The Best Mexican Restaurants In Seattle guide image


The Best Mexican Restaurants In Seattle

You don’t have to fly to Mexico (or California or Texas) for great tacos, tamales, burritos, and more.

Seattle isn't necessarily known for Mexican food, but if you know where to look, you’ll find truly great tacos, burritos, tamales, pozole, and more. Here are the best spots—some of them are fancy, and some of them will cost you less than $4.


D’ La Santa

D' La Santa is the best Mexican restaurant in town. It feels great to just be in here with a margarita, surrounded by the buzz of happy people among the replica tree in the middle of the moody dining room. Among the hits here are phenomenal tacos de birria filled with braised pork and beef alongside rich consomme for dunking, incredible garlic butter shrimp stuffed inside crispy tortillas, delicious guacamole served with baked tostadas, and excellent carne asada served with mini quesadillas. And if you do really like steak, there are nine different cuts of beef to choose from.

Even though it’s all happening in a snoozy dining room with just about as many tables as there are planets in the Milky Way, the food at Alebrijes makes an otherwise catatonic Tuesday night straight-up defibrillated. There are pomegranate margaritas that the sole server will hop behind the bar to mix, chips straight from the fryer swiped through spicy avocado salsa, and chipotle-buttered shrimp that’ll clear out your sinuses faster than a tab of Claritin. Verde enchiladas are drenched in thick chunky tomatillo, textbook birria tacos are stuffed with pot roast-y beef, and the carnitas have a PG-13-level balance between sexy fat hunks and buttoned-up lean shreds.

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 Oaxaqueña. 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 al pastor tacos, camarones al mojo de ajo, or a big plate of rich pork mole with perhaps the fluffiest rice on Earth, too. If we didn’t have to write the rest of this guide, we’d slam our laptops shut and go there right now.

It goes without saying that you should order carnitas at Carnitas Michoacan, but we’ll say it anyway. This pork is fantastic. The result of a tangy marinade paired with a long braise is this happy marriage of tender, melty meat and crispy edge bits, honeymooning together inside tacos or burritos wrapped with fluffy homemade tortillas. Go nuts with any of their tasty salsas (we prefer the hot red). And while you’ll definitely want the carnitas in some form or another, the carne asada is the unsung hero—well-salted and juicy, it's excellent steak, and shines in a city that has a few too many tasteless versions.

Rojo’s is one of the best lunch spots in Pioneer Square. The entire menu also happens to be completely vegan, thanks to plant-based alternatives like shredded jackfruit carnitas and seitan carne asada that are brought to life with soaks and seasonings. But the best thing here is the al pastor soy curls, marinated in adobo with hints of sweet pineapple and pork-like salty charred bits from the grill. Get it in a loaded burrito that bursts at the seams with vegan sour cream, guacamole, and creamy refried beans, and call it a day.

Pike Place Market is a jackpot of shellfish, salmon, and halibut. But Maíz makes the waterfront an area where Mexican food is just as exciting as a bread bowl full of clam chowder. This tortilleria serves homemade nixtamal tortillas that are so good we plan to consume them regularly until robots replace us all. They have a bunch of stupendous dishes with their freshly ground corn masa at the forefront, from puffy sopes (their best dish) and quesadillas to tacos. They even make delicious tortilla chips, and they’re so crunchy that you could probably use them to communicate with The International Space Station.

Savory breakfast folks unite at El Moose. While this Ballard restaurant serves great stuff all day long, their brunch is the absolute star of the show. Ordering the chilaquiles with carne asada is a foolproof decision, but the alambres tops them all. It's a hot plate of shredded beef, spicy chorizo, and grilled poblano peppers and onions, topped with sliced cheese that melts on contact. Add a fried egg on top to appease the brunch gods, and swaddle it all inside fresh tortillas.

Tacos Chukis used to be “that secret taqueria in that building on Broadway with the tattoo parlor and nail salon,” but the entire universe has been in on it for some time. And for good reason—the quickly-prepared food here is delicious. Hop in for lunch or a pre-bar-hop dinner with some friends, wait in line and look around for a table, order a plate of the house tacos (adobada grilled pork, avocado salsa, onion, cilantro, and a seared square of grilled pineapple) and carry on with your day knowing you’ve made a good decision.

