If you can go a day without seeing a taco meme, you probably aren’t on the internet at all. It seems that tacos are replacing pizza as America’s favorite food, and I’m not complaining about it! What’s not to love about a taco filled with avocado and pico…. Or steaming fajitas…. Or a fresh, authentic sopa? Ok, now I’m drooling. Anyone else suddenly hungry for Mexican food?
If you’ve got a hankering for good Mexican, head to one of America’s top Mexican food cities! Most of these are located in the Southwest, of course, but there are a handful of cities on our list that happen to be in the Midwest or the East Coast. Do you live near any of these cities? Make tonight taco night!
1 San Francisco
While the Bay Area may be better known for its Chinatown cuisine and fresh seafood, its Mexican food offerings are superb. San Francisco has a large and growing Hispanic population and a culture of great restaurants, so it’s no wonder the city offers the best Mexican in the States! While Texans might disagree, many Californians claim that San Francisco is the Mexican food capitol of the United States. The restaurant options are endless! Try Californios for something exotic, or head to Arguello for classic eats.
2 San Antonio
It’s easy to find Mexican in San Antonio. Whether you’re traveling the tourist circuit on the famous River Walk or wandering through the local hangouts, you’ll be sure to come upon savory and spicy Mexican delights. If you want to try an independent San Antonio classic, you can’t beat Mendez Café and its breakfast tacos. For a taste of Mexico that has made it as far as the White House, make reservations at Los Barrios.
Austin boasts some of the best Tex Mex in the world, but its authentic Mexican really takes the cake. You might have a hunt for a bit to find the real deal, but it’s totally worth it. Most of the Mexican food scene in Texas is dominated by northern dishes, but you can find some delicious mid- and south-region dishes at Licha’s Cantina. Even seasoned Texans might have a hard time pronouncing the names of these dishes, but they are delicious! A similar restaurant is Sazon. Be sure to order a margarita with your meal if you stop here.
Despite its Midwest location, Chicago has a claim to fame when it comes to Mexican food—or any food, for that matter. The Hispanic population has turned the Windy City into the taco capital of the Midwest! Try a plate at La Chaparrita or Carnitas Uruapan.
There are many different taquerias and mom and pop Mexican restaurants in Chicago, but it is the famous chefs, Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan, that have transformed this city into a Mexican food lover’s dream. Bayless continues to change how everyone thinks about Mexican food with his innovative ways of preparing it all, while Kahan is serving delicious tacos.
Raleigh? Really? Yes, even this East Coast city has a soft spot for Mexican food! There is a surprisingly large Hispanic community here, and they’ve turned the city into a Mexican food paradise. The tremendous growth in the population of Mexican immigrants over the last couple of decades means there is more delicious Mexican food than ever before. Two of the most highly recommended restaurants are Gonza Tacos y Tequila and Salt & Taqueria El Toro. El Toro is a fantastic taqueria in Raleigh, but there are even more Mexican restaurants in neighboring Durham.
Hang out in Phoenix long enough, and you’ll realize that Mexican culture has permeated the general vibe of the city. No matter where you go, from upscale suburban malls to inner-city streets, you’ll find Mexican food galore. If you want a unique experience, head downtown for Taco Guild. If you’re craving classic family-style dishes, Carolina’s in Central Phoenix can’t be beat. Be sure to order a dozen of their massive homemade tortillas!
New York City doesn’t exactly have a reputation for amazing Mexican food, but it actually does have more than its fair share of phenomenal Mexican restaurants. While Mexican food was never at the top of the list of cuisines associated with the Big Apple, that is slowly changing since the city has the second largest number of Latinos in America. Don’t let the pizza culture fool you! You can get good carnitas in any borough.
Spending a lot? Head to Cosme for a meal that costs a small fortune… and is still worth it. Budgeting? Amarento is a great place for endless authentic options.
8 San Diego
You can’t get much closer to Baja than San Diego, so it only makes sense that you can find awesome Mexican here. The best part about San Diego’s Mexican food scene is that it is dominated by those mom-and-pop places that are just so unbelievably delectable. Many of the higher end Mexican restaurants bypass San Diego for LA, but that means you can still find the real deal at an affordable price. Puesto makes great street food, and Las Cuatro Milpas is arguably the all-around best Mexican stop— if you don’t mind waiting in the long lunch line.
Houston has more Tex-Mex restaurants than any other type, but you can find authentic Mexican restaurants, too. And they all serve delicious cuisine that people keep going back for. Many of the restaurants are small, but what they lack in size, they make up for in flavor and atmosphere.
One local favorite for real Mexican is Teotihuacan Mexican Café, where you can get huge variety platters. Want Tex-Mex? Ninfa’s on Navigation can’t be beat.
10 Los Angeles
Like everything else, L.A. does Mexican food with diversity, style, and excellence. There are many varieties of Mexican cuisine in Mexico, and all those types have seemed to have crept up into the LA area. From Mexico City-style El Hearache Azteca to stylish Mercado to the Mariscos Jalisco taco truck, you’ll be sure to find something you love. While there is an abundance of Mexican restaurants, people can even find delicious Mexican food in any of the supermarkets that have ready-to-eat meals for people to purchase. Come for the sights, stay for the food!
11 El Paso
El Paso is basically part of Mexico, at least culturally. Naturally, you can expect to find plenty of awesome Mexican restaurants in the city—but you might have to learn how to order in Spanish! You can walk into any Mexican restaurant in El Paso and eat an authentic meal that is flavorful and delicious. The style of Mexican food in the area is comprised more of the New Mexican food from the north, but there are a few more traditional options available. There are not too many upscale Mexican restaurants in El Paso, but there are numerous high-quality mom and pop owned ones. There are so many restaurants to try: La Posta, Carnitas Queretaro, Café Mayapan… the list goes on and on!
If you like spicy Mexican food, Albuquerque is the place for you! This city is all about flaming-hot dishes. One great option is Pueblo Harvest Café and Bakery, which is located at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and serves a delicious blend of Mexican and Native food. For a local staple, try the 85-year-old El Modelo restaurant.
13 Santa Fe
New Mexico has not one, but two cities characterized by authentic Mexican food. It’s hard to decide which restaurant to visit! Some local favorites include Café Pasqual’s, Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, and Pantry Café. Rumor has it, Maria’s is one of Robert Redford’s faves when he’s in town!
I don’t know about you, but I am craving some chips and salsa right now! If you love Mexican, why not plan your next trip to one of these cities? You’ll be sure to have a wonderful time touring the Mexican food scene!