Are you craving a delicious taco? Want to try authentic Mexican dishes? Or is this your first time exploring the world of Mexican cuisine? (Jeez, I hope not!)
Whatever your situation, you've landed in the right place. As a foodie who loves Mexican cuisine, I'm sharing some insight on where to find Mexican restaurants across the USA. We'll do our best to update this list as time passes and new restaurants enter the scene, and of course, we'd LOVE to hear your comments below on new places I should explore.
Mexican restaurants have become a significant part of American culture and are the second most popular type of restaurant in the United States. There is a diverse range of regional Mexican cuisines, from taquerias and food trucks to fine dining tasting menus. So how do you decide what to try and where to go for the best Mexican food experience?
We've put together this comprehensive guide to help you. You can now choose the best cities to visit for Mexican food, pick the top restaurants to experience, and learn about typical or authentic dishes you need to try.
Get ready to have your taste buds tingling as you read on!
Typical Mexican Dishes You Must Try
Before we dive into cities and restaurants to visit for Mexican food, let's explore the typical dishes associated with this amazing cuisine. A wonderful thing about Mexican food is the variety its menu can offer. It's easy to choose your fillings or ask for a vegetarian style. Most dishes will also come with the option of a side of beans, rice, tortilla chips, or various types of salsa.
Some typical Mexican dishes you must try in America include:
- Enchiladas: These are corn tortillas filled with ingredients and smothered with sauce and cheese.
- Quesadillas: This dish consists of a tortilla cooked on a grill or stove and folded in half with fillings. While they are commonly cheese-only, you can also include meats, spices, and other ingredients.
- Tacos: Eaten by hand, tacos are small corn or wheat tortillas topped with any filling of your choice, including beef, pork, seafood, chicken, vegetables, and cheese.
- Burritos: Although mainly a Tex-Mex dish, burritos are very popular. It's usually made with a flour tortilla filled with ingredients and can be hand-held.
- Chimichangas: Basically a deep-fried burrito, this is an appetizer consisting of a tortilla filled with a bean or meat mixture and crispy outside.
- Guacamole: This is a very popular appetizer eaten with tortilla chips or used as a side to top other dishes. It's typically made from mashed-up avocadoes, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and chili peppers.
Enchiladas typically come with a red sauce, green sauce, or “Divorciadas” which is one of each.
What are the Most Common Authentic Mexican Dishes to Order
While there are delicious American-fusion or Tex-Mex dishes available, sometimes we need to go back to the roots of authenticity. Easily take your Mexican dining experience to the next level by getting adventurous and going beyond the typical dishes listed above. So what are the most common authentic Mexican dishes to order? Here are our top six picks:
- Chiles en Nogada: The main components of this dish represent the three colors of the Mexican flag. It includes a stuffed poblano chili, walnut-based cream sauce, and pomegranate seeds.
- Mole: Pronounced “mol-eh,” this is a rich sauce, including chili peppers, you stir over a long time and typically served over meat.
- Tamales: These are pockets of corn dough stuffed with a sweet or savory filling, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed.
- Menudo: The main ingredient in this popular soup is beef tripe, which is the meat from a cow's stomach. It's combined with onion, garlic, oregano, rosemary, salt, guajillo sauce, beef stock, hominy, and potatoes.
- Chile Rellenos: A poblano pepper stuffed with cheese or meats is coated with egg batter and corn masa flour before frying for this dish.
- Pozole: This meat or vegetarian soup includes hominy corn, herbs, and spices stewed for hours and served with radish, onion, lettuce, lime, and chili on top.
Mole is a very popular dish in Mexico.
Which Cities Have the Best Mexican Food?
Mexican food can be found in almost every state in the United States. The most popular cities to get the best dishes are usually metropolitans and in states close to the Mexican border. Explore our list of six cities featuring multiple delicious Mexican restaurants in America.
If you like tacos and street-food vibes, Austin is a gem for authentic taco trucks around every street corner. If sit-down restaurants are more your vibe, there's also no shortage of those. Enjoy the hacienda-style building, beautiful artwork, and cochinita pibil at Fonda San Miguel. Try the mole negro and prized chilhuacle chile at El Naranjo. If tequilas and creative tacos are what you're craving, La Condesa has you covered.
