You’ve probably heard there’s no good Mexican food in Seattle. But that’s just a myth perpetuated by Californians who live here and are bitter that they can only get tan in months that don’t end in “ary” or “ber.” If you know where to look, you’ll find some truly great tacos, burritos, tamales, pozole. Here are the best spots - some of them are fancy, and some of them will cost you less than $4.
Of course, Seattle also has excellent grab-and-go taco spots, but here, we’re focusing on sit-down restaurants.
You know when you’re in your car on a tree-lined street during summertime with the windows rolled down, blasting ’80s hits, and nothing can bring you down? You’ll get the same feeling at La Cocina Oaxaquena. It’s our favorite Mexican restaurant in the city, and before you get salty because it’s not your favorite, hear us out. First off, it’s easy to get in no matter how many people you’re with, the chips are fried to order, and the salsa is free and unlimited. You could stop there and have a fantastic time, but get some tamales, al pastor tacos, or a big plate of braised pork with perhaps the fluffiest rice on the planet, too. If we didn’t have to write the rest of this guide, we’d close our laptops and go there right now.
This place is kind of amazing. It’s quiet, but we assume that’s just because the secret’s not out yet, so enjoy the upscale taqueria (and the huge replica tree) while you still can. D’ La Santa is run by a staff that’s literally one big family, so you’re basically eating someone’s grandmother’s best recipes. The huge margaritas are served in clay bowls resting on tiny tripods, and if you like steak, there are nine different cuts of beef to choose from. But save room, because the garlic butter shrimp tacos also need to be on your table.
You need a Mexican restaurant in your rotation with reliably excellent chicken fajitas and frozen margaritas that come in goblets (and that’s the “small” size). This can only mean that you need El Sombrero. The slightly-chaotic space is perfect for families, the portions are huge, and if you can’t decide what to order, just get the chicken fajitas.
Speaking of fajitas, the ones at Fogon made with tequila, beer, and wine are tasty, too. There’s always a wait for a table on the weekends, but a meal here is worth sticking out the loud complaints from your friend Wendy, even just for the free bean tostada appetizer. The tortillas are made by the front door all day, and the al pastor tacos are some of the best in town.
Gracia is one of the more upscale spots on this list, and their taco situation is very strong. You’ll find tasty fillings like beer-battered cod and (delicious) chicken tinga, but the lamb barbacoa is also a can’t-miss here. The margaritas have the perfect balance of booze and not-booze, and we love the salsa, even though it’s only served by the thimble. Come here on a date, for Happy Hour, or both.
Ordering carne asada tends to be a gamble. The steak could end up too thin, dry, and reminiscent of a hot slab of leather with a hint of black pepper. But that’s not the case at Asadero. They specialize in DIY carne asada tacos - think filet mignon, medium rare, served to you on a sizzling skillet with corn tortillas, some salsa, and lime. It’s a pretty incredible experience if you’re into beef, and they do also have chicken, fish, and some vegetable dishes, too. But you’re not here for any of that. You’re here for some pink wagyu and an even pinker hibiscus margarita.
We love Mezcaleria Oaxaca when we feel like partying, mostly because they have an awesome rooftop complete with sangria on tap as well as a taco truck. But, we also love Mezcaleria when we’re physically ill and feel like death - because their soups are really comforting. If there were ever a reason to wish for the common cold, it would be so we could eat endless bowls of the soup with braised chicken. No matter what you order, make sure you check out their mezcal selection and the “gringos” tacos - served on flour tortillas with melted cheese and Mexican cream. See you there next time you have a sinus infection.
The Barrio chopped salad with cotija, avocado, spiced pepitas, pickled red onion, some other things, and buttermilk dressing is one of the best salads we’ve ever had. Barrio is a great place for a date or a special occasion group hang in which you order endless waterfalls of guava sangria slushies and the excellent braised pork taquitos that we’d stuff in our pockets and smuggle into the movies.
If fried fish tacos and enchiladas are important to you, Casco Antiguo will be important to you, too. The dining room has ideal mood lighting and an appropriate number of exposed bricks for being located in Pioneer Square, and it’s our favorite Mexican spot for vegetarian options like plantain empanadas and crispy potato tacos (no need to resort to peppers and onions in a tortilla again).