San Francisco is made up of a mix of cultures and foods from all over the world - far away places like Ethiopia, Nepal, and Sacramento. Mexico has a presence larger than most, and as a result, San Francisco is home to some great Mexican food - from taco spots perfect for date night, to places that you’ll inexplicably walk out of with a bag of chicharrones. Whatever you’re in the mood for, these are the 15 best Mexican restaurants in San Francisco.
When we have enough money to build a meditation hall in our future super home, it’ll probably look a lot like Cala. But aside from the bright white and calming interior in this former warehouse, the food here is great - from the black bean sopes and trout tostadas, to the roasted sweet potato served with bone marrow salsa negra, and tortillas you’ll want to pocket a few of on your way out. The menu is made for sharing, so definitely come here with a small group.
The interior of Lolo feels a bit like a sculpture garden inside a hoarder’s garage, complete with car doors, light fixtures made of bicycle handles, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. The menu has things like mushroom and cheese empanadas and charred octopus with purple potato puree that all go great with a few spicy margaritas from the bar and some guacamole to start. When all of this comes together, it makes this spot on Valencia a great place to go with friends for a casual birthday or a first date when you’re afraid of running out of talking points.
In our dreams where we actually make money off of crypto and then retire, Nopalito is where we would have lunch every day after wandering through a few luxury open houses to start things off. The food here, from the pozole to the carnitas, is really good and not too heavy, so after lunch and a few cocktails, you can go on a walk to one of the parks close by. Get a head start on being outside by sitting on their sunny patio - even if it’s not the best day, they have heaters to save your afternoon.
Everything you eat at Californios is about the size of a large pair of earrings from 1987, but since you get upwards of 16 courses, you’ll walk out as full as you are impressed with how excellent everything was. All of the food looks super futuristic - they take familiar ideas like pollo or frijoles and push them almost to the point of unrecognizability, but in the best way. And at over $200 per person, this is somewhere you go to celebrate - like when you just got engaged or found your retainer after years of looking.
El Techo De Lolinda is more of a rooftop bar than a restaurant, but it’s still home to some of the best carnitas in the city. If you are here to drink though, their margaritas and palomas are strong, and being up here puts you right in the middle of one of the best views in the city. If you randomly show up, you’ll end up waiting in line on the street for a bit, but as long as you make it up here before sunset, it’s completely worth it.
The best time to go to Flores is before you go out on Union Street. If you’re on a first date, you can sit at the bar and split some crab tostadas over margaritas, and if you’re here celebrating a breakup, they have larger tables in the back. A lot of the food at Flores is designed for sharing, and if you don’t get the chile colorado and carnitas, you’re making a mistake.
This place in the upper part of the Mission makes really good food that’s also super affordable. The $4 panuchos (tortillas stuffed with refried black beans and topped with cabbage and meats) are an appetizer, but they’re large enough for an entire meal - get them with pork. If you’re here with multiple people though, split a few things, like some tamales and the entomatado de puerco that’s been simmered in tomatoes for so long that it almost melts. This place isn’t super noticeable if you walk by it - we passed it at least 73 times before we went in, but we’ll be back again in the future.
Padrecito is in Cole Valley, so the crowd is generally more worried about which sustainable, koala-friendly, organic snacks are OK to bring to soccer practice than paying off their student loans, but it’s still a great spot for a fun midweek dinner. Here you’ll see things like all-day chilaquiles and fancy tacos filled with everything from skirt steak to duck with strawberry marmalade. It can get a little pricey and you may say you have something morally against paying over $5 for a single taco, but they’re really good, and cost way less than those marsupial-approved snacks you’re thinking about now anyway.
The carnitas burrito at El Castillito is worth going out of your way for, and even if it’s not our favorite burrito in the city, it’s at least in the top three. The pork is super flavorful and they melt the cheese onto their tortillas before they add everything else to their burritos, which makes each one arguably a more inviting place to live than our apartments. There are few times we’ve wanted to trade places with a food item. This is one of those times.
La Palma is a tortilla and pupusa factory, a lunch counter, a grocery store, and a place to buy lotto tickets, all rolled into one. And while we’re no strangers to purchasing dried chilies or corn husks, the best reason to come here is for tacos. They have a ton of fillings, but the carnitas are our favorite, and the best part about any taco here is the handmade corn tortilla. Also, make sure to grab some chicharrones on the way out.
When we’re walking around the Mission and need a burrito, you can usually find us at Taqueria Cancun. When you do, it’ll most likely be behind a Burrito Mojado, doused in red chili sauce and topped with red and green salsa and sour cream. It’s enough for two people to split, but if you’re dedicated enough, you can do it solo.
We’d happily cross the bridge to Berkeley to come here on a random Saturday, but we’d rather just build a house next to their back patio - both because it’s a great place to hang out and it would give us quick access to the ceviches and chicken tamales en mole verde inside. If you’ve got time to kill, it’s a great place to order mezcal flights too.
Comal’s little sibling restaurant is more of a fast-casual place, but the food is just as good as the stuff you’ll get next door. It’s a tiny counter-service spot with a menu of tacos, burritos, and tortas, and if you’re in a time crunch, come here and get a few tacos (especially the al pastor). If you have some time to kill, they have beer and frozen margaritas too.
When you stare down a sandwich from La Torta Gorda in the Mission, you get a feeling of respect and awe that can only come from people and things that might bring about your untimely end, like Ron Swanson or sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. And like those sharks, the tortas here might give you a shiver of impending doom. Not because the tortas know how to use weaponized lasers, but because they’re so large and so good that you might actually try to consume an entire one alone. Split a Mega Cubana, which comes with more than five types of meat, eggs, and multiple cheeses, with a few friends. Or Ron if he’s available.
Papito is a great spot for a casual midweek dinner. It’s small and there’s usually a wait, but you can leave your info on the whiteboard and walk around Potrero Hill trying to find the steepest incline in the meantime. While you could easily fill up on the salsas they give you when you sit down, it’s worth waiting it out for the tacos. They’re some of the best in the city, and while the al pastor is a great go-to, it’s the short rib that needs to be on your table.