Baltimore might be famed for its crab cakes and waterfront, but its Mexican cuisine scene is a bustling fiesta of flavors worth celebrating. In the city’s diverse neighborhoods, the greatest Mexican restaurants serve up a tapestry of tastes as colorful and vibrant as a Mexican serape. Here, you can savor the authentic flavors of street-style tacos, the complexity of mole sauces, and the freshness of ceviche that sings with zest and spice. These culinary havens, infused with the warmth of Mexican hospitality, offer everything from cozy, family-run kitchens to upscale dining rooms. Each restaurant is a portal to Mexico’s rich cultural heritage, with menus crafted to transport your senses across the border. Get ready to unfold the culinary map of Baltimore’s Mexican cuisine, where every meal is a fiesta waiting to be had.
Blue Agave Mexican Food is a fun and casual tequila bar and Mexican food restaurant in a hip industrial-chic space in Sharp-Leadenhall. Committed to authenticity, Blue Agave chefs make all the salsas, moles, and cocktail mixers from scratch every morning. I loved the interior design, with its exposed brick walls, traditional Mexican-tiled tables, and old-school colorful paper flag banners. It combined urbanity with traditional Mexican décor artfully. The tequila bar was impressive, offering over 130 tequila varieties. I had a flight of tequila to try a range of flavors. I loved their take on calamari, using maseca, a traditional corn masa flour to encrust fresh calamari, served with chipotle mayo and house-made mango salsa.
With locations in Fell’s Point, Hampden, Towson, and Ocean City, Papi’s Tacos is a popular spot for margaritas and Mexican Street food in a festive and urban atmosphere. It’s easily one of my favorite places to eat in the whole city. They have multiple menus, including unbeatable daily specials, happy hours, vegan, street food, brunch, and dinner menus. They welcome all dietary preferences, ages, and budgets. Their street food taco menu was a fun step-by-step format where you can choose a style of taco. Whether it’s Mexican, “gringo”, or vegan. Then you specify the type of tortilla you’d like, followed by the fillings, garnishes, and salsas. I had an authentic Mexican taco on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onion, and radish garnish over roasted-pineapple marinated pork al pastor.
Featured in The Baltimore Sun and The Baltimore Diner, La Calle Restaurant is a high-end Mexican restaurant in an upscale space in downtown Baltimore. Owners and Mexican natives, the Sandoval brothers honor ancient Mexican culinary traditions while elevating the dining experience through stunning plating, luxurious service, and sophisticated beverages. Their unique salsas were my favorite aspect of my delicious meal at La Calle, with varieties like truffle huitlacoche aioli and poblano pepper crema. They made anything taste amazing. My favorite dish was the authentic Cochinita Pibil, a specialty from the Yucatan Peninsula, featuring slow-roasted pork in an Achiote citrus marinade.
At first glance, I thought “canton” referred to the Mexican term for a house, but in the case of Nacho Mama’s, Canton refers to the oceanfront neighborhood in which it’s located. Nacho Mama’s is a kitschy, family-friendly, and party-friendly Mexican cantina. They serve a hefty margarita menu by the pitcher, along with a massive menu of Mexican favorites catered to American palates. You’ll find salads, sandwiches, and other American comfort foods alongside typical Mexican combo plates. I decided to try the dish they named themselves after and ordered a plate of steak nachos with onion, cilantro, salsa Verde, chimichurri, and melted gouda.
Named for its founder, chef, and president, Rodrigo Albarran, R&R Taqueria is a fast-casual, family-owned and run taqueria in a cheery and energetic dining space in Downtown’s Inner Harbor. The high-ceilinged dining room has mismatched leather booths, colorful paper flags, and an open kitchen where chef Rodrigo and his team sizzle meats and veggies for their scratch-made dishes. Their decadent dishes and the family-oriented story won the taqueria a feature in Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Chef Rod makes incredible burgers in addition to Mexican specialties like tacos and fajitas. My favorite specialty taco was the chicharron en salsa verde tacos, crispy pork with green sauce.
