HOME > Chowhound > Greater Seattle >


Searching for the Seattle equivalent of L.A.'s Mexican food...

Seriously folks. Is La Carta de Oaxaca the best we can do?

Does anyone know ANYWHERE (that's a sit down restaurant, not a taco truck) that has delicious, authentic Mexican food?

Or do I have to head to Los Angeles when I've got a serious jones for it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Spudsocks, You will have to drive South to Tacoma. There, at 40th & McKinley (an area Tacoma police refer to as "Sector 4") you will find El Compadre`. Walk past the bars on the doors & windows and through the grocery store to the restaurant in back. There you will find truly great Mexican food. Brush up on your Spanish though, English is not spoken at El Compadre`.
    (Saturday morning, Menudo is served from 9:00 on. It's terrific.)

    1. G.F.L., in Seattle proper. The closest you are going to find in Seattle is El Puerco Lloron on the Hillclimb in the Market, but even it -- though delicious -- is not the authentic place that I know you are describing. DK the Tacoma place mentioned, but it surely sounds plausible.

      1. Muy Macho is excellent. Guaymas and Malena are both good.

        1. Oh, BTW, just so you can really, really know what you're missing:

          1. The only places I have found that are a step above edible are:

            El Purco Lloron on the stair climb of Pike Place Market
            and El Gallito in the Central Distric at 1700 20TH Ave. Be warned that El Gallito's margaritas dont taste strong but come with a double shot of tequila.

            For breakfeast I've liked Senor Moose Cafe on Leary in Ballard. The sauces are good and they use Cojito cheese.

            Im not very fond of Guaymas or Malenas.

            Otherwise you have to go to Eastern Washington.

            1. I've only been once, but El Quetzal in Beacon Hill knocked my socks off.

              Here's a mini-review I wrote:


              2 Replies
              1. re: creepygirl

                I just went to El Quetzal today and loved it. It's definitely not L.A.-style west coast Mexican - it's totally D.F. (Mexico City) style. I don't think I ever had pambazos in L.A. Still worth a trip.

                I need to go back sometime when they have lengua - they were out today.

                1. re: creepygirl

                  We were at El Quetzal Friday night-- be cautioned, it closes promptly at 8. I had the chorizo and cactus huarache. It was delicious.

                2. The oft-mentioned La Tarasca in Centralia is probably the best I've had in the state. Fresh-made tortillas. The adobada taco is a greasy delight.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: hertzdonut

                      I have--in fact, I even recommended it earlier in this thread. Muy Macho is the best in Seattle, I think, and I love it...but La Tarasca is even better. I have dreams about the texture of those tortillas.

                      1. re: Evan

                        La Tarasca is wicked good, I agree - just went there last week for the first time. I had so many tacos I think my co-workers were kind of horrified.

                  1. Not Mexican, but delicious nice Southwestern food can be had at Cactus in Madison Park. I also like El Camino in Fremont which is Mexican, just not the kind most Americans are used to. Fabulous handmade tamales.

                    1. I've heard good things from picky Mexican food eaters about Taquerio del Rio, in White Center, and Juan Colorado and Muy Macho, both in South Park. I also like El Puerco Lloron, and La Cocina del Puerco in Bellevue which is practically identical though the staff says the restaurants aren't related, and these places are actually the only two that really remind me of places I've been in Mexico.

                      I like Burrito Loco on Holman Road, too, but it doesn't really remind me of the kind of LA taqueria it sounds like you're after. But, neither does La Carte de Oaxaca, so I guess I'm not exactly sure what you want.

                      1. The truest experience are the taco trucks along Rainier Ave. South, actually. Columbia Plaza parking lot is one to pull in for!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TheDexter

                          Tacqueria Maestro on Pac. Hwy. S. in Sea-Tac just n. of 518. Totally dumpy surroundings but very clean truck and (outdoor) dining area. They have GOAT on the regular menu!! This place rocks and is the least gringo TT in the Sea. area. If you are on the s. end and eating at the Valley trucks (and there ARE a bunch of good ones), you owe it to yourself to check out Maestro

                        2. Upon the recommendation of this list, I stopped at La Tarasca in Centralia on a return trip from Portland to Seattle yesterday. I sampled the chile relleno (pretty good), pork taco (excellent) and finished with 3 tortillas, which were the best I have ever eaten. They are made in house and the owner has refined the process of how to make these all-white-corn cirles of joy so delightfully soft, almost pillow-like. I would travel the distance from Seattle to Centralia alone for those tortillas. A fabulous (and hot) green tomatillo sauce paired with them beautifully.

