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Best Mexican in SF?

  • d

I'm in LA and was just talking to a friend in SF who said he's been dissapointed in the Mexican food there. Any suggestions?

Please respond with any Mexican suggestions, but if you have suggestions for the following, I'd love to know them.
Great Taquerias? Any good fish tacos (he went to school in San Diego)? How about high end Oaxacan?

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  1. high end Oaxacan? in San Francisco? and you want it to be good, too?

    I am very much afraid that, other than perhaps a dish here or a dish there, such may only exist in a lot of Hound dreams....

    1. Yucatasia in the Mission. A real small non-fancy place, but good food from the Yucatan.

      1. For fish tacos, Nick's Crispy Tacos on Polk is my favorite. Fried, with guac, and habanero salsa.

        My favorite taqueria is La Corneta. Oddly enough, however, it's not a good place for tacos. There was a thread a while back wherein I laid out the good and bad dishes to order there. You may want to try to find it. Short version: burritos, fresh carne asada, carnitas, beans & rice (i.e., combo plate), grilled and green salsa chicken, quesadillas, chips, guacamole, and alfajores are good; fish, shrimp, tacos, chicken in red salsa are not good.

        High-end Oaxacan? I wish. Closest I've seen is Maya, but I'm guessing it's more fusion-y that you're hoping for.


        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        8 Replies
        1. re: nja

          la corneta also has wonderful ceviche!

          1. re: nja

            Updating some info in this old thread since it's still being used as a reference. Nick left Nick's Crispy Tacos about a year ago. The Polk location is still using his name (no doubt part of some business agreement or disagreement). Nick opened the Taco Shop at Underdogs on Irving just west of 19th St.

            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              The Taco Shop at Underdogs was giving out elote con queso at the Yelp Christmas Party last nite. From the menu I picked up, at the store they sell the corn on the cob "brushed with lime sauce and then dusted with cojita cheese & cayenne pepper"

              Last nght they gave it out off the cob in little cups served hot. I've only seen it off the cob and little nabe Mexican markets. However it is sold room temperature. The hot corn in a cup was quite nice. I'm going to have to stop by.

              Somewhere on the board there was a search for burritos with French fries. I don't know if The Taco Shop was mentioned, but they sell them there.

              1. re: rworange

                You can order it cut off the cob at the street stands in Guadalajara.

                1. re: rworange

                  I've had it off the cob from a cart in Fruitvale -- one of them had a little sign for the corn in a cup.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Actually we've had quite a few reports of sightings of esquite or elote en vaso. And, I made some for my contribution to the Chowing with the Hounds picnic buffet one year.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Right. But has anyone had it served warm?

                      1. re: rworange

                        Yes, I've only had it warm, served at safe food handling temperature.

            2. Taquaria Can Cun on Mission @ 19th St is awesome for both burritos, and street tacos (but not fish).

              I would say a good high-end place would be Colibri on Geary St in Union Square. It's really Mexico City style cooking, but it is very tasty and the margaritas kick my a$$.

              1. I am a recent LA transplat in SF, and I have tried all the top rated mexican restaurants here: Tommys, La Barca, Colibri, Mamacita, El Farolito, a slew of taquerias, and so far NOT ONE RESTAURANT comes close to the old school, yummy, cheesy, deliciousness of top LA mexican restaurants. All the SF restaurants are either "fancy pants" mexican which can be good, but not really what I am looking for, and on the converse, there are many taqerias which are more like fast food places, not sit down restaurants. Where is the SF equivalent of my Los Angeles faves like Pacos in Westchester, Don Antonios in West LA, Gilberts in Santa Monica or El Coyote in Hollywood. YUM! I miss those places soooo much. I am thinking I might have to give up my search for good mexican in the bay area and just make a point to visit one of my fav. mex joints when in LA.

                12 Replies
                1. re: luckygrlllll

                  Might need to head to Mountain View (La Fiesta) or Berkeley (Juan's Place or Mario's). Both are old school Cal-Mex in the SoCal tradition. People will tell you otherwise but it's as close to SoCal as I can find.

                  1. re: luckygrlllll

                    See, this is a perfect example of how "good XXX' means different things to different people. Personally, I don't like that style, and it can't be considered truly Mexican, but if it's delicious to you, then I hope you find it.

                    You might want to try Celia's (a local chain) and, if you ever get to the East Bay (closer than LA!), Alcapulco in Alameda.

                    1. re: luckygrlllll

                      El Coyote?? I agree that LA has it all over SF when it comes to Mexican eateries, but El Coyote would be one of the last places that came to mind when I think about the places I miss from my time in SoCal. Guelaguetza, Tacos Baja Ensenada, the East LA birrierias, yes, but El Coyote? Nah.

                      1. re: Spatlese

                        The poster made it quite clear that she's not into "real" Mexican food, but rather "old school, yummy, cheesy, deliciousness" -- as I said, everyone's definition of good is different.

                      2. re: luckygrlllll

                        You might try Don Ramon's on 11th St., La PiƱata in Alameda, or Don Pico's in San Bruno. Maybe Roosevelt Tamale Parlor on 24th.


                        1. re: luckygrlllll

                          I forgot to post this before- this was recommended in my quest for carne asada, I did end up going and it's not that close to SF, but if you happen to be heading that way I ordered a burrito it was a gooey, monster delight! Hacienda Grill- from the looks of the dishes being served this might be what you are looking for. No margaritas here.. maybe beer.


