The Best Mexican Food San Francisco: Our Top 9 Picks

Mexican restaurants in San Francisco are as ubiquitous as wineries in Napa Valley. And that’s a good thing. Because no matter where you are in the city by the bay, you can have your pick of some of the best Mexican food San Francisco has to offer—at humble taquerias, hipster hotspots, and high-end establishments.

The Golden Gate bridge stands tall over the San Francisco Bay against a blue sky
Consider the Golden Gate Bridge your Golden ticket to amazing eats. Photo credit: Georgina Page

Faced with so many good options, how does a person choose which Mexican restaurant to try? No worries. We made it easy for you with a diverse list of our top nine picks, featuring old neighborhood standbys as well as newer additions bringing their unique spin on Cal-Mex cuisine.

Nopalito 

Bay Area natives who have cut their teeth on tacos and tequila will tell you that Nopalito in the Lower Haight is on their go-to list of stylish, sit-down Mexican restaurants in San Francisco.

Chef and owner Gonzalo Guzman, a James Beard award winner, has developed a mouthwatering menu, which includes a richly satisfying chicken mole poblano, flavor-packed marinated pork tacos, and oh-so-tender pork carnitas braised in milk spiked with orange, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Vegetarian dishes—like the grilled summer squash quesadilla with fresh epazote, jack cheese, and queso fresco—are also skillfully made.

Guzman’s mezcal cocktails and refreshing agua frescas pair well with the restaurant’s vibrant lineup of regional dishes reflecting his time in Veracruz, Puebla, and Mexico City. Head over to Nopalito right now. You’ll be glad you did.

a bowl of chips garnished with cheese, a lime wedge, cilantro, and sauces
Nopalito nails even the simple dishes like chips and salsa. Photo credit: JaredFrazer

Lolo

Fresh, local California ingredients take the dynamite flavors of Jalisco to the next level at lovely Lolo, located on the bustling Valencia corridor in the Mission District. Executive Chef Jorge Martinez serves up tapas in an eye-popping setting where oversized photos of swaying palm trees collide with a rainbow of playful patterns and Guadalajaran arts and crafts. 

Lolo fills up fast, so arrive on the earlier side to snag a table, either indoors or outside. Then get ready to tuck into a parade of some of the best Mexican food in San Francisco: fresh fish and shrimp ceviche in a piquant citrus-roasted pepper sauce, free-range chicken tinga with bacon and black beans on blue corn tostadas, crispy tempura-fried cod fish tacos topped with a smoldering habañero aioli and pepper-peanut sauce, plus much much more.

tostada piled high with tuna and vegetables
Kind of like an open-faced taco, a tostada is a toasted tortilla piled high with flavorful fillings. Photo credit: Leodgario Pescador

Puerto Alegre  

If small plates aren’t your thing, then take a stroll down Valencia Street to Puerto Alegre. Just three blocks down from Lolo, this popular, family-run Mexican eatery is strong on drinks and hearty meals — think, potent pitchers of zesty margaritas and generous portions of homey food, such as stick-to-your-ribs pork chile verde and chicken (or cheese) enchiladas smothered in a smoky mole sauce.  

After 50-plus years, Puerto Alegre is still putting out Mexican food San Francisco natives and first-time visitors truly enjoy in a fun and friendly atmosphere. 

colorful mural of women and female figures on a white building
Colorful murals in the Mission District offer a feast for the eyes. Photo credit: Piermario Eva

El Tonayense 

On the hunt for authentic Mexican street tacos? Well, look no further. El Tonayense has got you covered. These tasty little finger foods are served out of a truck that rotates through a few different spots on Harrison Street.  

At just $3 to $3.50 a pop, you can easily make a cheap meal of three (or more) tacos topped with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and homemade salsa. We’re partial to the carnitas tacos, though you have your choice of a variety of savory meat, from carne asada and lengua to pollo asado and al pastor.

red taco truck with menu on the side with white and yellow letters
Keep your eyes peeled for the El Tonayense taco trucks in San Francisco. Photo credit: Todd Lappin

Californios

Count ’em. Two Michelin stars. With the highly creative Chef Val Cantu at the helm, Californios has become one of the best Mexican restaurants in San Francisco, albeit with a pretty steep price tag ($267 per person). Californios shines with beautifully composed, complex dishes using only the highest-quality, sustainable ingredients sourced from small California farms. 

The SoMa-based, fine-dining establishment features an ever-changing 16-course tasting menu, which has included caviar-topped tostadas de plantain, chilapita filled with creamy, smoked sturgeon mousse, and lamb barbacoa with sourdough tortilla, pea puree, and pea greens. 

If you’ve got a special occasion coming up and some cash to burn, make a reservation at Californios. You won’t regret it.

a selection of fine dining starters on black serving dishes at a michelin star restaurat
The tasting menu at Californios is worth the splurge. Photo credit Lou Stejskal

Papito  

Blood orange margarita, anyone? How about a mango michelada? If these sound like your kind of tipple, then mosey on over to Papito in Hayes Valley for a boozy Sunday brunch in a modern setting. 

Sip on your fruit-forward drink while you put away calorie-blowout dishes such as the spicy chorizo eggs benedict or duck chilaquiles drizzled with a tangy guajillo red sauce. 

Some of Papito’s regular menu items also deserve mention — especially winners like the sizzling shrimp fajitas, carnitas (slow-cooked Berkshire pork) enchiladas, and pastor (marinated pork shoulder with roasted pineapple) tacos.

A michelada cocktail with a chili-salted rim and lime
The Bloody Mary cocktail meets Mexico with the Michelada. Photo credit: Phil King

La Taqueria

The Mission-style burrito is what draws locals and visitors alike to this bustling, no-frills taqueria. La Taqueria (2889 Mission Street) serves up hefty burritos that skip the rice while going big on the meat, beans, cheese, and whatever other fillings you opt for.

Drop by with a pal and get in line to order a super burrito or duo of super tacos dorado-style, seared on the grill for a crispy exterior. And be sure to wash it all down with a tall cup of La Taqueria’s freshly made horchata. 

Mexican restaurant with white-painted facade, two arches, and a big red neon sign that reads "La Taqueria"
Don’t let the unassuming facade fool you – La Taqueria says they have the best tacos in the world. Photo credit: duncan c

Tacolicious

A few years ago, the Tacolicious tacos were hit or miss. But these days, they’ve been hitting the mark with generously portioned, well-seasoned tacos that include a wide range of fillings — from the always delicious saucy chicken tinga drizzled with crema to the spicy shrimp with morita-arbol salsa and habañero-pickled onions. 

Drinks are a Tacolicious specialty — the Mission location even has a tequila and mezcal bar called Mosto right next door. If you go with friends to either the Mission or Marina outpost, consider ordering a pitcher of the throat-tickling pasión margarita, a heady mix of tequila, habanñero, passion fruit, and citrus.

a paper plate loaded with three tacos covered in guacamole
Always say yes to guacamole. Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Underdogs Tres

When the TacoShop at Underdogs closed in 2020, Underdogs Tres took its place. This casual Mexican joint-cum-sports bar (with 12 TVs) in the Inner Sunset uses local, sustainable ingredients to cook up fresh Cal-Mex food that’s both tasty and filling.  

Grab a seat at the bar or in a booth outdoors, and try the carne asada taco “Nick’s way,” juicy marinated Snake River American wagyu beef wrapped in two layers of corn tortilla, one soft and the other crispy, with melted cheese, pinto beans, fresh pico de gallo, and a big dollop of chunky guacamole. Or share the nachos grande, which comes with all the bells and whistles, and goes well with the Underdogs Tres house margarita or Mexican mule.