With the fifth-largest Latino population in America, Chicago offers a diverse choice of delicious Mexican cuisine. You can eat at mom-and-pop spots or dine at restaurants established by world-class chefs. Rick Bayless has revolutionized Mexican food at his restaurants Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. For high-quality tacos and Taco Tuesday specials, check out Paul Kahan's popular Big Star restaurant. You can also experience authentic Michoacan-style cuisine at Carnitas Uruapan. Try their famous pork carnitas!
New York, NY
Although you used to find authentic Mexican cuisine only near the border of Mexico, times have changed. New York City now boasts quality taquerias and fine-dining restaurants. For a modern Mexican experience, visit The Black Ant for their guacamole with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds or the rabbit entomatado with Oaxaca cheese, corn tortilla, chilhuacle salsa, and queso fresco. If you're craving tacos, Tehuitzingo and Los Tacos No. 1 are two options that will satisfy you.
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles has an impressive array of Mexican restaurants, thanks to its nearly 50 percent Hispanic and Latino population. Almost every regional cuisine in Mexico is represented and supplied by farms growing Mexican-specific produce. Get tamales and pupusas at farmer's markets or have late-night tacos from taco trucks. Explore standout creations such as green chorizo and squid filled with colorful brown rice at Broken Spanish. For authentic Oaxacan cuisines, visit Guelaguetza and try their enchiladas and moles.
San Francisco, CA
You can consider San Francisco the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, which is an ultimate Cal-Mex dish. It is also home to a variety of authentic and famous Mexican restaurants. For quality tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that have been served for over 40 years, stroll to La Taqueria on Mission Street. For a rotating menu using local organic ingredients, Nopalito offers a variety of regional Mexican dishes. Chef Gabriela Cámara's Cala is another famous restaurant that transforms itself from a taqueria during the day to a Mexican seafood restaurant at night.
Santa Fe, NM
New Mexico is known for authentic Mexican dishes combined with New Mexican spices, flavors, and cooking styles. The best restaurants for this unique New Mexican style cuisine can be found in Santa Fe. Grab a breakfast burrito in the morning and a green chile burger in the evening. For a historical experience in an adobe hacienda open since 1953, visit The Shed Restaurant for enchiladas or pozole.
Famous Mexican Restaurants
While there are many amazing Mexican restaurants across the United States, we've narrowed down the list to highlight a few worth noting. Here are ten famous Mexican restaurants from ten different states. This list will only get larger and we highly encourage you to send in your suggestions!
Chef Enrique Olvera revolutionized fine dining in Mexico City and opened Cosme as his first restaurant in America. They combine authentic Mexican flavors with local and seasonal ingredients from the Hudson Valley and surrounding regions. You can order traditional plates such as quesadillas and tostadas or creative dishes such as duck carnitas.
A visit to the multiple James Beard-nominated Barrio Café features striking graffiti murals and patio dining. The must-try cochinita pibil is wrapped in a banana leaf with achiote and sour orange before slow-roasted overnight. You can also order their “world-famous” guacamole, Nana's chile verde, or menudo rojo.
El Chingon has unique and traditional dishes ranging from small plates to family-style entrées. Try their chile rellenos, grilled ribeye, vegetarian tortas, or one of their seven styles of tacos. They also have various cocktails to choose from, such as the mezcal aplastado that includes a house-made cranberry jam, lemon juice, and mint.
This gourmet meets comforting street food Mexican experience is owned by Chef Otoniel. Enjoy family recipes with a creative twist in a restaurant featuring Day of the Dead motif artwork from local artists. From a kiwi Caipirinha drink and homemade pozole soup to a chocolate chip tamale for dessert, the menu has various options to enjoy.
La Casita Mexicana
Chef Bobby Flay called the owners of La Casita Mexicana, Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin Del Campo, “the Kings of Authentic Mexican Cuisine.” Their extensive menu includes meat dishes, shrimp, fish, mole, enchiladas, and cheese fondue appetizers. And of course, you have to try the iconic Mexican dish Chile en Nogada here since it's best when done right.
