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 18 great Mexican restaurants in the city. From vegetarian-friendly neighborhood spots to fantastic taquerias, here are the places you need to check out.
Taqueria El Farolito
The super burrito from Taqueria El Farolito is about the size of a newborn baby, and it never disappoints. We love getting it with carnitas or the tender carne asada. And if you’re still searching for your number one burrito in the city, coming here (for science) is never a bad call. You can also get quesadillas and nachos, or try one of each meat in taco form. FYI—it’s cash only, so come prepared.
This taqueria in the Castro is often one of the first places we tell someone 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 SF. But even if you’ve lived here forever, you should still swing by on your way to pet some dogs at Duboce Park, or to chill inside with an agua fresca.
To get technical, 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 will need to make sure to grab some chicharrones on the way out.
Bright, energetic, and always a great time, this Mexican restaurant in the Mission does Jaliscan food with a very California twist: 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.
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.
For excellent carnitas, chicken drenched in mole, and pozole we want to 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 come here. Don’t forget to order the totopos, which are covered in a snowstorm of shaved cotija and crema.
Whenever the craving for fresh aguachile, incredible ceviches, and tender quesabirria tacos hits, our internal GPS always leads us right 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. Wash it all down with one of 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 welcoming, 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 one of the most extravagant meals in San Francisco. But it’s not just any meal—dinner at the fine dining Mexican restaurant in SoMa is an all-out production, down to the thick booklet detailing the incredible Mexican dishes with 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—and it’ll end with a lengthy dessert course revolving entirely around chocolate. Dinner is $267 per person, but if you’re looking to drop some serious cash on a huge night out, 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 Yucatan, 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 one with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms is phenomenal.
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 casual spot in the Mission is home to excellent Yucatecan food, like panuchos piled high with cabbage and grilled pork, and entomado de puerco that’s been simmered with tomatoes for so long that it practically melts. The appetizers alone are big enough to qualify as an entire meal, so come with a bunch of people and share as many different things as possible.
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 start heading 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.
Padrecito does all-day chilaquiles and tacos filled with everything from skirt steak to duck with cherry marmalade. It’s a great spot for a fun mid-week dinner—just sit down on their outdoor parklet and chill with a margarita or some sangria. They also do a great Happy Hour with half-off drinks from Monday to Thursday.
If you want to watch a game while snacking on chips and salsa or excellent short rib tacos, stop by Papito in Potrero Hill. The staff is friendly, there’s a TV set up above the bar, and portions are huge, so you’ll probably have leftovers. They also have tons of mezcal, tequila, and cocktails.