25 Best Old-School Mexican Restaurants Across America

Old School Mexican Restaurants

Cheapism / El Charro Café / La Fonda on Main

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Old School Mexican Restaurants
Cheapism / El Charro Café / La Fonda on Main

Classic Cantinas

Old-school Mexican restaurants are, simply put, good for the soul — and we’re lucky enough to have a whole lot of excellent options for really good classic Mexican food spanning from coast to coast.

Although there are plenty of modern and high-end Mexican establishments across the country, there’s still something uniquely satisfying about some basic chips and salsa, maybe a cold beer, and a really good enchilada or quesadilla in a cozy, no-frills dining space.

The following restaurants across the U.S. (listed alphabetically) will fulfill your cravings for old-school Mexican flavors and atmosphere — from really good table-side guacamole service to retro dining rooms and ice-cold margaritas.

Related: Does Mexican Coke Actually Taste Better Than American Coke?

Enchiladas de Mole on a White Plate with a Glass of Water and a Margarita, Acapulco, Alameda, California
Tracy C./Yelp


Alameda, California
This cozy restaurant in the Bay Area somehow combines the charm of a dive bar and a classic sit-down family restaurant into one cozy establishment. Here you’ll find all the classics — from burritos to quesadillas — as well as a creative cocktail menu with a laundry list of delicious margaritas available.

Related: Where to Find Good Cheap Burritos in Every State

Closeup of Deluxe Plate on a White Plate wit Three Striking Red Tortillas, Blanco Cafe, San Antonio
Christopher S./Yelp

Blanco Cafe

San Antonio
Texas is well-known as a hotbed for great Mexican food — and Blanco Cafe in San Antonio is no exception. The old-school restaurant was founded in 1974 and has been voted best enchiladas in San Antonio for five years in a row.

Tacos and Sweet Corn Tamale with Sides on a White Ceramic Plate, Casa Vega, Sherman Oaks, California, Selective Focus
Dora H./Yelp

Casa Vega

Sherman Oaks, California
Casa Vega dates back to the 1950s — but it’s still considered to be one of the best old-school Mexican restaurants in the San Fernando Valley (and the rest of Los Angeles). The proudly family-run restaurant keeps the tradition alive by way of its decadent menu that includes fun street food-inspired dishes like elotes and chicharrones. Oh, and you have to try the table-side guacamole.

Chile Relleno, Chicken Enchilada, Refried Beans with Melted Cheese, and Rice on a White Plate, Don Antonio’s, Los Angeles, Selective Focus
Colleen R./Yelp

Don Antonio’s

Los Angeles
Don Antonio’s has been serving the Los Angeles area for more than four decades — and it’s one of the best spots in the city for classic old-school fare. Specials include pork chile verde and menudo soup (weekends only) and you’ll also find an incredible selection of mezcal and tequila for sipping or mixing into a spicy margarita.

Closeup of Molcajete con Camarones, El Camino Real Mexican Bar & Grill, Winchester, Kentucky
Jon T./Yelp

El Camino Real Mexican Bar & Grill

Winchester, Kentucky
El Camino Real Mexican Bar & Grill is certainly an old-school spot for Kentucky standards; the restaurant first opened its doors in 2001 and has been serving up delicious food and drinks for the past two decades. The sit-down restaurant has a particularly mean selection of authentic street-style tacos as well as the option to order a 60-ounce pitcher of fresh margarita.

Related: Tasty Taco Places Across the Country

Closeup of Chicken & Steak Fajita on a Cast Iron Serving Plate with Wooden Holder, El Castillo Taqueria & Bakery, Jacksonville, Florida, Selective Focus
Bobby B./Yelp

El Castillo Taqueria & Bakery

Jacksonville, Florida
El Castillo Taqueria & Bakery is one of those well-loved gems that will blow you away every time. The old-school restaurant and bakery is tucked into an unassuming strip mall in Jacksonville and serves up satisfying Mexican classics as well as a selection of baked goods and imported groceries from Mexico.