Another fast-casual counter café and grill, Tacos Tolteca, is a California-style Mexican restaurant in Baltimore’s eastern suburb of Eastern Heights. The service is friendly and fast, and the food is plentiful and cheap. It’s everything you’d want for a fast lunch or a budget-friendly family dinner in a cute and intimate dining space. The menu has healthy options like burrito bowls and salads, but there are also decadent dishes like chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, and loaded fries. California is famous for its burritos, so I went with the Gordo, a giant burrito stuffed with grilled chicken, chorizo, refried beans, rice, and pico de gallo, smothered in creamy queso.
A Mexican food restaurant is only as good as its tortillas, so Tortilleria Sinaloa is guaranteed to be a favorite for Mexicans and Mexican food lovers. Tortillerias are tortilla factories, and they’re an integral part of Mexican culture. You’ll find them on every Mexican street corner. Luckily, you’ll also find one in Baltimore’s Upper Fells Point neighborhood with the bonus of a full kitchen and a family-friendly, bilingual dining experience. You can dine on authentic Mexican dishes, accompanied by the freshest tortillas off the press, then take home an extra kilo on your way out. They also have the best pozole in town, in my opinion.
Banditos Tacos & Tequila is a stylish and colorful tequila bar and contemporary Mexican eatery in Federal Hill. They’re a popular place for adult get-togethers in a high-energy atmosphere with urban chic décor, creative cocktails, and modern takes on Mexican food. They make all their food from scratch and have a robust selection of mezcal and tequila. If ever there was a place to get a top-shelf margarita or fancy Mezcal cocktail, Banditos Tacos is the place. They also have one of my all-time favorite Tex Mex specialties, creamy queso dip and chips. They infuse their queso with chorizo and roasted red peppers. As for their tacos, you can choose between traditional and creative specialties. I recommend the Nashville hot-fried chicken tacos with diced pickles and ranch.
Certainly, the most picturesque spot to grab Mexican food, Barcocina is an upscale yet lively bar and contemporary Mexican kitchen in a massive warehouse space with panoramic views of Baltimore’s downtown harbor. The chic industrial design of the interior uses repurposed wood, aluminum, and glass. The expert cocktails, utterly cool atmosphere, and wonderful menu has received praise from Eater, The Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Magazine, to name a few. I went to Barcocina for their amazing brunch. I had the Brunch Enchiladas, with spicy chicken and cheddar filling and a fried egg with grilled lettuce, chipotle hollandaise sauce, pico, cotija cheese, and chopped cilantro.
If you’re from the states, you’ve surely heard of, if not frequented, a Chipotle. Founded in 1993, Chipotle revolutionized fast-casual dining. They offer a fully customizable menu of California-style Mexican food, specializing in mission burritos, native specialties of their founding state. There are 13 locations of Chipotles around Baltimore, all offering consistently fresh meals. Whether you want a bowl, salad, or burrito, Chipotle lets you dictate how it’s prepared. You see all the fresh ingredients laid out for you from behind a glass counter, and you direct your server as to which ingredients you’d like to elaborate your Mexican-inspired meal. I’m a fan of the healthier burrito bowls without the tortilla.
I’ve saved the best for last with Clavel, an award-winning, nationally recognized mezcal tasting bar and artisanal Mexican eatery in Remington. With praise from Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, Thrillist, and Baltimore Magazine, Clavel is a Mexican-owned and operated mezcaleria and taqueria in the most charming, understated atmosphere. The owners, Carlos Raba and Lane Harlan, are both James Beard Award finalists. Despite their hype in the press, they are the first-come-first-serve restaurant with a welcoming yet hipster vibe. All the tortillas are hand-pressed, and all the meat and seafood are delivered fresh daily and butchered onsite. My favorite dish was their perfectly stewed barbacoa tacos.
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