The Best Mexican Restaurants In Philadelphia
photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo
We know that satisfying your chilaquile cravings or nacho needs can be a really tough task. But we also know that there are places in Philly serving up incredible quesadillas, empanadas, huaraches, aguachiles and more. To help you narrow down your list of go-tos, we’ve created this guide: the 15 best Mexican restaurants in Philly, good enough to have you scarfing tacos beneath an overpass, chasing a truck for pozole, and sopping up queso-laden consomme before noon on the weekends.
Sometimes, we suspect the reason our family and friends come to visit us is just to eat at South Philly Barbacoa (don’t worry, we get it). They make the best tacos in the city—and according to James Beard, the best in the Mid-Atlantic. Choose from slow-cooked barbacoa, pancita, or veggie tacos, a lamb consomme, and specials like tamales and quesadillas. It’s a popular spot with both locals and tourists, and they’re only open on the weekends, so show up before noon if you don’t want to wait in line.
Some things we’ll never forget: waking up early for Saturday morning cartoons, the 2008 Phillies championship, and the first bite of the queso birria ramen and tacos from Juana Tamale. With mounds of queso, stewed beef, and green onions swimming throughout the consomme, the ramen is gooey, soupy, and perfectly slurpable. A queso birria taco comes with each order—the corn tortillas have been grilled in beef fat, making them crispy enough to sop up the broth without losing any of the texture. It’s Mexican comfort food at its best.
Passyunk Square's El Chingon is an all-day Mexican cafe and BYOB restaurant. It's a plant-filled corner spot perfect for grabbing coffee and conchas before work or sharing a bunch of tacos and tostados on a casual date night. The whole menu is worth exploring, but the real specialty here are the Pueblan-style cemita sandwiches. We can't stop thinking about the Clásica, which comes stacked with crisp fried chicken, avocado, chipotle peppers, and stringy, salty quesillo cheese, all on housemade rolls. Chingon's chef/owner started the bread program at Parc, so you know those buns are good.
When we stumble upon a taco truck as good as Mi Pueblito, it’s tempting to only tell the friends who know our phone passcodes about it. But when this family-run Jalisco-style truck popped up on Front and Dickinson, selling everything from homemade agua frescas and pozole to beef birria tacos with consomme we knew we had to share it with the world (it’s our job). Since Mi Pueblito is only open Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday, plan accordingly, and make sure to wear comfortable shoes since you’ll almost certainly be standing in line.
Blue Corn is a lively 10-table restaurant in the Italian market, and it’s one of our go-tos for great margaritas and even better tacos. Everything here is made in the small, open kitchen—from the two semi-spicy salsas that appear on every table, to the blue corn tortillas in their tacos, quesadillas, and huaraches. And while you might find tortilla soup and ceviche on lots of menus, Blue Corn also serves unconventional dishes like nopales and beef cheeks.
We’ve long been on a hunt for our favorite Mexican food in the Northeast, and in Asadero Los Tios, we’ve finally found it. The menu is pretty lengthy, but everything we’ve tried has been exceptional–from the grilled elotes smothered in creamy mayo and enchiladas packed with tender chicken to the house-made strawberry, passionfruit or pineapple agua fresca. Come with friends and share a massive burrito (our favorite) or whole fried tilapia in their backyard patio and garden, or enjoy the scent of sizzling steak and peppery queso while watching Mexican Idol on the big screens inside.
With a mezcal and tequila list as long as Roosevelt Boulevard, and a kitchen that stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays (unlike most places in the city), this South Philly cantina is a place we go to for rounds of margaritas, cochinita tacos, and Mexican street corn. Start light with the shrimp and scallop aguachile verde–it mixes refreshing cucumber and lime juice with spicy habanero peppers–and then move on to their juicy pan-seared branzino, topped with tomato sauce, olives, capers, and bell peppers. Eat it all at their bar, which is covered in neon pink Batman logos, or on their covered outdoor streetery.
