The USA’s southern neighbor has arguably some of the best food in the entire world. From tacos to burritos to enchiladas and of course, guacamole, Mexican food has something for everyone.
The large Mexican population and influence in the USA means there is no shortage of delicious Mexican food all around the country. The USA is also home to some of the most famous and beloved Mexican chefs who use home-grown American ingredients.
With thousands of innovative and classic Mexican restaurants around the country, it can be hard to choose where to eat. I’ve worked hard to find and compile a list of the 13 best Mexican restaurants from all over the country.
Each of these restaurants is beloved by locals and also visitors, some of whom travel far and wide to eat at each place. Each restaurant is headed by a chef who puts passion, love, and creativity into their dishes.
This list includes Michelin star spots that boast fine dining experiences and flavors. It also includes family-owned smaller spots that have been making home cooking for decades. Whichever experience you’re after, you’re sure to find your new favorite restaurant on this list.
2814 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85006
Located in one of the Mexican food capitals of the USA, this Phoenix hot spot is a classic.
Barrio Cafe was founded in 2002 by celebrated Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, who brings her passion and skills to this restaurant.
This popular spot always has a line out the door, especially on weekend nights when food is accompanied by live music and dancing.
Chef Esparza puts love into each dish from her mix of Mexican and American heritage.
Every dish at Barrio Cafe is delicious, but some of my favorites include the Cochinita Pibil, Chiles en Nogada, and some of the best guacamole you’ll find anywhere.
445 North Clark Street | Chicago
Phone: (312) 661-1434
Legendary chef Rick Bayless brings his signature twist on classic Mexican food to this Chicago establishment.
Bayless has been specializing in Mexican food for decades and is known for his mix of deep tradition and modern flairs.
Topolobampo has been around since 1989 and boasts not only many James Beard awards– Bayless also has a couple of Michelin stars to his name.
The restaurant is as elegant as it is delicious, with walls lined with tastefully sourced native art from around Mexico.
Bayless changes his tasting menu with the seasons, and each dish features the freshest ingredients. Each menu comes with thoughtful wine pairings.
Among current offerings, find the delicious Chileatole Verde de Pescado (Alaskan halibut) and to-die-for, creamy, and rich Flan al Cacao.
El Charro Cafe
6910 E Sunrise Tucson, AZ 85750
Phone: (520) 514-1922
El Charro Cafe is probably one of Tucson’s most visited restaurants and one of the most famous Mexican restaurants in the country.
It was established in 1922, making it the oldest continuously run Mexican restaurant in the nation. The same family has been cooking and serving delicious food here for a century.
Carro takes inspiration from traditional Northern Mexican cuisine and utilizes all locally sourced ingredients from the Tucson area.
They pride themselves on innovation while maintaining tradition. Some of the best dishes include the Enchiladas Sonorenses and the Grilled Parillada.
They have a massive menu, and every single item is delicious.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
401 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 628-1005
Washington D.C. might not be an obvious location for a Mexican restaurant, but Oyamel Cocina Mexicana draws visitors from the Southwest and the rest of the country.
Beloved Chef José Andrés is both celebrated for his culinary skills and his nonprofit, which provides meals to people facing natural disasters.
Oyamel is one of the pioneering spots for the small plate movement in the United States.
The dishes take inspiration from all regions of Mexico and the restaurant’s decor is inspired by the vibrancy of Mexico City. The menu is always changing with Andrés’s innovation.
If you can, I highly recommend splurging and going for the Chef’s Tasting Menu– sample a little bit of everything guided by chef Chef Omar Rodriguez!
For a more traditional meal, try the Enchilada de pollo con salsa verde, and if you’re looking to try something new, see if the Pulpo negra is in season, which features Spanish octopus.
35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010
Cosme is considered by many the best Mexican restaurant in New York City, a place with some of the best food in the world.
Chef Enrique Olvera is one of the most celebrated chefs globally and his restaurant in Mexico City, Pujol, was ranked the 9th best in the entire world.
At Cosme, Olvera brings his signature flair and innovation to the Big Apple utilizing the freshest ingredients from the Hudson Valley.
This is farm-to-table meets Mexico City in the best way. Cosme is also known for its extensive list of rare alcohol that pairs beautifully with each dish.
For brunch, I recommend the Lamb Barbacoa, and if you’re stopping by for dinner, try the Soft-shell crab, chile morita, and avocado dish. No matter what you choose, though, you won’t be disappointed.
South Philly Barbacoa
1149 South 9th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147
Iconic female chef and immigration rights activist Christina Martinzes has been winning diners over with her unreal barbacoa since she was cooking out of her apartment living room.