                          1. After moving here from southern California, I was getting desperate for some really good Mexican food. People kept sending me to Mama's in Belltown, which truly sucks--greasy, flavorless, cheese-smothered glop. But nowhere else I tried was a whole lot better, and I had just about given up hope when I found La Costa on SW 152nd Street in Burien. The place has a nice, homey feel, and there are lots of regulars. The crowd is always a mixture of Latino families and locals who appreciate really good Mexican food that isn't tarted up for the gringos. The service is great, and many of the servers have been there for years. The margaritas are potent and the jukebox in the bar is full of Mexican pop tunes. But go on Friday nights before 8 pm and you'll catch a fabulous live Mariachi band (and you'll probably see me and my husband there!)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                              I can't believe people sent you to Mama's! Even people I know who love it recognize that it's like junk food, not authentic by a long shot.

                              1. re: christy319

                                I had so many people recommend Mama's, I went back three times!! I kept thinking, maybe they were just having a bad day... I finally figured out that bad days were the rule there, and haven't gone since. But every time I see a poll done by somebody like the Weekly, they get picked as "best Mexican food in Seattle." No accounting for tastes!

                                1. re: MsMaryMc

                                  Populist "Best of"s tend to be less than discerning. And honestly, thank goodness--most of the best places don't operate at a scale that would enable them to serve the large number of people whose votes are needed to win one of these votes. The result would likely be either (1) huge waits, or (2) expansion at a rate that is uncomfortable for the proprietor, and ultimately unable to sustain their high quality and service standards.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Can't tell you--it's not my cuppa tea. I can't even swear that they have it, but I'll look next time I'm in--I'm betting they do!

                              2. I had lunch at El Puerco Lloron today. Always delicious. FYI, especially for vegetarians and guacamole addicts, they will make you guacamole tacos if you ask for them (not on the menu). Three amazing tortillas filled with scoops of their wonderful guac. I get it with a side of rice and black beans (their default is pinto beans) and it's perfect.

                                1. La Carta de Oaxaca- its in Ballard and great. No reservations so show up early if you don't want to wait. The women cook and the men are the waiters.

                                  1. The White Center / South Park neighborhoods have a number of LA style (at least in ambience) restaurants, but it's a long drive for me and I haven't been down that way recently enough to offer any specific suggestions.

                                    In North Seattle, I favor La Botana (8552 Greenwood Ave N.). Central Mexico style cooking. Their chile braised goat (birria de chivo) is excellent and they do a unique style of menudo - a rich, but not intensely chile red broth, both, btw, available 7-days a week (none of this weekends only stuff). Spanish is helpful, but not essential (unless you need to ask questions about menu items or details of preparation). Good horchata, with free refills.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: WesN

                                      Tried tacos at Juan Colorado in South Park recently. It was good, better than the taco truck average at truck prices, but nothing outstanding. A big space with a bar-type atmosphere. In this 'hood I would probably go back to Muy Macho first, because it has a better selection of salsas and its meats are of comparable quality. But I am intrigued because Juan C has "michocan" style carnitas on the menu, possibly (hopefully!) something like those from La Tarasca.

                                      Went to Alcatraz on Rainier Ave. S. also. They do tortillas hecha a mano for a modest extra cost, which is great, and their fish and nopales tacos are tasty (the asada was less successful). They offer no pork, which may make sense in neighborhood with a significant muslim population (I presume), but for Mexican fare this seems unnaturally limited. Probably will return when the time is right.

                                      1. re: equinoise

                                        I drove by Alcatraz last night and it appears to have closed. It was dark and a "for rent" sign was out.

                                    2. First off, before taking a Mexican food recommendation from someone in Seattle, pleeeeeez ask where they are from... Seattlites don't know jack about Mexican food (outside of taco trucks).

                                      I miss being surrounded by amazing Mexican food, El Puerco Lloron helps, but isn't quite there. El Gallitio the same, a little too American. La Costa in Burien is a fav and Taqueria del Rio is yum, but sorry: my taco truck is still the tops. People who like Mama's must smoke 2 packs a day--it's disgusting and unsanitary.

                                      1. Anyone ever had a Chile Relleno at Gay and Larry's in Riverside, CA? I've been looking for a replacement for 30 years.
                                        My wife and I frequent Michoacan on 15th in Ballard. Not L.A. for sure but tasty.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Goofyhoundog

                                          Santa Fe Cafe (Phinney Ridge) has very good red chile sauces, pork adobo, posole, black bean soup, flour tortillas...have not tried the Rellenos but they have an intelligent way with Southwestern & Mexican.

                                          1. re: staffstuff

                                            I think the S.F.C. considers their cuisine "New Mexican".

