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Feb 1, 2006 05:11 PM

Mexican near San Mateo

  • r

I'm in San Mateo tonight for a business trip (visiting DC chowhound) and am looking for a good mexican restaurant near the San Mateo area. Willing to drive a little way (not into SF or San Jose tonight). Any price range. No chains unless local and outstanding.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. There are a few places (at least 3, I think) on B Street downtown, between 1st and 4th. All are quite good. Park in the garage on 2nd across from the Century 12 theater complex, walk up and down B street and take your pick. If none appeal to you, there are lots of other ethic options. Truly a chowhounds feast.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Renee

      I think there are closer to 10 taquerias on B St., but be warned that they're all pretty bare bones. La Pinata makes really good pupusas (Salvadorean, not Mexican, but delicious).

    2. La Cumbre next to the CalTrain station is a great Taqueria. For more "sit-down" style Mexican, Charlie's Taqueria on B street is pretty good. Whatever you do, do NOT go to Pancho Villa.

      5 Replies
      1. re: schwantz

        >Whatever you do, do NOT go to Pancho Villa.


        1. re: Steve

          I just really do not enjoy their food. Freezing salsa (leading to un-melted cheese), steamed, doughy tortillas, under-seasoned meats, etc. I much prefer the (Salvadoran?) style of grilled tortillas.

          1. re: schwantz

            Freezing salsas? Where? Certainly not at the salsa bar.

            What meats are you getting? The carne asada, chipotle chicken, and chile verde chicken aren't the least bit underseasoned.

            I do agree about the tortillas. I'd rather they put them on the grill, but that's a minor quibble in my book. As it is, I'm a corn tortilla kinda guy so I generally go for their tacos.

            1. re: Larry Stein

              Your hyperbole filter is turned off. Burrito rolling amigo puts in cold pico de gallo before sealing the deal and the cheese don't melt.

              1. re: on-off

                That's all I was trying to say...

      2. I have yet to find a good upscale Mex restaurant in SF or the Peninsula, but my wife's and my favorite taqueria in the Bay Area for years has been the Pancho Villa taqueria on B St. between 3d and 4th in San Mateo. It is a local chain (its other two store fronts are in SF's Mission area and its one franchise just opened on SF's Embarcadero). I've always favored the tacos with beef (carne asada) or pork (al pastor), garnished with a grilled jalapeno from the salsa bar, whereas the wife prefers the shrimp al mojo de ajo, either on a plate (with rice and beans) or in a taco. Since moving to SF from WDC last year, we have been to a number of other Bay Area taquerias, but we none that we prefer over the San Mateo branch of Pancho Villa. There is nothing like it in WDC (maybe the burrito cart on 15th/K, NW comes closest in taste though the cart's menu is far more limited, or the hole in the wall in South Arlington (formerly the taco truck near Ft. Myers) for the carne asada tacos). You can stroll into the taqueria and look at/smell the food while making up your mind, and can always walk a block in about any other direction to locate another taqueria if the first is not to your liking. While you are there, check out Talbotts Toys on B St. between 4th and 5th if you need to bring back a gift for the kids, or Draeger's Groceries (on the corner of B St. and 4th) for food/wine gifts for yourself.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Chuck

          Yes, Pancho Villa is my favorite taqueria in San Mateo, and I like the Mission location too. Carne asada is my meat of choice there.

          For more upscale (but still reasonably priced) Mexican, try Estrellita in Los Altos, on San Antonio just south of El Camino. Stick to the southern Mexican daily specials, along with the amazing chicken Oaxaca on the regular menu.

          Tres Agaves in San Francisco has been getting good reviews here but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.


          1. re: mdg

            I have to say that of all the taquerias in San Mateo, Pancho Villa was the most disappointing. Without trying to be purist (or in this case a Mexican-ist), I think the meat was low quality and unseasoned, as schwantz said. Their tortillas are dry and brittle and since they are not 'prepared' (like frying or passing them through oil or heat), they break when the watery sauces (in the meat or external) are poured all over them. And none of their ‘traditional Mexican’ dishes are, in fact, traditional or Mexican (you would never see flautas smothered in red sauce and covered with cheddar cheese in Mexico). Furthermore their ‘award’ winning salsas either weren’t served the days that I went, or were the watered downed and spicy-less versions. Finally, the service was unfriendly even on the days (times?) when there wasn’t much movement.

            Although I have not found ‘authentic’ Mexican fare in San Mateo, Charlie’s Taqueria on the corner of B street and 8th was the best of the B street taquerias, with prepared tortillas, not-saucy meats, and good if not very spicy sauces.

          2. re: Chuck

            I also love the smoothies at Pancho Villa, most have ice cream in them and they are YUMMY!

          3. Papagayo's might do the trick. It's located in the Crystal Springs shopping center off on DeAnza off of 92. It's particularly convenient if you're in the College of San Mateo / Campus Drive area and don't feel like dealing with the parking and traffic of downtown San Mateo.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Peter Yee

              Nothing like a good burrito discussion to get the fur flying. I live in Redwood City, home to at least 20 taquerias, and yet I will still fight 101 traffic to go to Pancho Villa. Sure, I have gotten the rare burrito that just wasn't right, sure the mad cleaver guy gets on your nerves, and yes, the cashier is usually surly, but overall, for freshness and taste I think it's the best in the area.

            2. I'm glad you asked! My family and I have lived in San Mateo for 10+ years and our favorite Mexican food is from La Fonda on 2310 El Camino Real (between highway 92 and the Hillsdale Mall). It's family owned and the food is FAB! The margaritas are so, so...but the food is well worth the wait. I hope you get the chance to get there.