BURRITOS AND BEYOND
There's no need to head south of the border for tip-top Mexican food. The U.S. boasts Mexican restaurants serving delicious, authentic fare from coast to coast. Some are humble mom-and-pop taquerias offering cheap eats, while others are full-service restaurants that aim to elevate Mexican cuisine with inventive menus and an upscale ambience. Whether you're craving a basic burrito or a multi-course feast, read on to find out the best Mexican restaurant to satisfy your hunger in every state.
ALABAMA: EL BARRIO
Downtown Birmingham's El Barrio is "nothing short of spectacular" because of its off-beat, locally sourced menu and funky atmosphere, according to the Alabama news website Al.com. Reviewers on TripAdvisor agree. The grilled chorizo meatloaf and grapefruit margaritas are among diners' favorite items.
ALASKA: LA CABANA
Good Mexican food in Alaska? Reviewers say La Cabana makes it possible. This unassuming restaurant is nothing special when it comes to decor, but it's worth a visit for its friendly staff and consistently good food, diners say. Look for the halibut Veracruz.
ARIZONA: ELOTE CAFÉ
The food and the view of Sedona's Red Rocks make it well worth waiting in line for a table at upscale Elote, according to the food and travel website Gayot. Reviewers rave about several dishes, but the pork cheeks, carnitas, and fire-roasted corn inspire the most recommendations.
ARKANSAS: ROLANDO'S NUEVO LATINO
City: Hot Springs
Housed in a 19th-century building in the city's historic bathhouse district, Rolando's serves Mexican and other Latin food with a more modern spin. Diners say it's hard to beat a spot on the upstairs patio. Signature dishes include pollo bohemia, chicken marinated in a Cuban mojo, sautéed in lime and tequila, served with peppers, onions, and parsley.
CALIFORNIA: LA TAQUERIA
City: San Francisco
In a city bursting with upscale options, Travel + Leisure singles out this humble Mission District staple as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Many reviewers say La Taqueria's burritos are the best they've ever had, and the tacos get plenty of love, too.
COLORADO: LOLA COASTAL MEXICAN
Lola Coastal is always packed, Zagat warns, but that shouldn't deter you from sampling one of the restaurant's inventive dishes or stopping in for a margarita or creative cocktail. Weekend brunch gets especially high marks from reviewers, as does the guacamole, prepared table side.
CONNECTICUT: GERONIMO SOUTHWEST GRILL
City: New Haven
Are you a tequila connoisseur? Geronimo claims to have the largest selection on the East Coast, and even offers tequila flights. Added bonus: The food is also great, and even the New York Times calls many of the dishes "sensational," including the tequila and citrus-marinated pork pibil.
DELAWARE: BORDER CAFÉ
This Massachusetts import (it began in Harvard Square) has become one of the best-loved restaurants in Delaware, and the menu offers both Tex-Mex and Cajun favorites. Reviewers warn that there's often a wait and that it can get noisy, but both annoyances are worth it for the tasty fajitas, and shrimp and crawfish quesadillas.
FLORIDA: TALAVERA COCINA MEXICANA
City: Coral Gables
Enjoy a modern take on authentic Mexican food at this swanky spot praised for its cocktails, seamless service, and bold decor. Moles are made from scratch daily. Diners at Talavera Cocina Mexicana say all of the tacos are delicious — wash them down with a pineapple jalapeño margarita.
GEORGIA: EL REY DEL TACO
This little taqueria isn't much to look at, but El Rey Del Taco has sure attracted the attention of some prominent critics, landing a spot on Travel + Leisure's list of the nation's best Mexican restaurants. The lengua (tongue) taco on housemade tortillas is tops on Zagat's list of "12 Tacos Every Atlantan Needs to Try." Diners vouch for the food's authenticity.
HAWAII: BÚHO COCINA Y CANTINA
Live music and a rooftop location make the atmosphere at Búho, where "hola meets aloha," hard to beat. The menu makes use of its Hawaiian location whenever possible with dishes such as shrimp fajitas and ceviche, and grilled fish tacos.