                                          2. re: Goofyhoundog

                                            I loved Gay and Larry's. I grew up in Riverside and we went at least once a month. Horrible service and great (unauthentic) Mexican food. We always got a plate of chips and cheese (came out on a large oval hot metal plate) and I ordered a 1A -- 1 taco and 1 chile relleno. When the restaurant closed, the owner said she was planning to write a cookbook, but I haven't seen one out.

                                            1. re: Goofyhoundog

                                              I just found this article online...


                                              Gay and Larry's Chile Rellenos

                                              Enough oil to fill your deep fryer (they need to bob free in oil


                                              1 27-ounce can Ortega Whole Green Chiles (12-14 chiles per can)

                                              3 cups Krusteaz Complete Buttermilk Pancake Mix

                                              2 cups water

                                              12-14 ½-inch-square by 2 ¼-inch-long pieces of Velveeta Cheese

                                              ½cup corn starch (for dredging)

                                              Fill deep fryer to manufacturer's recommended amount and heat to 375
                                              degrees. Remove chiles from can, drain and lay on paper towels. Dry
                                              them thoroughly (pat dry if necessary). Mix pancake mix and water to
                                              form thick batter. Place Velveeta piece inside chile and dredge in
                                              corn starch. Dip chile into batter covering entire chile (batter will
                                              be thick). Drop carefully into hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes,
                                              turning to ensure even browning. Remove when golden brown. Enjoy.

                                                1. re: dshannon1042

                                                  ...And this is what Angelinos consider Mexican food? Being from SoCal is apparently the culinary equivalent of being able to see Russia from Alaska.

                                                  1. re: dawsonct

                                                    Oh, you wanted AUTHENTIC Mexican food... actually, Angelinos recognize that this is no more authentic Mexican food than say Taco Bell. We just don't get snooty about it.

                                              1. No one has mentioned Agua Verde (that's with a G not a Q) if you should look it up. Honestly I do not know what LA Mex is, AV is a multi-roomed old house on the canal. Lots of odd corners and sunshine streaming in, esp. in the back room - like a sun room. And the food is a bit different from anything else I've seen in Seattle.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: vicsailgarden

                                                  Yes, I do enjoy Agua Verde on a lovely summer day. Don't make it over there much.

                                                2. We tried El Compadre in Tacoma the weekend before last. Saturday afternoon. The place was practically empty when we arrived. I ordered the ceviche -- got shrimp on a tortilla. I also ordered the mole con pollo. Both were extremely bland. Only if I lived around the corner would I ever eat at El Compadre.

                                                  1. This was an unfair question to begin with. L.A. has a Mexican population greater than Guadalajara and one of the most vital and competative restaurant scenes in the country. To compare L.A. to our humble area so far from Azatlan is a losing proposition. We, in Washington grew up eating mediocre Mexican in restaurants, and as much as we have our favorites, they can't match-up to L.A.'s.
                                                    That said, there are good signs around. More restaurants are using fresh chile to make relleno rather than canned. Small restaurants are springing up in Mexican enclaves that cater almost exclusively to Mexicans. One of these is Pollo Rico in Everett. Their grilled chicken is as good as those found anywhere.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: kirkj

                                                      Well said Kirk. I never go out to Everett, but if I find myself there sometime...

                                                      1. re: kirkj

                                                        You hit the bullseye. I'd add that there is no "L.A. style" Mexican restaurant. Because of the huge Mexican population there, you have lots of genuinely authentic restaurants serving food from virtually every Mexican state -- e.g., Durango, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Verzcruz, Oaxaca, each of which has its own "style.". It is likewise unfair to compare other types of ethnic food available in Seattle to its counterpart in Los Angeles. Nothing in Seattle compares to the variety and authenticity of the Thai restaurants in Thai Town or the Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park and the San Gabriel Valley.. Even though the ethnic populations in Seattle can't match those in Los Angeles, however, it only takes one restaurant with one talented cook at the stove to produce remarkable authentic ethnic cuisine. And that can happen in Seattle, as well as anywhere. A leading example of this is the amazingly wonderful Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, which serves exquite and authentic Northern and Northeastern Thai food.

                                                      2. I am a seattlite, so take my answer with a grain of salt. But oh, wait, I did live in Mexico, so I think I know a little bit about what I'm talking about.

                                                        Mr. Villas on Lake City. Not everything is good (I reccomend against the fajitas), but they have tortas like what we always got for lunch at work and the carne asada was perfect...

                                                        The stuff that I ordered that I actually had in Mexico (like the tortas) was with out fail very good. When I tried the americanized stuff (I certainly never had a fajita while I was there) that is when I ran into trouble there...

