picnic-table seating in the enclosed lot, complete with shade umbrellas for those sunny East Bay days.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
Locations vary
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Mexico City native Miguel Escobedo fills burritos with juicy marinated pork grilled on a traditional trompo.
Since 2018, the Al Pastor Papi truck has been churning out brilliant, flavorful burritos and tacos packed with the best al pastor in the Bay Area. Look out for the big pink truck at various spots around the region, from breweries like Harmonic Brewing to the streets of Palo Alto. Escobedo’s crispy and smoky al pastor, marinated with aromatics and chile peppers, bastes itself with rendered pork fat as it slowly rotates on the vertical spit. While a traditionalist when it comes to technique, Escobedo isn’t afraid to innovate. At a vegan festival, he stacked marinated tofu on the spit; in a collaboration with Long Bridge Pizza, he threw shaved al pastor meat and chunks of pineapple on a sourdough pizza. Keep an eye out for the ever-popular Alpastorta ($14.99), a gooey meat-and-avocado-filled behemoth that sells out fast.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
2928 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City
Rib-sticking tortas are the MO of this soccer-theme sandwich shop.
With locations in Redwood City, San Jose and San Mateo, La Casita Chilanga is one of the essential lunch spots of the Peninsula and South Bay. The mini-chain offers more than 20 types of tortas, all of them massive and built with crusty, French-style Mexican telera bread. The tortas’ outsides are crosshatched with grill marks, and the insides are packed with tomato, soft queso fresco, refried beans, caramelized onion, avocado and chipotle sauce. Those components alone would constitute an excellent sandwich, but there’s more — much more. The Cubana ($11.95), a take on the classic Mexico City sandwich, includes crunchy breaded steak, ham, pork leg meat, super-savory chorizo and turkey sausage. My favorite is the Hawaiiana ($9.95), a relatively simple but iconic combination of ham, gooey melted Monterey Jack cheese and caramelized pineapple. Inside seating is sparse, so most opt for takeout or delivery.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
2341 Folsom St., San Francisco
Find bubbling seafood molcajetes and micheladas crowned with shrimp at this Mission District cantina.
The aguachile verde is a highlight of any dinner at Chuy's Fiestas, a seafood-rich Mexican restaurant and taqueria run by chef and owner Jesus Licea. Raw shrimp is bathed in a blended mixture of lemon juice, serrano chiles and cilantro; the citric acid "cooks" the shrimp as the dish sits, lending the meat a supple, slightly snappy texture. It's rare to find a raw shrimp dish in the U.S., or even outside of coastal Mexico, so savor it. The aguachile is best eaten fresh, so try it in the restaurant's enclosed backyard patio. Licea and his team recently introduced whole grilled fish to the menu, prepared as they do on the beaches of Nayarit: zarandeado-style, with a fruity and smoky sauce of guajillo peppers and onion.
Credit cards accepted Beer
3435 Mission St., San Francisco
Phenomenal sopes and a frequently changing menu of Mexico City-style guisados reward repeat visits.
A limited menu of El Buen Comer's homestyle Mexican cuisine is available for preorders, which can be made online or via phone. Mexico City native Isabel Caudillo’s Mission District restaurant is all about guisados, the hearty stews and braises that typify the city's favorite comida casera — homestyle dishes. At El Buen Comer, that means you'll be using the toasty, handmade tortillas to dig into juicy chunks of pork cooked in zesty and herbal green mole, or enjoying a quesadilla stuffed with smoky shredded chicken tinga with chipotle sauce. It's the kind of cooking that makes people feel like they've come home, even when they're thousands of miles from it.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
415-817-1542www.elbuencomersf.comOrder online
2779 Mission St., San Francisco
Big, fat burritos are the cornerstone of this old-school taqueria, open late for emergency snacking.