Despite the "no-frills" feel at Despo's, Zagat says the traditional food at this longtime local favorite hits the spot. The owners "lean green" and aim to serve locally sourced ingredients, too. Diners agree that everything is fresh; many recommend the burritos and tortilla soup.
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless' high-end Topolobampo has been singled out for a James Beard Foundation award for two years in a row. Zagat says the dishes are "wildly inventive," and the service is top-notch. Diners recommend the carne asada with Oaxacan black mole, a lunch-menu staple.
Nada trades the typical kitschy Mexican restaurant decor for a more sleek, industrial look, and its modern fare goes right along with the ambience. The inventive tacos include mu shu, fried avocado, and crispy pork belly. Reviewers say the fresh guacamole is a highlight, too.
IOWA: LA REGIA TAQUERIA
City: Iowa City
The newly remodeled La Regia offers a little bit of everything: sit-down service, takeout, and an attached Mexican grocery hawking everything from fresh chorizo to piñatas. Reviewers recommend grabbing a glass bottle of Mexican soda to go with the simple fare, though if you're adventurous, taco and burrito fillings include tripe and tongue.
KANSAS: JAROCHO PESCADOS Y MARISCOS
City: Kansas City
Reviewers caution against judging Jarocho by its hole-in-the-wall appearance, because the prices are reasonable and the Mexican seafood is far better than the atmosphere would suggest. Diners say the ceviche, oysters, and seafood paella are among the highlights here.
KENTUCKY: MAYAN CAFÉ
The chef's Yucatán heritage shines through in the food at Mayan Café, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant that Zagat praises for its "elevated, seasonal touch." Reviewer favorites include rabbit served in pumpkin-seed mole, and cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork dish.
LOUISIANA: JUAN'S FLYING BURRITO
City: New Orleans
This laid-back spot in the Garden District is noted for its massive burritos and dash of Creole flavors that accompany its traditional Tex-Mex, Zagat says. The menu at Juan's makes use of Gulf shrimp whenever possible, and reviewers say the nachos and margaritas are among the best offerings.
MAINE: TACO ESCOBARR
Lobster-happy Maine isn't exactly a hotspot for Mexican food, but Taco Escobarr more than does its part to add some culinary diversity. Eater Maine says it's one of the best spots for tacos in the state, calling out the wide variety of tortillas and fillings. The burritos are also great, reviewers say.
MARYLAND: TORTILLERIA SINALOA
It's counter seating only at this popular taqueria in the waterfront neighborhood of Fells Point, but Tortilleria Sinaloa's devotees say that shouldn't be a deterrent to getting some of the most delicious, authentic tacos in town. That doesn't mean there's no local flavor, though: Specialties include a tilapia taco with Old Bay butter sauce.
MASSACHUSETTS: EL SARAPE
City: Weymouth Landing
El Sarape has earned accolades from both The Daily Meal and Travel + Leisure as one of the country's best, most authentic Mexican restaurants. The latter publication recommends staples including carnitas and enchiladas verde, or the guisado con chile ancho — that's chicken or beef casserole with potatoes, onions, and red chile sauce.
MICHIGAN: EL ASADOR
This Mexican steakhouse is relatively new, but it's already created a lot of buzz in Detroit dining circles. El Asador emphasizes from-scratch recipes, and (of course) steaks with a south-of-the-border twist. Reviewers are also complimentary about all of the seafood dishes, including shrimp tacos and lobster quesadillas. You can even BYOB, notes Zagat.
MINNESOTA: EL BURRITO MERCADO
City: St. Paul
Whether you want a quick, cafeteria-style meal or a sit-down dinner, El Burrito Mercado has you covered. An attached grocery offers a wide range of imported favorites, too. Reviewers say you can't beat the authenticity at this 30-year favorite, praising staples such as tacos and burritos.
MISSISSIPPI: FAT MAMA'S TAMALES
Fat Mama's is a mashup of Mexican and Southern favorites — po' boys are also on the menu — but the hot tamales are the real draw here, reviewers say. Named the best in the state by Mississippi magazine, they come by the half-dozen and are worth the drive, reviewers say. The margaritas are also well-loved.