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: dagoose

                                                          I agree-- but I am also a Seattleite. The place used to be called Pancho Villa's but the owners changed the name a few years ago to attract a bigger crowd--if I remember correctly we were told that Americanizing the name made it less intimidating for non-Mexicanos. I thought it was an interesting story.

                                                          Anyway. I like their food mostly. I haven't been back for a while because it's a ways off for us and the last time we were there they were cleaning the bathroom and all you could smell was bleach and assorted sanitary chemicals. Did not appreciate that.

                                                          1. re: sophie.

                                                            Okay, I am from Texas and definitely know what good Tex-Mex is and I dont really know anything about LA mexican food but I imagine you would like places like this:

                                                            Malenas on the top of Queen Anne Hill
                                                            The Taco Bus on Rainier Ave S (past Chubby Tubby's)
                                                            The Taco Truck at Northgate (exit towards Target and then turn left into the gas station parking lot, so worth the drive, their salsa is the shit)

                                                            1. re: sweetwankle

                                                              It seemed that the original poster (a year ago) was not looking for a taco truck. However I feel that the best I've had has been at Tacos el Asadero or the Taco Bus. Love love love it. I was there this weekend.
                                                              My praise is in this taco truck thread:

                                                        2. Maybe Senor Moose, in Ballard, on Leary.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: mrnelso

                                                            Have not tried Senor Moose for dinner (the lines are gigantic), but have for breakfast and it seems a lot like what I used to get in Mexico for breakfast. The dinner menu seems quite regional, which is a good sign. The kitchen is filled with Mexicans, so that's a good sign too, I expect. Love the lamb birria and the albondigas at La Carta de Oaxaca. Agua Verde is tasty and fun but not really authentic per se--kind of nuevo healthy Mexican. Santa Fe is out of the question. First, to be fair to it,, it purports to be New Mexican, not Mexican, and they're two completely different things. Second, I find it way too heavy. Haven't been to El Puerco Lloron for a long time, but was never very impressed, although I realize it is very popular. The poster who pointed out it's unfair to compare Seattle to LA Mexican is correct. Don't expect to get here what you get there. Just as it's unfair to compare Vancouver Chinese with Seattle Chinese. No comparison. .. .

                                                            1. re: PAO

                                                              The proprietors are not Mexican, but I believe have some long experience there. Their menu selections are eclectic, but mostly very good. One evening I ordered taquitos de papas, I think, and was a little uncertain when I recognized that the owner/chefs were not there, but the hispanic cook did an absolutely fabulous job with the dish.

                                                          2. I'm not sure of what LA Style Mexican food is like... but I often go to Tenoch (just outside of Pioneer Square). I've only had their burritos... but they're very good. YMMV.

                                                            1. Taqueria La Estacion, in Burien, is pretty legit. As good as anything I've had in the PNW.

                                                              Hilariously, it appears to occupy a former Taco Bell. It's been jam-packed every time I've been, and nobody speaks much English. Worth checking out - I can't believe it took me so long to get down there myself.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: terrier

                                                                I finally tried Taqueria La Estacion a few days ago, and I'll second that recommendation--the tacos were outstanding! I was the only gringo in the place, but the staff and my fellow diners were a remarkably friendly bunch. I'll be back, for sure!

                                                              2. Cocina Esparanza in the Crown Hill neighborhood N. of Ballard has always been good when I've been there. Very good food from a CHEF driven menu. Nice to taste competent interpretations using the ingredients and techniques without slavish devotion to tradition. Reading some of the reviews, however, it seems as though one negative theme that seemed to constantly be revisited was slow and sometimes surly service. Be forewarned, it is a small room and seems to be a popular alternative to La Carta, and the service can get a bit harried and forgetful when the place fills up, as it does quickly since it is open only Tues. - Sat. for dinner. Get there early, be patient, be hungry, order more than you want to eat, take the extras home and guard them until you are hungry again.

                                                                1. Go to Mount Vernon. Large local Mexican population (farm workers) and several good choices.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: christy319

                                                                      We ate at La Casita last time I was in MV and it was very good. Small place--"little house" as the name says, and in a residential area near the Catholic church. My dad likes El Gitano, which is OK but I liked Casita better. Unless you are into quantity of food over quality, I'd avoid Mexico Cafe.

                                                                      I don't get to MV very often, others will have deeper knowledge that me, I'm sure. There are a couple of other restaurants that my sisters like but I haven't been, can't recall the names.

                                                                  1. My favorite local place (Greenwood) for carnitas tacos is Taqueria Tequila, 301 NW 85th St. I don't know that I'd send people there from all over town - but if you're in the neighborhood, it's the best Mexican I've found.