Few foods are more comforting than Taqueria El Farolito's iconic, baby-size burritos ($7.25-$8.25), filled to near-bursting with grilled meat, cheese, rice, beans and other accoutrements. Its Mission-style burritos have been a favorite of folks with the late-night munchies and tourists alike since Salvador Lopez opened the first shop in 1982. Most get the al pastor or carne asada, which are spiced thoroughly enough to stand up to all the other fillings. Alas, the taqueria's beloved salsa bar is on hiatus for now, but the burritos are juicy enough to not need a generous splash of salsa for every bite.
Cash only Beer
1428 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
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The pop-up that helped launch a quesabirria craze in the Bay Area finally has a brick-and-mortar of its own.
With their crisp grilled tacos stuffed with slow-cooked beef birria and gooey cheese, the Montano family drew taco lovers from all around the Bay Area to the ad hoc taqueria they hosted in their residential driveway in 2019. The tacos quickly became an internet sensation, with photos and videos of sizzling cheese and bright orange tortillas dominating local food media. Their success granted them the means to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, El Garage, in downtown Richmond. Irresistibly crunchy and savory, the tacos are first dipped in a potently seasoned beef consomme, then seared on a flat-top griddle. To maximize your experience and infuse your tacos with peppery beef broth, order the tacos with a side of consomme for dipping. There’s nowhere to sit for now, so take your food home or someplace nice for a picnic.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks online
11 Central Ave., Sonoma
El Molino Central draws from the homes of its cooks, serving dishes from Oaxaca, Guerrero, Jalisco and other regions.
The Boyes Hot Springs restaurant's spacious patio is open for service, though these days you may not experience the same openness to sharing tables with friendly strangers. Still, the 10-year-old Mexican restaurant is operating at full swing. From the beginning, owner Karen Taylor has emphasized the merits of using freshly stone-ground organic masa in her menu, so order the items that make the most of it: plump tamales packed with lard; shrimp tacos with fragrant, handmade tortillas; and thick chips that you'll want to bring home by the bagload. The menu as a whole is a team effort, though, with several dishes — Rufina's pork tamales, Zoraida's mother's red mole chicken — credited to cooks by name. The restaurant's salsas, guacamole, tortilla chips, tamales and other pantry goods are also available for you to take home via a new "carhop" service.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
4610 International Blvd., Oakland
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Tacos with gorgeously textured offal, like beef tripe and tongue, are must-orders at this Fruitvale taqueria.
This Fruitvale taqueria is a frequent haunt of taco purists pursuing the simple flavors of grilled meats topped with diced onion and cilantro — plus grilled spring onion and cactus if you ask. Try the suadero, a chewy and lean beef cut that's slow-cooked, then quickly crisped up on the grill. El Paisa is also unmatched in its loving treatment of beef tripe: The long-cooked meat is melty and tender, with remarkably savory crunchy fried bits providing textural contrast. Offal skeptics who stick to steak are missing out on something truly special. Also notable is this taqueria's excellent salsa selection: The best is its infernal avocado salsa, which will have you wolfing down handfuls of cooled cucumber to quell the flames. There's a nicely laid-out outdoor seating area ready for when in-person dining comes back. Until then, take your tacos home or eat in your car. And, no, El doesn't have a website.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
3031 Adeline St., Berkeley
This Berkeley spot has served vegan tamales, taquitos and other Mexican specialties since 2001.
From its first stint selling tamales from a farmers' market stall in 2001 to its current iteration as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Berkeley, Flacos has been a trailblazer for outstanding vegan Mexican cuisine in the Bay Area. To put together the menu, owner Antonio Magana leaned on his family's expertise, keeping the tried-and-true techniques and leaving out the animal protein. Taquitos ($2.25 each) filled with seasoned textured soy protein unleash a pleasurable, ear-splitting crunch when bitten. A classic tamal poblano ($4.25) is fluffy and soft, with a filling mixture of roasted poblano chile, potato and black bean tucked inside. Keep an eye on the weekly specials, like Taco Tuesday, for some generous deals.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
411 Grand Ave., South San Francisco
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A combination grocery store and taqueria that’s one of South San Francisco’s best-kept secrets.