Closeup of Many Dishes and Two Margaritas on a Wooden Table At the Restaurant, El Charro Café, Tucson
El Charro Café

El Charro Café

Tuscon, Arizona
Having first opened its doors in Tuscon over a century ago in 1922, El Charro Café is considered to be the oldest continuously operating Mexican restaurant in the United States. The restaurant has since expanded to three locations across the state but is still owned and operated by the same family. It’s said that the original owner, Monica Flin, invented the chimichanga.

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Mexican Restaurant in Every State

A Taste of History on a White Plate with ‘A Taste of History’ Wording, El Cholo, Los Angeles
Rob N./Yelp

El Cholo

Los Angeles
El Cholo first opened its doors in 1923 which makes it another one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in the United States. The legacy restaurant has since become a small regional chain but still serves some of the best classic Mexican food in the country. Be sure to take a close look at the menu—it lists the year each item was added which allows you to take a trip through the restaurant’s history while ordering.

For more great restaurant recommendations, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Chiles Rellenos and a Cheese Enchilada with Sides on a White Plate, El Compadre, Los Angeles
Andrew W./Yelp

El Compadre

Los Angeles
El Compadre aims to showcase “the fine foods of Mexico” by way of carefully selecting the best ingredients and meat for each dish. It also features live music every night and is home to the infamous “Flaming Margarita” which is made with homemade sweet & sour and aged gold tequila.

Carne Asada on a White Plate, El Coyote, Los Angeles
Scott B./Yelp

El Coyote

Los Angeles
El Coyote first opened its doors back in 1931 when it was a two-person team consisting of owners Blanche and George March. These days the restaurant employs a hundred people with a dining space of nearly 400 seats. It’s also worth noting that the margaritas at El Coyote were voted best in the city by both Los Angeles magazine and the Los Angeles Times.

Related: All 13 El Yucateco Hot Sauces, Ranked

Three Steak Street Tacos with Sides on a White Plate, El Fenix, Dallas
Samantha C./Yelp

El Fenix

El Fenix has about a dozen locations these days — but the old-school Mexican restaurant has been around since 1918 when it first opened its doors. The restaurant briefly shuttered in the early 1960s but thankfully opened back up by 1965 and has continued to serve the Dallas — and Texas — community ever since.

Closeup of Asada Entera con Nopales Plate, El Milagrito Cafe, San Antonio
El Milagrito Café/Yelp
Nachos Royal with Chorizo and Sofrito on a White Plate in the Foreground, El Parador Cafe, New York City
El Parador Cafe/Yelp

El Parador Cafe

New York City
There aren’t as many old-school Mexican restaurants in New York as there are in California or Texas — but El Parador Cafe makes up for it. The charming restaurant is a mix of classic and modern Mexican with excellent cocktails (available for takeaway!) as well.

Brisket Plate, Garcia's Mexican Food To Go, San Antonio
Sonia H./Yelp

Garcia's Mexican Food To Go

San Antonio
Garcia's Mexican Food To Go in San Antonio offers a no-frills dining space with really, really good Tex-Mex (including a beyond-decadent breakfast menu). The infamous restaurant has been featured on numerous television shows but continues to offer a humble menu and great service.

Closeup of Combo Plate with Chilled Relleno, Pork Tamales and Beef Enchilada with Rice and Black Beans, Juan’s Place, Berkeley, California
Heliana M./Yelp

Juan’s Place

Berkeley, California
Head to Juan’s Place in Berkeley for traditional Mexican comfort food (and a huge variety of ice-cold brews) and has been doing so for over three decades now. It’s here you’ll find high-quality Mexican dishes and Juan’s has even expanded its menu to include both vegetarian and vegan renditions of Mexican classics.

Closeup of Nachos Grande on a White Plate, La Cabaña, Los Angeles, Selective Focus
Wednesday A./Yelp

La Cabaña

Los Angeles
This long-standing institution in Venice is a stand-out spot for an unforgettable night. La Cabaña offers a huge selection of tequila (we’re talking more than 25 bottles on the go at a given time), a sprawling patio, and live music every night. Oh, and the classic Mexican dishes are some of the best in the city.