Happy hour, tacos, and mezcal is the trifecta we never knew we needed. This neighborhood spot in Point Breeze should be your go-to for guacamole with crunchy beet and cactus tostadas, red snapper tiradito swimming in a mix of peppery chiltepin, lime, and cucumber, and $8 margaritas. Whether you’re hungry for La Montada, a huarache topped with grilled ribeye, cactus, and refried beans, or just want to sip on a mezcal cocktail, this is a fun and laid-back place to do it.
People spend a significant amount of time waiting for the tacos from South Philly Barbacoa. But Casa Mexico, a spot run by the same team, is actually easier to get into and has the same great Mexican food. While they only have a handful of indoor seats, their outdoor setup has plenty of tables perfect for sharing–the queso fundido with steak or green mole tostadas with chicken are both delicious and big enough for four people.
There are few things that get us out of bed when we’d rather be sleeping: a fire alarm because our apartment neighbor can’t make toast, avoiding a long line at the carwash, and an order of huevos motuleños especiales from South Philly's Café y Chocolate. Bathing in spicy salsa verde, each tortilla comes packed with refried black beans, a poached egg mixed with ham and mozzarella cheese, roasted poblano rojas, caramelized onions, and tomatoes. Besides that, their menu is full of staples like enchiladas, tortas, crispy churros, and an unforgettable Mexican hot chocolate sprinkled with cinnamon.
Philly is known for many things–the PPA ruining lives, passionate fans, and some scenes from National Treasure. But we think eating incredible fish tacos on Sor Ynez’s massive outdoor patio should be next on the list. The breaded fluke is perfectly crispy and each bite is topped with spicy chipotle mayo. And even though it’s as hard to find as a good vegan cheesesteak (it’s hidden in a massive lot next to a warehouse), the vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu is perfect for a Happy Hour or group dinner when you also want to sip on cocktails made with Mexican gin and corn-infused tequila.
Tonalli is a new place, but the Pennsport BYOB is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots for tacos, nachos, and Mexican pizza covered with salsa. The pizzas here lean NYC style, with a lighter, crispier base and a blistered crust that’s never too chewy or hard. We like the El Patriota pizza, but the Al Pastor pizza and adobo-spiced shrimp tacos are the standouts. Grab a seat at the outdoor picnic benches or in the friendly yellow dining room and enjoy your feast among hungry groups of friends and families.
People love to drench things. A lot of people order a stack of pancakes just to douse it in syrup, and we love to drown our mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing in gravy. Callowhill’s El Purephecha takes the drenching game to the next level–they pack homemade masa tortillas with chorizo or garlic shrimp, and then smother it all in a spicy rojo or peppery salsa verde. Come to this Mexican spot after you’ve had a long day and need a night of tender seafood tostadas, enchiladas in a spicy poblano sauce, and grilled steak quesadilla dripping with crema. It’s easy to get a reservation at the last minute as well, so the only thing standing between you and rounds of strawberry margaritas is deciding if you want them frozen or not.
Right across from Somerset station, this Mexican restaurant serves chicken chilaquiles for brunch, tinga tostadas for lunch, and braised pork shank and masa dumplings for dinner. The atmosphere is cozy–there are only a few tables and the walls are lined with handmade figurines like cacti, colorful chihuahuas, and antique plates. Since they’re open every day at 11am, you can get in a couple rounds of tacos and margs before noon and consider skipping out on the office for the rest of the day.
This quaint Mexican restaurant near Snyder Station makes the best tortas in Philly, but we also love the tacos de alambre–they combine juicy spiced chicken, crisp red and green peppers, chihuahua cheese, bacon, and fried onions. If you head there in the afternoon, you’ll find a handful of people staring at the menu on the colorful chalkboard trying to decide between the birria or al pastor tacos (spoiler alert: get both). At night, it can get more lively with families and a few groups of friends passing around bowls of spicy guacamole before sharing the bone-in ribeye on a bed of blue corn tlacoyos.