Proud to be the local's choice for chile, La Choza has been serving traditional Southwest food since 1983. They have homey enchiladas, chile rellenos, carne adovadas, huevos rancheros, and chalupas. Most of the things on the menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. You must also add their award-winning red or green chile to each dish; it's gluten-free and spicy.
While you can get quesadillas and burritos here, Mezcaleria Oaxaca is well known for its different tacos. Get a taco with fried cod, grilled bavette steak, or portabella mushroom. They also serve a range of cocktails, including their award-winning micheladas made from a secret spicy salsa, lime, a tamarindo straw, and a Cerveza Mexicana.
South Philly Barbacoa
Starting from a pop-up, this neighborhood restaurant serves authentic Mexican food on traditional earthenware pottery. You can order pastries, tacos, tamales, quesadillas, and consommé. Chef Cristina Martínez believes food can strengthen the community and she grew up cooking in her native Mexico region.
Taqueria del Sol
Chef Eddie Hernandez has combined Southern-American with Mexican food to create hybrid dishes that have attracted lines from the first day they opened in 2000. You can enjoy fried chicken and sloppy Joe tacos or a burrito filled with bean and pork chili. They also have other locations in Georgia and Tennessee.
Opened by the James Beard Awarded chef, Hugo Ortega, Xochi serves authentic dishes inspired by the state of Oaxaca. Enjoy their range of breakfast dishes, including enmoladas, huevos rancheros, and barbacoa de res de zaachila. Or wind down with one of their house-made chocolate Mexican desserts. Xochi also has vegetarian dishes and a mole-tasting dish with four of their classic moles.
Top Mexican Restaurant Chains
Mexican restaurant chains also have a strong presence in American culture. There are popular brands among customers that range from quick- to full-service sectors. We've put together a list of the top six Mexican restaurant chains we recommend you try.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Founded in 1993, Chipotle popularized the build-your-own trend in Mexican cuisine. You can pick and choose what ingredients you want in your burrito, taco, bowl, or salad. Currently, they have over 2,400 stores in 47 states and Washington D.C. Their popularity has even expanded internationally.
Chipotle is a very popular option with many locations in the USA and Internationally.
Chuy's became popular in Texas off their hand-made tortillas and ten homemade salsas. They now have around 100 stores in 19 states. Every Chuy's restaurant is unique and features quirky decor, such as Elvis shrines.
El Pollo Loco
Although fire-grilled chicken is their specialty, El Pollo Loco has classified themselves as “L.A Mex” since 1980. You can expect high-quality, fast-casual, quality food. They have over 480 stores in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Louisiana.
Moe's Southwest Grill
This restaurant chain has a Southwest twist and has been crowned first place in a Harris Poll of top Mexican restaurants. They have a wide-ranging menu and have over 720 stores in 39 states and Washington State.
Qdoba Mexican Eats
Qdoba has over 740 stores in almost every state and Washington, D.C. You can build your own burritos, taco salads, quesadillas, burrito bowls, nachos, and tortilla soup. They also feature the impossible brand plant-based protein.
Austin, TX is on our list of best cities for Mexican food, and Tacodeli first opened its doors there in 1999. While only available in Texas, we felt it still deserved mention on this list. You can choose over 40 different taco options featuring top-quality ingredients.
No list would be complete without Taco Bell. Of course, this is the most “fast food” out of all of these options and rightfully so, the most unhealthy. However, there is no denying the reach and market share that Taco Bell has. Hate it, or love it, Taco Bell has to be on any list of Mexican chain restaurants.
Hate it or love it, Taco Bell is on the list!
Whether you're a taco connoisseur or curious about trying Mexican food, it is a cuisine that has boundless possibilities. It is worth exploring at least once in your life, and there are always authentic dishes to take your experience even further. With this guide, you now know what dishes to order, what restaurants to visit, the top Mexican restaurant chains to try, and which cities have the best Mexican food.
Unfortunately I'm in South Florida, and we don't have a lot of great places. As I review them, I'll post them. The one that's online right now is El Camino in Fort Lauderdale. I highly recommend it.
Now, the floor is yours. I'd like to hear from you and hear which Mexican Restaurants are your favorites as well as which dishes are your favorite authentic Mexican meals! Comment below!