America has no shortage of great Mexican restaurants. Running the gamut from super-upscale to inexpensive and no-frills, depending on where you are you can find Mexican food that’s every bit as good as what you’ll find in Mexico — or at least pretty close. But just like with pizza and other popular foods, some cities are much better destinations for real-deal Mexican foods than others, and we’ve ranked the top 10.
It wasn’t so long ago when “Mexican” food was best represented stateside by a heaping platter of rice and refried beans along with gloopy enchiladas covered in melted Cheddar cheese, with maybe a couple hard-shell tacos and some shredded lettuce on the side. But we’ve come a long way since then: Today most people realize that the standard menu of burritos, chimichangas, hard-shell tacos, and the like are in fact more Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex than authentic Mexican, and that once you head south of the border there’s a whole world of flavorful (and substantially less cheese-covered) possibilities to explore.
Thankfully, the cuisine of just about every region of Mexico is now well-represented in the American culinary landscape. Taco trucks are rolling into towns and introducing the locals to real tacos (the ones made with two small corn tortillas and topped with onions and cilantro) for the first time. Oaxaca-inspired dishes like chicken in rich mole sauce and quesadillas filled with huitlacoche, once hard to find in the U.S., are increasingly considered mainstream. And while authenticity is prized, some of the country’s most highly regarded chefs, like former pastry chef Alex Stupak and Oklahoma-born Rick Bayless, have also turned their attention and creativity to Mexican, which has become somewhat of a cuisine célèbre.
In order to assemble our ranking of the best cities for Mexican food, we started by sorting through our annual ranking of America’s 50 Best Mexican Restaurants, which itself was compiled from surveys we sent out to some of America’s leading culinary authorities, writers, and critics, used to assemble our rankings of America’s 101 Best Casual Restaurants and the 101 Best Restaurants in America. We supplemented those with best-of lists both in print and online, and rounded it out with our personal favorites from around the country. When all was said and done, one thing became clear: The Mexican dining scene in America is better than it’s ever been, and it’s only continuing to improve.