MISSOURI: MISSION TACO JOINT
City: St. Louis
Zagat calls Mission a "hip gourmet street-taco specialist," and something must be working, because there are now several locations of this local favorite. Reviewers say the biggest "must" on the menu is the side of street corn, which is grilled and served in garlic-lime mayonnaise. They also love the carne asada tacos.
Authentic Mexican food isn't exactly around every corner in Montana, and to dine at Rosita's, you're looking at a long drive unless you're already passing through. Still, a few reviewers say the food is worth it at this no-frills café. They particularly recommend the massive burritos.
NEBRASKA: AGAVE AZTECA
The Omaha World-Herald says Agave Azteca makes good on its claims of authenticity, providing traditional favorites right for more discerning Mexican-food fans right alongside the usual staples. Its reviewer recommended the cochinita pibil, a pork dish from the Yucatán, while other diners say the fajitas are a solid choice.
NEVADA: MESA GRILL
City: Las Vegas
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay offers big, bold Tex-Mex flavors for big wallets at Mesa Grill, located in Caesars Palace, Zagat says. Reviewers say you can't miss the tiger shrimp tamales and the pork tenderloin. Finish off with the well-regarded coconut cake.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: EL COLIMA
This small mom-and-pop favorite is worth seeking out. The owners, from Colima on Mexico's west coast, opened the restaurant in 2008, and reviewers say their pride in the place is evident. They recommend the large, filling burritos and fresh guacamole.
NEW JERSEY: TAQUERIA DOWNTOWN
City: Jersey City
It's loud and crowded, Zagat says, but that might be part of the experience at Taqueria Downtown. You can escape the noise by snagging a spot on the patio, where reviewers say you should nosh on just about any of the inexpensive tacos — pork seems to be among the favorites.
NEW MEXICO: THE SHED
City: Santa Fe
One of Travel + Leisure's picks for best Mexican food in the U.S., The Shed has been drawing diners to its location just off the city's famous plaza since 1953. The red chile enchiladas are some of the best around, reviewers say. Finish with a slice of mocha cake.
NEW YORK: COSME
City: New York City
This upscale Flatiron District eatery landed on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list this year with contemporary cuisine that Zagat calls out for its creativity — note the bone-marrow salsa. Diners highly recommend the uni tostadas as an appetizer and the husk meringue with corn mousse for dessert.
NORTH CAROLINA: LIMONES
The chef here is a "California-trained Mexico City native," notes Zagat, and both influences are evident on the menu at this high-end but unpretentious downtown eatery. Diners highly recommend Limones' ceviche and chile relleno to start; for an entrée, get the scallops or sea bass with roasted corn and poblano peppers.
NORTH DAKOTA: VINYL TACO
You might not expect the hip, exposed-brick ambience or delicious Mexican street food in the middle of Fargo, but Vinyl Taco has created a lot of buzz since opening in 2014. Reviewers love the music-inspired decor and say the shrimp and pork belly tacos are particular favorites.
With a menu featuring what's described as a "modern-Mexican" cuisine, Momocho trades the typical bright atmosphere of a cantina for a darker, more moody ambience spotlighting Mexican wrestlers. Diners say all of the taquitos are to die for, and so are the inventive crab and smoked trout guacamoles.
OKLAHOMA: TED'S CAFÉ ESCONDIDO
City: Oklahoma City
Ted's is so popular that it has grown into a chain with more than a dozen locations, and locals haven't stopped raving about this place. Voted "Best Mexican Restaurant" 11 times by the Oklahoma Gazette, it has a wide-ranging Tex-Mex menu that diners love. Highlights include the fresh-made tortillas and complimentary sopapillas, they say.
OREGON: NUESTRA COCINA
Though the atmosphere is casual at Nuestra Cocina, Zagat says the cuisine is upscale and worthy of a stop in a city loaded with great restaurants. The "Señora de la Tortilla" hand rolls and presses homemade corn tortillas every day. The pork tacos are a particular favorite on a menu that's well-regarded across the board.