She rose from the ashes as an immigrant and has now been featured on Chef’s Table, and Bon Appetit rated South Philly Barbacoa in their top 10 new restaurants in 2016. She was recently awarded a James Beard award for best chef in the mid-Atlantic region.
This is an artsy restaurant with communal tables and a constant line out the door.
People come from far and wide to enjoy spectacular food and make new friends. Murals line the establishment’s walls, and the space is also an art gallery.
If you’re fortunate enough to make a stop here, you won’t want to miss her delicious barbacoa. The lamb soup and cactus salad are also delicious!
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 538-8444
Taco Maria is the epitome of the combination of Mexican and American culinary influence.
Chef Carlos Salgado grew up and learned to cook in Mexico, and then worked at some of the most prestigious Michelin star restaurants in California.
Taco Maria is the culmination of his hard work and childhood influence in Costa Mesa.
The theme of Taco Maria is an emphasis on corn and its vital role in Mexican cuisine. Each dish features corn in different ways sourced from small Mexican farms.
Some of my favorite dishes from Taco Maria are the chuleta de Puerco and the unbelievable mole with duck.
1600 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006
Chef Hugo Ortega is so good that I had to include two of his restaurants on this list.
The first is Hugo’s, a homestyle restaurant located in a 1925 Latin-inspired building with an art deco flair.
Chef Ortega is the epitome of the American dream. He immigrated to Houston from Mexico to support his family and worked his way up from dishwasher to the owner of four of Houston’s most beloved restaurants and the winner of many James Beard awards.
Hugo’s is some of the most authentic Mexican food you’ll find north of the border. Ortega stays true to the flavors and ingredients of his home with almost no American influence.
Stop in for lunch or for dinner at this unmissable establishment! I highly recommend the carne brava or calla de hacha (pan-seared scallops).
3690 18th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Nopalito is beloved as both a chic restaurant and a taco window for takeout in two locations in San Francisco.
Chef Gonzalo Guzman started his food journey by helping his mother grow and cook fresh ingredients on their land in Veracruz.
Nopalito combines traditional Mexican recipes straight from Guzman’s family home with locally sourced Bay Area ingredients.
They also have a specialty beverage program featuring hundreds of tequilas and mezcals.
Some must-try dishes include the sweet potato tacos and the cauliflower al pastor. Nopalita also has delicious traditional Mexican coffee that is a must-try at lunchtime.
La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 N Milpas St Santa Barbara, CA 93013
La Super-Rica Taqueria is a small, no-frills hole in the wall taco spot in Santa Barbara.
It’s so old-school that it has no social media. However, it still draws daily lines that snake around the block, and for good reason.
This spot jumped in popularity when legendary chef Julia Child proclaimed it her favorite restaurant in the United States.
This unassuming spot has maintained the same fresh and delicious menu since Child frequented it.
It is also one of the most affordable Mexican spots around, so try as many types of tacos as your stomach can handle!
You might also want to try the Super Rica Especial for a real taste of this restaurant’s unique flavor.
1301 NW Grand Ave Unit 1, Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: (602) 612-4018
Named after the iconic mezcal from the Sonoran region, Bacanora has been around for just over a year but is already dazzling diners nationwide.
Phoenix is a city known for numerous beloved Mexican establishments, and this is one of their best.
The menu is inspired by traditional Sonoran cuisine and Mexican-American influences in the Phoenix area.
The menu is small and traditional, and each dish is cooked over an open flame on their wood-fire grill.
This place has some of the best staples in the country, including their elote and polla asada.
2717 S Lamar Blvd Ste. 1085, Austin, TX 78704
Phone: (512) 520-5750
El Naranjo was opened by culinary power-couple Iliana and Ernesto De La Vega.
Beloved restaurateurs in their native Oaxaca, they moved to Austin because of the political unrest in their home.
They started with a no-frills food truck and have graduated to one of Austin’s most beloved dine-in restaurants.
The De La Vega’s specialize in traditional Mexican food from multiple regions. They make all of their ingredients from scratch, including tortillas with Heirloom Corn imported from local Mexican farms.
They also offer incredible culinary travel tours to their food inspirations.
Some of their biggest hits include the cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and mole amarillo.
1777 Walker St, Suite A, Houston, TX 77010
Xochi is the second restaurant on my list by acclaimed chef Hugo Ortega.
This beloved establishment is a specific love letter to the Oaxaca region of Mexico in both decor and food.
The light and airy space features classic paintings and portraits of local Oaxacan corn farmers.
The food is emblematic of the best Oaxacan flavors. Each dish is made with ingredients sourced either from the Houston or Oaxacan region or from small farms.
The restaurant is known for its signature Mole dishes and a wide variety of specialty cheeses.
Make sure to sample the more unique Oaxacan ingredients, like imported grasshoppers!