While San Francisco's La Taqueria has been crowned America’s best burrito, there are still plenty of great eats from south of the border around the Bay Area. This guide to nine South Bay Mexican restaurants runs the spectrum from corner taquerias to neighborhood favorite restaurants, serving time-tested family recipes.
Whether you crave a simple shrimp ceviche over a tostada, chicken enchiladas with a sweet mole poblano sauce or slow roasted pork in a spicy chile sauce, (don’t forget the margaritas!) here are nine South Bay restaurants serving crowd-pleasing flavors of Mexico.
Mezcal specializes in the flavors of Oaxaca, with several popular mole dishes and a unique collection of mezcals. In lieu of the standard chips and salsa, a meal at Mezcal begins with chips and each of the restaurant’s different moles: Estofado, a sweet mole made of mild tomatillos and peanuts; Coloradito, a red mole made of tomatoes and chiles de arbol; and the traditional Mole Negro made from a simmered blend of chiles, chocolate and spices.
The appetizer menu features popular Oaxacan street foods such as memelitas and for the brave, chapulines or sauteed grasshoppers with chili, lime and salt. The Mezcalrita features the smoky Oaxacan mezcal in place of its familiar tequila relative.
Zona Rosa serves Mexican-fusion dishes made from scratch in a cozy, romantic setting. The small setting fills up so reservations are a must. On the appetizer menu, popular selections include the Dungeness crab ceviche and the house guacamole with bacon and roasted pistachios. The housemade cocktails are tasty as is the homemade horchata. Intriguing and delicious entrees include the blue corn enchiladas with sweet potato, poblano chile, caramelized onion, and a tomatillo almond pesto.
La Costa serves as an inexpensive institution in East San Jose for Mexican seafood specialties. Set as an outdoor counter service, the specialty here is ceviches from simple shrimp ceviche over tostadas to ceviche de pulpo. La Costa also does taqueria standards such as tacos with various Mexican meat specialties, al pastor being the most popular. Do note that because La Costa serves a predominantly Spanish-speaking customer base, be prepared to know your order number en Espanol.
Started in 1998 across from San Jose State University, La Victoria quickly gained a following for their filling and inexpensive Mexican food and popular orange sauce. A secret family recipe, the orange sauce adds a tasty kick to anything it is put on. The taqueria now has several restaurants across the Bay Area, most open late into the night. The carne asada super burrito may be the standard favorite but La Vics does a great chile relleno burrito. Al pastor tacos, while messy, are also not too be missed.
This humble taco shop in San Jose has expanded over time from a food stand to a brick and mortar restaurant simply built around the original stand. The specialty at Dia de Pesca is fish tacos and the options expand past fried strips of snapper and cabbage. Dia de Pesca offers tacos with snapper, tilapia, breaded halibut prawn, scallops, octopus, tuna and crab. Also popular are the chickenitza tacos which have grilled chicken with an orange and cilantro marinade topped with a zesty peanut sauce.
Dia de Pesca
55 N Bascom Ave, San Jose [map]
Ph: (408) 287-3722
Hours: Mon-Thu 10:30am-8pm; Fri-Sat 10:30am-8:30pm; Sun 10:30am-8pm
Facebook: Día de Pesca
Price Range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)
This small taqueria features a menu of some delicious Mexican regional specialties as well as a salsa bar with a range of flavors. The mole poblano is the signature dish and is available as a traditional mole dish over skinless chicken or the Enchiladas Tu Mero Mole. Tu Mero Mole prepares a particularly sweet mole. Also popular here is the Cochinita Yucateca dish with pork in Mayan spices, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted until it becomes moist and tender.
Tu Mero Mole
Watch their Check, Please! Bay Area Kids review
2041 Woodard Rd, San Jose [Map]
Ph: (408) 369-9559
Hours: Mon- Fri 11am-9pm; Sat-Sun 10am-9pm
Facebook: Tu Mero Mole
Price Range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)
Taqueria Tlaquepaque may appear quiet from outside but inside there is often a lengthy wait for the chimichangas and ice-cold chavelas. Of course, a menu of Mexican restaurant standards such as fajitas, enchiladas and chile rellenos remain safe choices, yet the signature dish is the perfectly-browned chimichangas alongside a dollop of sour cream with rice and beans. To wash it all down, Tlaquepaque serves refreshing chavelas and super chavelas in frosted mugs.
The proud owner of Mountain View’s best Mexican restaurant for the past 14 years, Fiesta Del Mar remains popular for its seafood specialties. This cozy cantina has an extensive menu of margaritas prepared to whatever your liking is. The Mariachi margarita takes the warm, bite of Herradura reposado and sweetens things up with a splash of Cointreau.
The main attractions are the shrimp dishes such as the Shrimp Alex with large fresh shrimp in a smoky, spicy chipotle chile sauce. If seafood is not your thing, try great grandma's special the Enchiladas de Enjococado with a special sauce made from roasted guajillo chiles.
Fiesta Del Mar
198 Castro Street [Map]
Mountain View, CA 94041
Ph: (650) 965-9354
Hours: Mon-Thur 11am-2pm, 5-9pm; Fri 11am-2pm, 5-9pm; Sat 12-9:30pm; Sun 12-9pm
Facebook: Fiesta Del Mar
Price Range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)
This popular Mexican restaurant brings the flavors of the city and state of Puebla, in central Mexico to the South Bay Area. ViVe Sol has both a large dining room and an outdoor cantina to entertain the crowds of guests. If you’re waiting on a table on a busy night, the front room bartender can mix up a margarita such as the house favorite Rosangel made with Centenario reposado aged in French port barrels with hibiscus flowers.
Food favorites include the Enchiladas Sol which combines the restaurant's most popular sauces, mole and the creamy sun-dried guajillo pepper sauce.