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.
Between the years of 2000 and 2014, the Latino population in Raleigh boomed from seven percent of the city’s population to 12 percent (as the city’s overall population doubled), and neighboring Durham’s Latino population boomed to 14 percent. Such a large influx of Mexican immigrants has given the cities’ economies a much-needed boost, and also paved the way for lots of delicious Mexican food. El Toro (pictured) is a standout taqueria in Raleigh, and Guanajuato and Super Taqueria are must-visits in Durham.
Yelp/ Cat M.
Spend any time driving around the Phoenix metropolitan area and you’re bound to encounter countless inexpensive Mexican dives and bakeries selling spectacular food. It’s also home to the legendary Barrio Café (pictured), serving delicious authentic Mexican fare and more than 250 tequilas since 2002.
New York was once infamous for its lack of quality authentic Mexican fare, but times have certainly changed. Enrique Olvera’s Cosme (pictured)has been a game-changer, Toloache and The Black Ant are raising regional Mexican fare to new heights, and Tehuitzingo and Los Tacos No. 1 are as good as any taqueria you’ll find anywhere. With the second-largest Latino population in America, the quality of New York’s Mexican food should come as no surprise.
Yelp/ Corita C.
Mexican food in San Diego is consistently great, and some towns in San Diego country have more Mexican spots than burger joints, so many that they can specialize in doing one thing really, really well. Old Town is also home to countless Mexican restaurants, and they’re somehow all really good (the proximity to Mexico may have something to do with it!). If you need proof, just visit Las Cuatro Milpas (pictured), serving spectacular homemade tortillas, tamales, and rolled tacos since 1933.
Houston is chock-full of taco trucks and spectacular restaurants specializing in regional Mexican fare, from fresh fish prepared in the style of coastal Mexico to panaderias, tiny taco stands, and carnecerias (for what it’s worth, it’s also the birthplace of the modern-day fajita). Houston has America’s third-largest Latino population, and it’s also home to Mexican powerhouse chef Hugo Ortega, a James beard Award finalist whose cooking at his eponymous restaurant (pictured) is nothing short of mind-blowing.
San Francisco may be the birthplace of the ultimate Cal-Mex food, Mission-style burritos, but it’s also home to a wide variety of stunningly delicious authentic Mexican restaurants. Standouts include Nopalito (which also happens to be sustainable, local, and organic, pictured); the seafood-focused Cala; and, of course, the legendary La Taqueria.
San Antonio may have a reputation for being touristy, but drive away from the Riverwalk and the Alamo and into the city’s sprawl and you’ll find an insanely wide variety of authentic Mexican restaurants (not to mention real-deal Tex-Mex, but that’s for another day). If you know where to look, you’ll find mom-and-pop Mexican spots serving life-changing barbacoa, tamales, and gorditas, and there’s no shortage of more upscale sit-down spots serving wonderful Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. Don’t miss Jacala (where you can order tamales to go by the dozen) and the must-visit Mi Tierra (pictured).
You can’t throw a rock in Austin without hitting a taco truck, and the vast majority of them are authentic and very, very good. But there’s no shortage of excellent sit-down Mexican restaurants here too; try the chicken mole or cochinita pibil at the legendary Fonda San Miguel (pictured), knock back pricey tequilas and creative tacos at La Condesa, and try the various Baja-style tacos at Changos.
Chicago is home to the fifth-largest Latino population in America, and the Mexican cuisine here is ample and diverse. Along with the endless variety of high-quality taquerias and mom-and-pop Mexican spots, world-class chefs including Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan have laid down their roots here, and Bayless in particular changed the way we think about Mexican food with his groundbreaking Frontera Grill (pictured) and Topolobampo (Kahan is serving some of the best tacos you’ll find anywhere at his popular Big Star). Visit restaurants including Cemitas Puebla, Birrieria Zaragoza, and Carnitas Uruapan and any doubts you might have had about Chicago’s Mexican cred will go out the window.
Yelp/ Steve N.
The city of Los Angeles is nearly 50 percent Hispanic and Latino, and they’ve contributed an astounding array of Mexican restaurants to the city, which has more Mexican eateries than any other. You’ll find every region of Mexico represented in the city’s restaurants, supplied by a network of farms growing Mexican-specific produce, patronized, in many cases, by ex-pats from those specific regions and cities. And for the most part, these restaurants are really, really good: Standouts include El Huarache Azteca, Flor Del Rio, Tacomiendo, El Parian, La Casita Mexicana, Chichen Itza, Loteria Grill (pictured), Guelaguetza, and Guisados.