The Best Mexican Restaurants In SF
photo credit: Sarah Felker
San Francisco is home to a lot of great Mexican food, and incredible burritos. 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 to check out.
This counter-service spot in the Mission makes Mexico City-style tacos that are the best in the city. Yes, that's a strong statement, and, yes, we stand by it. There are no wrong orders here. Wonderfully seasoned pastor spins on the spit in the back, the asada is perfectly charred on all sides, and the plump, creamy fish taco will teleport you straight to Baja. This place also has a breakfast menu, burritos, and massive tortas, but you’re here for those juicy tacos—and the salsa bar that’s full of the smokiest and freshest salsas around.
Have you ever had masa so outstanding you got the sudden urge to replace your dining chairs with corn stools? If the answer is no, go to Donaji. The Oaxacan restaurant in the Mission will make you want to become one with your chair and spend the rest of your days eating through their menu of fork-tender tamales, fried masa discs piled with juicy brisket, and tlayudas that are so thin you’ll wonder what sorcery allows them to hold up to the heap of toppings. A meal at Donaji is always a far cheerier alternative to a night on your couch. Prepare to return for spontaneous dinners—it's always easy to walk-in and snag a table.
The Mission spot is an institution of flawless, seasoned meats, which you’ll smell sizzling on the plancha before you even walk through the door (or, more realistically, get in the line that overflows onto the sidewalk). Their carne asada is charred to perfection, and the al pastor is nice and crispy. A visit to El Farolito is never complete without ordering a super burrito that's the size of a newborn, or the quesadilla suiza with enough cheese to single-handedly keep Lactaid in business.
El Mil Amores in the Mission focuses mainly on Mexico City-style breakfast and lunch plates. There are no overcooked eggs here, and only nonstop hits. The Yulis breakfast sandwich is a high pile of scrambled eggs, supple arrachera, cheese, and avocado between the softest telera-like roll. While the CDMX plate is a mix of chilaquiles doused in tangy salsa verde, soft scrambled eggs, and pillowy concha french toast. All the plates are more than enough food to make you want to nap in the sun at Dolores for three days straight. Time to cancel plans and go for a decadent brunch.
Nothing says “I’m cool and interesting” like knowing about the most exciting wine bar food in town. Cantina Los Mayas in the Richmond (the sister spot of Taqueria Los Mayas) focuses on Yucatecan specialties, including the juiciest cochinita pibil ever. As for the wines, they're exclusively Mexican, so you can swirl a glass of syrah from Valle de San Vicente while cutting into some mole-drenched chicken. This is the spot to keep top of mind for any and all future dates.
This taqueria in the Castro is one of the first places we tell people to go if they’re new to the city, or are 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 a burrito and agua fresca call.
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 dinner 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. Their Yucatecan food is worth this sensory overload. Order a big spread, which should include their titular poc chuc (citrusy grilled pork), zingy aguachile, and chicken covered in sweet mole, plus a bucket of Modelos for the table. Dinner at Poc Chuc is a party, complete with music videos streaming on the projectors, and one to 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 covered in mole, and pozole that'll make you want to take a bath in it, 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 it here with some margaritas and stay a while. Don't pass on the totopos, chips that are covered in shaved cotija and crema.
Whenever the craving for refreshing aguachile, incredible ceviches, and quesabirria tacos hits, the GPS in our brain leads us to Chuy’s Fiestas. This spot is the perfect place to come with a group and go family-style with all of the above—the menu is pretty big, but focus on the seafood and you can’t go wrong. Another thing you can't go wrong with is their massive micheladas (tamarind straw included).
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 one of the most extravagant meals in town. When you step into the cavernous space with the all-black walls, you’ll feel like you’re at a chic art gallery about to experience a full-blown production. It’ll start with tiny bites, like a masa tart topped with rich sturgeon mousse and caviar and a chicharrón buried in truffle shavings, and head into an entire course dedicated to some of the best tacos we’ve ever had. It ends with a trio of bonbons, a buñuelo you’ll dream about for weeks, and chocolate cotton candy. At $307 per person, dinner here isn’t casual—but it’s not supposed to be. Californios is here when you want to blow serious cash on an unforgettable meal.
The Mission restaurant has a great menu of Mexican food like tacos with housemade 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 memorable experience. This counter-service spot 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.
Otra is the buzziest restaurant in the Lower Haight—and the most fun. The calaveras on the wall and bright blue papel picado add brightness to the dark and sultry space. And it’s also always packed with friends, first dates, and anyone in need of solid Mexican food once the sun goes down. The one dish that makes a trip here worth it is the melt-in-your-mouth carnitas on amazingly corny homemade tortillas—it’ll make you want to give up your first born. Many of the other dishes on the vegetarian-friendly menu are hit or miss, but if you grab those carnitas, and a margarita, you'll have a great time before going on your way.
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 this diner-inspired spot, or under an umbrella in the patio out back.
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.