We wish that Carmelo’s could climb into our window with a ladder like Sam did in Clarissa Explains It All, but we’ll happily go to the source for some great tacos. The tortillas are thick and homemade, the carne asada has a delicious marinade, and the chorizo/potato/cactus filling is something we’re still thinking about days later. And if you like a cheesy burrito, Carmelo’s sears cheese briefly on the flat top grill before adding it to the mix. It’s perfect for a grab-and-go lunch.

Some things to know about Frelard Tamales: they’re a walk-up window that specializes in tamales (obviously), they’re actually located in Green Lake, and they serve the best corn husk-wrapped bundles in town. Ringing in at a half-pound each, these steamy stunners are massive and stuffed with everything from sliced jalapeño and cheese to braised rioja pork. You can also add toppings that accentuate the fillings without getting in the way, like crema, limey guacamole, and tangy pickled carrots. While you could order virtually any of their menu items and walk away pleased, the salsa verde chicken and sweet potato mole tamales are the best two options and make for a great casual lunch or dinner.

Señor Taco is our favorite Mexican spot in Bellevue, and that's in part thanks to their incredible baja fish tacos, which comes with practically an entire filet of crispy-puffy cod drenched in tangy chipotle crema, plus red cabbage for crunch. We're also massive fans of the al pastor and spicy barbacoa. Grab a cold bottle of beer along with some excellent tacos or a french fry-stuffed California burrito for a pretty perfect lunch.

The next time anybody tells you Seattle doesn’t have good burritos, blindfold them, put them in the backseat of your car, and take them to Chilolos in Georgetown. The best thing that Chilolos serves is their grilled burrito with carnitas, which forces us to cancel our plans to eat here before they close at 6pm. In each bite, you’ll get some red rice, tender chunks of carnitas, pinto beans, and the ideal amount of sour cream and pico de gallo—all of the elements perfectly distributed like a parent packing Christmas stockings for twin toddlers. Your friends will thank you for the introduction—after forgiving you for blindfolding them.

We love a taco filled with grilled or fried meat, but there’s something about a slow-braised birria that gets us really excited. If you want to eat some of the Puget Sound’s very best, head to Birrieria Tijuana in Burien. They specialize in shredded beef birria in all of its drippy glory, stuffed with velvety melted cheese inside crispy, consomme-dunked tortillas. While you’ll be perfectly content with a burrito, torta, or quesadilla, the cheese tacos are Birrieria’s main draw.

Carnitas Mr. Porky and Birrieria Tijuana is the greatest mashup of all time, up there with that early 2000s Jay-Z and Linkin Park collab. They share the same dining room, so you can get the best birria in town and the best carnitas in town simultaneously. The pork here has a perfect balance of crackly edges and buttery fatty pieces, and is especially tasty even by itself dropped into a warm tortilla. And if the smell wafting out of this place doesn't make your day, the life-sized pig statues dressed in chef outfits will. (Or, they'll freak you out—it could go either way.)

If you're specifically looking for fajitas, the ones at Fogón made with splashes of tequila, beer, and wine are extremely tasty. There’s always a wait for a table on the weekends, but a meal here is worth sticking out loud complaints from your friends, 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 grilled chicken, cinnamon-kicked cochinita pibil, and a phenomenal smoked pork belly special that really just needs to be on the permanent menu at this point. but the lamb barbacoa is also a can’t-miss here. The margaritas have the perfect balance of booze and additions like guava or strawberry, and we love their salsa served with thick, just-fried chips. Come here on a date, for Happy Hour, or both.

Asadero specializes 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 special 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. And while we know that this is a guide to Mexican food, Asadero's finest contribution to the world is their hulking cheeseburger.

This White Center restaurant has so many great dishes that the menu fills up an entire wall-sized chalkboard. But we recommend directing your attention to the sopes section. These thick masa cakes drip with tasty chicken juice and are stacked high with beans, pickled onions, lettuce, and crema—which makes picking one of these up about as precarious as the final moments of a Jenga game.

Have you ever been so deep in thought during a work meeting that your superiors praise such dedicated engagement, but it's really the chile rellenos burrito from Cafetal Quilombo on the brain? Same. The burrito in question from this Beacon Hill cafe has an ideal marriage of tender charred pepper, gooey queso, and fried-then-softened egg batter that just works when wrapped into a tortilla with rice and beans. Don't miss their breakfast burritos, either.

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The Best Mexican Restaurants In Seattle guide image