Although Mexican food has a pretty great reputation for being flavorful and delicious, most people don’t know what a wide variety of dishes and drinks Mexican cuisine consists of. Tacos and burritos are just scratching the surface.
Luckily, here in San Francisco, we have tons of great restaurants and taquerias where we can try all the wonderful things Mexican food has to offer. For every food or drink craving, and every occasion and dining experience you’re looking for, I guarantee you will find a Mexican restaurant that will hit the spot.
Here are just a few of the many uniquely delicious Mexican food spots in San Francisco, whether you’re craving seafood, need some late-night eats, or are seeking your next go-to brunch cocktail.
For the best burrito in the U.S. – La Taqueria
No list of Mexican food in San Francisco would be complete without La Taqueria. It was named the number one burrito in America by FiveThirtyEight in 2015, and has received many more awards and titles in its 40 years of operation.
While its decadent carnitas burrito has garnered the most attention of its menu items, their tacos and quesadillas are just as delicious. Try tacos, burritos, and quesadillas “dorado style” for some extra crunch. A lively atmosphere in the Mission district really completes the experience, making La Taqueria a must try.
For seasonal dishes with home-style flair – Nopalito
If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale but still want authentic Mexican flavor, try Nopalito, with two locations in the Lower Haight and the Inner Sunset. Chef Gonzalo Guzman brings unique touches that reflect his strong connection to his home of Veracruz, Mexico with dishes like his famous squash blossom empanadas.
The totopos con chile are a favorite among regulars, but this menu has such a wide variety of items you still might have a hard time deciding what to order! Plus, if Guy Fieri gave this place 5 stars on his show, you know it’s worth checking out.
For a boozy brunch – Playa Azul
Playa Azul is an authentic spot frequented by locals that specializes in seafood and serves up yummy shrimp cocteles and ceviche tostadas. But no meal here is really complete without a big michelada.
For those that haven’t tried this glorious drink before, it’s a killer combination of beer, lime juice, tomato juice, Clamato, and other sauces and spices. Break out of the mimosa cycle and try a michelada from Playa Azul for your next weekend brunch.
For a California twist – Tacolicious
Fans of Tacolicious love the variety of flavors, and, while it is a bit pricy at nearly 5$ a taco, they do not skimp out and fillings and toppings are stacked high. As you can tell from the name, tacos are the main attraction and a must try. But don’t leave this spot without trying some of the unique “Cal-Mex” inspired dishes, like the turkey meatballs in a charred-tomatillo-and-mint salsa.
For the best tortas – La Torta Gorda
This place has just about the widest variety of tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, that I have ever seen. Every torta comes with refried beans, avocado, queso fresco, onions, mayo, jalapeños, or chipotle. So as you can probably tell, these suckers are huge.
Their most popular dish is the pierna enchilada torta, which was included in 7×7’s The Big Eat 2016 list of things to eat in San Francisco before you die. Next time you’re craving a sandwich, skip the deli and grab a torta.
For late night eats – El Farolito
Mexican food lovers in San Francisco know that when they’re craving a big burrito or cheesy nachos late at night, El Farolito is the place to go. This taqueria is open until 2:30 am seven days a week. So whether you’re out partying on Friday night and need greasy drunk food ASAP, or you’re just craving Mexican food at 2 am on a random weeknight after hours of studying, El Farolito will be right there to help you out. Their Al Pastor Super Burrito is a must-try, and their quesadilla is a favorite among regulars. Pro tip: bring cash!
For dinner with the parents – CALA
CALA is a great option for upscale Mexican food, perfect for taking your parents to a nice dinner when they’re in town. With a great variety and lots of seafood options, there’s something here for everyone. CALA serves dinner all week, tapas on Friday and Saturday nights, and even offers brunch on the weekends.
This hip, new spot even caught the attention of Jake Gyllenhaal, who was spotted eating here during a trip to San Francisco just a few months ago. According to fans of CALA, you can’t leave this place without trying the trout tostadas or the Santa Cruz abalone with potatoes and serrano cream.
For a fun, quirky date night – Loló
Loló is known for their vibrant and colorful decor, pretty plates, and quirky cocktails. On top of being super Instagram-able, this place has a great vibe that always leads to a fun time. The lively ambiance and quality cocktails make Loló perfect for a night out with your friends or date night.
Plus, with lots of meat-free options, it’s also great for vegetarians! Some must try dishes are the panko avocado tacos, diabla shrimp, and the taco tropical (made with a jicama taco!).