When Eduardo Haro and Humberto Campos opened La Tapatia in downtown South San Francisco in 1976, the store was a rare source for freshly made tortillas and Mexican specialty groceries. Prepared daily are trays of moist and crispy carnitas, tamales, ribs and fresh masa by the pound. The grocery store is already a must-visit, but an even bigger draw is the taqueria, which opened in 1987. At the taqueria in the back of the store, you’ll find nachos ($8.60), burritos ($8.20), tacos ($3.75) and quesadillas ($8.25), all made with ingredients made in-store. One of its greatest hits is the chile relleno burrito, stuffed with a massive and melty cheese-stuffed poblano pepper. (Pro tip: You can add an extra chile relleno to your burrito for a $3.95 upcharge.) The store is takeout-only. They don’t take credit cards, but there’s an ATM inside.
Cash only Soft drinks
2889 Mission St., San Francisco
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A nationally renowned taqueria known for thick, griddled burritos.
Since 1972, Miguel Jara and his family have been producing high-quality burritos from their Mission District shop, which eschews the popular local style in favor of a denser, rice-free burrito. Order your burrito “dorado-style,” and the cooks will sear the exterior on the grill until the outer layer becomes crisp and golden-brown. While technically optional, a seared exterior — and the contrast it creates between the relatively wet filling and the flaky tortilla — is essential for maximum enjoyment. Meats are aggressively seasoned here, and you can’t go wrong with carne asada or carnitas. But my most frequent order at La Taqueria has to be the dorado-style vegetarian super burrito ($7.55), which includes toothsome whole pinto beans, three cheeses, avocado and sour cream. In-person dining is closed for now, so the restaurant is having customers order at the door and wait outside for their food.
Credit cards accepted Beer
974 Valencia St., San Francisco
This playful neighborhood restaurant brings a taste of Guadalajara to San Francisco.
With a high-ceilinged, maximalist dining room decorated with candy boxes, bicycle parts and doilies, Loló is one of the coolest-looking restaurants in the Mission District. While the dining room is closed for now, its parklet on bustling Valencia Street is similarly decked out with green plastic brooms, rubber boots and gold trophies. Opened by seasoned restaurateurs Lorena Zertuche and Jorge Martínez in 2007, Loló has consistently offered a fresh take on regional Mexican cuisine: a tender and juicy rendition of Guadalajara’s famous birria stuffed into quesadillas ($13); tacos with al pastor-style cauliflower ($11); and fried avocado burritos ($13) dressed with chipotle ranch sauce. Outdoor tables are currently first-come, first-served.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
30200 Industrial Pkwy. SW, Hayward
At this family-run antojeria, an outstanding menu of Mexico City's street food is made from scratch daily.
Some of the finest and most unique Mexican food in the region, featuring fresh masa and specialty ingredients like huitlacoche and squash flowers, can be found at this humble taqueria run by two brothers — carnalitos — Luis and Alfredo Santos. For a heavier option, go for the deep-fried gorditas stuffed with bits of grilled pork belly, salsa, crumbly queso fresco, cilantro, onions and lettuce. The quesadillas, stuffed with melted Oaxacan cheese, tomatillo salsa, queso fresco and generous fillings like braised and shredded chicken tinga, are also a major and rewarding commitment. Lately, the majority of customers takes their huaraches, quesadillas and tortas to go; it's always fun to eat tacos on your car hood outside the restaurant, though the view of the surrounding strip mall isn't spectacular. Los Carnalitos’ truck has also continued to serve Redwood City. Check its Facebook page for updates on where the truck will be.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
1495 The Alameda, San Jose
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Farm-to-table, healthful Mexican restaurant goes heavy on vegetables and scratch-made components.
At Luna (an acronym for Local, Unrefined, Natural, Authentic), chef, owner and San Jose native Jo Lerma-Lopez and her team really do it all. They nixtamalize corn in-house every day before they transform it into masa for fresh tortillas. They make the salsas, chorizo and cashew crema from scratch. This Californian Mexican restaurant is also exceedingly accommodating to all diets, which makes it popular among vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free folks. Although it sounds like mostly health food, the menu does have a wild side: Check out the deluxe mixed grill ($92-$275), a smoky and extravagant tower of lobster tails, ribs, carnitas, sausage and much more, made for sharing and accompanied by numerous side dishes. Luna is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at both of its South Bay locations.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
3205 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland
The rare Bay Area taqueria serving true al pastor meat on a trompo and other composed taco delights.