Related: Delicious and Inexpensive Mexican Dishes

Mexican Dish on a White Plate with a Blue Design, La Fonda on Main, San Antonio
La Fonda on Main

La Fonda on Main

San Antonio
La Fonda on Main will be celebrating its 92nd birthday this year, having opened its doors in 1932. The old-school Mexican restaurant is famous for its delicious Tex-Mex and cocktail menu as well as its homey but bright and cheerful interior dining room.

Fish and Shrimp Mexican Dish on a Cast Iron Skillet on a Wooden Holder, La Serenata de Garibaldi, Los Angeles, Selective Focus
La Serenata de Garibaldi/Yelp

La Serenata de Garibaldi

Los Angeles
La Serenata de Garibaldi had a 32-year run in Downtown L.A. after Jose and Aurora Rodriguez decided to open a small establishment to feed the community. While the original location has since closed, the tradition continues at the West Los Angeles location — where you can still find decadent Mexican-style seafood and home-cooked pastries.

Related: 22 Traditional Hispanic Dishes Most Americans Don't Know About

Chimichanga Plate on a Brown-Rimmed Blue Plate, Las Palmas Mexican Restaurante, Nashville
Lara S./Yelp

Las Palmas Mexican Restaurante

Nashville, Tennessee
Las Palmas Mexican Restaurante was voted the best Mexican restaurant in Nashville — and once you have the chance to slide into one of its booths you’ll see why. The old-school restaurant dates back to 1990 and while it has become a local chain, each location still has that homey and comfortable charm (as well as a great menu of Mexican classics, from tacos and nachos to burritos and enchiladas).

Carnitas a la Coca-Cola with Sides on a Brown-Rimmed Plate, Lindo Michoacan, Las Vegas
Steven O./Yelp

Lindo Michoacan

Las Vegas
The original Lindo Michoacan first opened its doors back in 1990 — when it was a simple 12-table establishment. The restaurant has since expanded to three locations across Nevada but continues to retain the cozy feel it had over three decades ago. Here you’ll find Mexican classics with a gourmet twist like taco salad and shrimp fajitas.

Related: The Best Mexican Restaurant in Every State

Super Nachos on a Metal Server with Knife in the Middle, Mexican Village, Detroit
Jean M./Yelp

Mexican Village

Mexican Village is considered the oldest restaurant in Motor City, dating back to 1958, and paved the way for Mexican and Mexican American-owned food businesses to open, according to Eater. The cozy restaurant is perfectly no-frills with red leather booths and a small bar decked out with all things Corona.

Mexican Dish on a White Plate, Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, Knoxville, Tennessee
K R./Yelp

Monterrey Mexican Restaurant

Knoxville, Tennessee
Monterrey Mexican Restaurant is known for its impressive number of margarita flavors and cozy hole-in-the-wall dining space. With brick walls and brightly colored decor, this old-school spot is the perfect place to waste away a few hours knocking back cocktails and guac.

Chilli Verde with Sides on a Red Ceramic Plate, Plaza Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant, Seattle
Frank B./Yelp

Plaza Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant

Plaza Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant is a family-run institution in Seattle serving up a classic old-school Mexican in a colorful dining space that beckons both families and friend groups alike. It’s been around for over 30 years and is well-loved for its sweet and savory selection (be sure to order the churros).

Related: The Most Popular Mexican Fast Food Chains, Ranked

Closeup of Pork Tamales with Sides on a Metal Serving Plate, Ruiz Mexican Restaurant, Florissant, Missouri
Chloe M./Yelp

Ruiz Mexican Restaurant

Florissant, Missouri
Florissant-based Ruiz Mexican Restaurant opened its doors back in 1966 and continues to be the best (and oldest) Mexican restaurant in the region. The menu consists of classic dishes like tacos and fajitas — but you can also purchase bulk products and meats should you want to cook your dishes at home.

Al Pastor Taco Dinner on a Yellow Plate, Taqueria Los Comales, Chicago
Cher C./Yelp

Taqueria Los Comales

Taqueria Los Comales in Chicago recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in the city — and while it has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a taco stand-style restaurant, the regional chain is still casual and homey. Oh, and it has some of the best tacos in the city.