The Best Mexican Restaurants In San Francisco guide image

SFGuide

The Best Mexican Restaurants In San Francisco

Our 17 favorite places for Mexican food in the city.

San Francisco is home to a lot of great Mexican food. Sometimes, we suspect it’s half the reason our family and friends actually come to visit (don’t worry, we understand). Enter: this guide to 17 great Mexican restaurants in the city. From vegetarian-friendly neighborhood spots to fantastic taquerias, here are the places you need to check out.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

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3161 24th Street, San Francisco
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Donaji is a counter-service Oaxacan restaurant in the Mission that we beeline to as often as Harry Styles reaches for a feather boa. The bright pink and teal walls will make you feel spontaneously transported to a beachside town where everyone wears jean shorts exclusively. The feeling will intensify once you get a glass of their ice cold sangria, richly spiced mole, and tamales with a flavorful chicken filling. Donaji’s thick housemade tortillas will also do wonders for your mood—always get a few on the side. After you leave, you’ll probably want to turn right around and go back inside. Alternatively, just keep this spot in mind for small group dinners, casual date nights, and lunches on Wednesdays.

The super burrito from Taqueria El Farolito is the size of a newborn baby, and it never disappoints. We love getting it filled with carnitas or tender carne asada. So if you’re searching for the number one burrito in the city, just head here. You can also get quesadillas and nachos, or try all the meats in taco form. And FYI, this spot is cash only.

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This taqueria in the Castro is often one of the first places we tell people to go if they’re new to the city or visiting for the first time. That’s because they churn out fantastic burritos, with cheese melted onto the tortilla and carnitas that set the bar high for all other carnitas in town. But even if you’ve lived here forever, you should still swing by on your way to Duboce Park or anytime you want a burrito and an agua fresca.

La Palma is a tortilla factory, a grocery store, and a taqueria, all rolled into one. And while we’re no strangers to coming to this corner spot in the Mission for fresh masa, mole, tortillas, and chips, we will happily drop by for anything on their takeout menu. You can’t go wrong with their burritos and tacos, and you'll need to make sure to grab some chicharrones on the way out.

If you like your panuchos with a side of flashing lights, artificial fog, and reggaeton playing at full blast, Poc-Chuc is the place to be. The casual restaurant in the Mission has karaoke four nights a week, a DJ, and a dance floor. On top of all that, the Yucatecan food is 100% worth all of the sensory overload. Get into a big spread of their titular poc chuc with citrusy grilled pork, zingy aguachile, and tender chicken drenched in sweet mole, all while making your way through a bucket of Modelos as music videos flash away on the projectors. Dinner at Poc Chuc is a flat-out party, and one you should get to immediately. 

Bright, energetic, and always a great time, this Mexican restaurant in the Mission does Californian-Jaliscan food right. The panko-crusted shrimp tacos are served on jicama tortillas, fried fish tacos are amped up with a piquin pepper-peanut sauce, and the empanadas are perfect, puffy pockets filled with mushrooms, corn, and cheese. Excellent cocktails and an atmosphere that has more buzz than a deuxmoi rumor drop—a dinner at Loló always adds up to a fun night.

For excellent carnitas, chicken drenched in mole, and pozole we'd take a bath in, Nopalito has you covered. The Mexican spot in NoPa has a cozy heated and covered patio and is friendly and chill—in other words, you’ll want to kick back with some margaritas and stay a while when you're here. Don’t forget to order the totopos, which are covered in shaved cotija and crema.

Whenever the craving for refreshing aguachile, incredible ceviches, and quesabirria tacos hits, our mental GPS leads us to Chuy’s Fiestas. The Mexican restaurant is the perfect place to come with a group and get into a family-style spread of all of the above—the menu is pretty big, but if you focus on the seafood, you can’t go wrong. Another thing you can't go wrong getting? Their massive micheladas with a tamarind straw.

You’ll know you’ve arrived at this family-run Mexican restaurant in the Outer Richmond when you see the bright sky-blue storefront. Inside the counter-service spot, Cielito Lindo serves everything from breakfast burritos to Guanajuato-style enchiladas and fantastic milanesa and carne asada tortas the size of a tank. However, the one dish that keeps us coming back are the quesabirria tacos, which are extra stuffed with well-spiced meat.

Californios is an extravagant meal. But it’s not just any meal—dinner at this fine dining tasting menu restaurant in SoMa is an all-out production with incredible Mexican dishes that have a contemporary twist. Throughout the night, you’ll receive things like a tiny masa chip underneath sturgeon cream and caviar, hamachi aguachile, and a grilled squab taco on a sourdough tortilla. It'll end with a lengthy dessert course revolving entirely around chocolate. For a blow-out night, put Californios at the top of your list. 

The Mission restaurant has a great menu of Mexican food like tacos with house-made tortillas, burritos, and choriqueso. The shining star on the menu, however, are the quesabirria tacos. Each crispy tortilla envelope is stuffed to the brim with tender beef that plays nicely with the melted cheese. We recommend getting at least three—two for now, and one for 15 minutes later.

The moment you step inside Taqueria Los Mayas, it’s clear you’re about to have a positive experience. This counter-service Mexican restaurant specializes in food from the Yucatán, and the menu here is, simply put, lengthy and exciting—they do everything from gigantic, made-to-order empanadas to seafood dishes to burritos and tacos with homemade tortillas. One thing that makes this spot so special is you can’t go wrong with whatever you order. The other reason is their tender cochinita pibil and poc choc, which you should get on the tostada-like panucho—a fried, bean-filled tortilla topped with meat, cabbage, and pickled red onion.

This Mexican restaurant from the Son’s Addition folks is a newer neighborhood spot in the Lower Haight—it’s casual, vibey, vegetarian-friendly, and a pretty easy spot to snag a reservation. If you’re dining alone, slide up to the bar, order a tequila or mezcal cocktail and any of their tacos (the masa for the tortillas is made in-house), but the roasted mushroom with peanut salsa macha is a must.

Flores is a great place to stop by for weekend brunch, or before a night out around Union Street in Cow Hollow. We like to come here with a group, since everything is easy to share—like the carnitas plate, or the trio of tacos (get the chile colorado). Plus, Flores does pitchers of margaritas, which make it pretty easy to have a good time here.

The tortas at this Mexican restaurant in the Mission live up to La Torta Gorda’s oversized moniker. Sandwiches here come in two sizes (junior or regular) and both are monstrous. Don’t believe us? Kindly refer to the Mega Cubana, a behemoth featuring milanesa, sausage, pierna, ham, chorizo, eggs, turkey, queso fresco, and American cheese that’s large enough to feed five or six people. Share it with friends at a table inside the diner-inspired spot, or under an umbrella out in the back garden.

When we find ourselves in the Mission really hungry, we instinctively head toward Taqueria Cancún. It’s where we always go for a massive burrito mojado, doused in enchilada sauce and topped with sour cream, melted cheese, and salsa. They also have tacos and quesadillas that are worth your time.

The burritos at this Mission taqueria are longer and thinner than most of the burritos in the city. But we’re not complaining as they’re exceptional. Order a grilled chicken or carnitas super burrito to-go. The meat is perfectly cooked every time, and they come with a generous heap of guacamole and sour cream. This is the Mission-style burrito of your dreams.

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