The taqueria's proximity to Lake Merritt is a boon for open-air burrito feasts, where the charred- pepper aroma of grilled al pastor mingles with the scent of other people's barbecue. The joint project of Marisol and Ricardo Montero, a couple who both grew up in East Oakland's most prominent taco families, Rico Rico's menu features all the classic fillings and snappy carrot pickles cooked up with the finesse of years of expertise. Its handmade corn tortillas, which boast a powerful cornflake flavor, have a just-right texture: firm enough to hold the juiciest guisados, but with a tender bite. Also go for carnitas, which are equal parts chewy and crisp. Now open for takeout and delivery only.
Credit cards accepted Beer and agua fresca. online
901 South Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
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Homestyle Mexican breakfast and weekend birria are the main draws at this family-owned Mission District restaurant.
For three decades, Dolores “Josie” Padilla-Reyes and multiple generations of her family have served up bountiful platters of saucy chilaquiles ($10.95) and huevos rancheros ($9.95) at their vibrant, homey restaurant on South Van Ness Avenue. The restaurant’s name is itself an act of fusion: “San” for San Francisco, and “Jalisco” for the Mexican state where Padilla-Reyes’ parents were born. While breakfast here is a reliable hangover killer, the weekend birria special is also a huge deal. Get it dry, with the savory soup on the side, or as a stew. There are a few outdoor and indoor tables available.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
12505 San Pablo Ave., Richmond
For a taste of Tijuana, check out this bustling Richmond taqueria.
Since owner Alfredo Padilla opened the taqueria in late 2019, Tacos El Tucán has been a hot spot for flame-grilled carne asada and Tijuana-style quesatacos ($3.50). For the latter, handmade corn tortillas are sprinkled with cheese and are grilled cheese-side down until it gets crispy and caramelized. A dollop of guacamole keeps each bite refreshing and cool. The tacos are so laden with toppings that they inevitably become an orgiastic, sloppy mess in your hands. You can even skip the tortilla entirely and opt for Tucán’s intense “keto tacos,” which use a circle of caramelized cheese as the platform for grilled meats. There are a few tables available in an enclosed area in front of the restaurant.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
420 40th St., Oakland
A seasonal and concise menu of experimental tacos is served in this bright and cactus-filled Temescal taqueria.
The Tacos Oscar team is still trying to figure out how to pull off safely spaced outdoor seating, but until then, the taqueria's menu of ever-changing tacos and Mexican antojitos is available for takeout. Don't miss the "quesadillas," which are first cooked tortilla-less on a flat griddle to maximize cheese caramelization, then served in a super-soft corn tortilla with salsa, cilantro and pickled onions. Or get the luscious over-easy egg tacos, a self-saucing treat whose yolk is rich enough to sop up with the tortilla. When he's not cooking tacos in his tiny shipping container kitchen, co-owner Oscar Michel has been screen-printing T-shirts to raise funds for the taqueria's out-of-work staff and for various fundraisers like People's Breakfast Oakland and the Street Level Health Project.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
30 Washington St., Santa Clara
A hit food truck brings colorful vegan tacos to the South Bay.
The brainchild of San Jose couple Dalena Bui and Manuel Villa, Vegan Veganos hops between two locations in Santa Clara and San Jose, selling a flavorful "herbivore" take on SoCal-style Mexican street food. Platters of thin-cut fries are smothered in gooey, spicy nacho "cheese," cashew sour cream and spicy soy protein: a true munchies destroyer. One interesting highlight are the fried shrimp tacos ($5), which use a texturally bang-on shrimp substitute similar to the bouncy, konjac-based mock shrimp often found in Asian vegetarian cooking. Frying enhances the shrimps' tender texture, and a sprinkle of dried seaweed gives them more of that shrimpy, briny taste.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks online
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