Celebrity chef Jose Garces' spin on a casual taqueria, Distrito is all about shareable modern Mexican street food, Zagat says. Reviewers say the funky pink interior is worth a trip as much as the food, but they recommend the filling nachos, too.
RHODE ISLAND: DIEGO'S
Rhode Island isn't exactly known for Mexican food, but the offerings at Diego's are solid, and so is the atmosphere — the restaurant is perched on Newport's harbor. Brunch is a particular highlight, reviewers say, with offerings such as chicken tinga chilaquiles, a smoked salmon quesadilla, and a $6 breakfast torta.
SOUTH CAROLINA: TACO BOY
The eclectic atmosphere at this restaurant, called "colorful" and "hip" by Gayot, is half the reason to come. But that doesn't mean the food's not tasty at Taco Boy. The guacamole alone is worth the trip, reviewers say. The Mexican street corn is another favorite.
SOUTH DAKOTA: QUE PASA CANTINA
City: Rapid City
The rooftop deck alone would inspire a lot of diners to come to Que Pasa Cantina, but hundreds of them also say the food is top-notch. Highlights include the street tacos — choose from either chicken and pineapple or marinated skirt steak — and the enchiladas. Thirsty? There are more than 52 kinds of tequila.
TENNESSEE: LAS TORTUGAS DELI MEXICANA
Las Tortugas, one of America's best Mexican joints according to The Daily Meal, opened with the expressed aim of bringing authentic Mexican food to Memphis. Happy reviewers say this humble family restaurant has succeeded, heaping particular praise on the guacamole and fresh fish tacos.
TEXAS: MI TIERRA CAFÉ Y PANADERIA
City: San Antonio
Competition is stiff in Texas, but Gayot says Mi Terra, opened in 1941, tops them all as "the don of Mexican dining in San Antonio." Diners say the homemade tortillas are sensational, and you can't miss with the enchiladas. The pecan pralines are also well worth a stop at the bakery counter, reviewers say.
UTAH: RED IGUANA
City: Salt Lake City
Red Iguana isn't much to look at, and the small interior means there will probably be a wait. Devotees say neither matters as long as you're a fan of authentic Mexican food, and this little cantina has been recognized by various publications as one of the city's best restaurants year after year. Reviewers recommend getting a sampler of the moles.
VERMONT: THE MAD TACO
Despite its humble strip-mall location, reviewers say The Mad Taco serves up some of Vermont's best Mexican food. Of course, it does so with a local twist and features several local craft beers as well. The smoked pork, kimchi, and cilantro taco is a particular favorite.
VIRGINIA: TACO BAMBA
City: Falls Church
The best Mexican food in Virginia can be found at three locations (and even one in D.C.) .The tacos and tortas at Taco Bamba get raves from reviewers, who call it "the best street food" in the area.
WASHINGTON: LA CARTA DE OAXACA
This one's a little fancier than your typical Mexican joint, but not so much that it's stuffy, reviewers say. Zagat says La Carta de Oaxaca's homemade tortillas and moles are worth waiting for a table when it's busy. Diners recommend the fish tacos, accompanied by one of the tasty house margaritas.
WEST VIRGINIA: BLACK BEAR BURRITOS
Somehow, this college-town mashup of bizarre burritos and Appalachian decor just works, devotees say. Reviewers appreciate Black Bear's big portions and focus on local ingredients, too. A specialty is the WV Hot Rod burrito, filled with lettuce, tomatoes, grilled chicken, bacon, pepperjack, and chipotle Dijon.
WISCONSIN: CAFÉ CORAZON
A funky little spot, Café Corazon earns a shout-out from Zagat for its "delicious, locally sourced" food and charming atmosphere. The brunch menu — featuring a range of breakfast tacos, breakfast burritos, empanada plates, and much more — earns particular praise from reviewers.
WYOMING: MERRY PIGLETS
City: Jackson Hole
This unpretentious favorite in tourist haven Jackson Hole first opened in 1969 just north of the town square. Gayot notes the thatched-hut roofs and vibrant wall art that add to the festive ambience at Merry Piglets. Diners recommend the fajitas and street tacos — if you don't fill up on the tasty chips and salsa.