                          For Mexican in LA you really need to go to the East Side not the West Side.

                          1. re: luckygrlllll

                            I think you're friend is probably looking for authentic Mexican, which is surprisingly hard to find in SF. As a result, the usual taqueria suspects, which already serve a very different style of burrito than LA taqueria, probably aren't going to satisfy. La Taqueria, for example, serves what I consider to be the most SoCal-style burrito (i.e., no rice). My favorite taquerias like El Farolito, Cancun, and San Jose put too much stuff inside their burritos to satisfy a diehard Angelino's preference. I have the reverse problem now living in LA.

                            ETA: I meant to post this reply in response to the OP, not lucygrllll. Sorry for any confusion...

                            1. re: luckygrlllll

                              Some advice... never walk into a bar full of rowdy Mexicans, touting the virtues of such decrepit & disgusting L.A. mistitutions such as Paco's, Don Antonio, Gilbert's and specially not El Coyote. If you do... make sure you have an escape car.

                              1. re: luckygrlllll

                                The two I miss this most in LA are Gilbert's El Indio and the La Playita stand at Lincoln and Rose. They are very different in their approach but neither has a equivalent here in SF that i have found.

                                Tommy's is a little like Gilbert's in that it has the traditional AmeriMex pool-o-cheese options done pretty well along with high quality rellenos and good entre dishes.

                                (I should say this is my first post and that I have loved this board for quite a while)

                                1. re: luckygrlllll

                                  I am also a recent transplant from L.A. (Silverlake, CA) and have been in search of a good mexican sit down equivalent to El Chavo on Sunset, or El Compadre in Echo park (two of my fav's!) I long for those simple tasty dishes! I have also been to all of the above restaurants mentioned, and although some are very tasty, nothing compares to L.A. mexican food!

                                  1. re: rdstargrl

                                    Try Popol Vuh. Dunno if it's like anything you have in LA but it's excellent Yucatecan.

                                    Poc Chuc
                                    2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Popol Vuh has been renamed Poc-Chuc. Otherwise unchanged.

                                2. I miss el gallo giro in santana :(

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Southern California has a more diverse Latin culture than Northern California therefore the food is a reflection of that.

                                    There are a handful of good Taquerias that are the go to place for a burrito fix but they just don't compare to LA. Here are a few that have been good at times- El Castillito (Mission) veggie burrito, La Corneta Taqueria (Glen Park) they have a pretty good red sauce so I will order something that includes their red sauce.
                                    La Palma Mexicatessen (Mission) has some good items. San Francisco, Taq. (Mission) 24th street @ York for burritos.

                                    Try searching Taquerias specifically

                                    As for tacos goes-
                                    Unfortunately the tacos up here don't have the bite like they do at places like "El Parian, 3889 E Cesar Chavez Blvd., La Golondrina taco truck, and zillion other taco trucks and places down there, LA is a taco town. The problem here is you CANNOT get HOT salsa!

                                    Napa use to have several good taco trucks but they seemed to have disappeared, if you see El Guadelajara truck up there get out and order tacos by all means.

                                    The Cali style fish tacos there is nothing like the tacos in Baja or places in San Diego but if you need a fix - Nick's Crispy Tacos, Primavera stand at the Farmers Market (Ferry Plaza), Michoacan truck in Napa for fish tacos if it's still around.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: Lori SF

                                      If you are willing to drive, I was impressed by the fish tacos at Carmen's Burger Bar in Santa Rosa.

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        I will put that on my list next time I go up north, thanks for adding this.

                                      2. re: Lori SF

                                        Southern California is indeed more diverse in its Mexican immigrants and has more regional cooking represented. But I think a big part of the problem when we see these complaints about the state of Mexican food in San Francisco is that folks don't seem to be willing to leave the borders of the City. Tacos and other forms of Mexican just aren't a strength in this 7x7. There's plenty of HOT complex salsas nearby, but you need to hop on a BART train to Oakland's Fruitvale or drive half an hour down to Redwood City's Little Michoacan. Both of which are closer and faster than trying to transverse LA from the westside to the east, but San Franciscans don't seem to be into that.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Quite true.

                                          That said, Taqueria San Jose's al pastor and carnitas tacos are as good as any I've had in Guadalajara.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Robert, is TSJ's al pastor the same quality at the SF locations?

                                            Also, Melanie, your point about the offerings in the greater Bay Area is well taken. But the great thing about LA is that you don't have to drive to the east side for authentic mex. Even on the west side, which is basically the LA equivalent of the Marina, one can find an astonishing diversity of authentic regional offerings.

                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                              I've only been to the Taqueria San Jose on Mission by 24th St. BART. I always forget there are other branches.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Have you tried TSJ's chicken? Shockingly good, which is something I love about SF taquerias. Chicken isn't an afterthought...

                                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                                            I agree with that. In fact Oakland's Fruitvale is about the only place where I have found hot and interesting salsa.

                                          3. re: Lori SF

                                            Michoacan truck in Napa? Which one, there seems to be a couple? One always on Soscol near Lincoln and another on Salvador near 29? Guess I'll just have to check out both and report back.

                                          4. I see no mention of El Delfin on this thread. It has been recommended to me and I have put it on my short list. Should I take it off?

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Squeat Mungry

                                              El Delfin is probably too close to authentic Mexican to fit the bill. As Ruth points out, "good" means different things to different people.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                There are actually two different posters being responded to -- the original, Dave90025, wanted more "authentic" food; it's luckygrlllll who was looking for "old-school cheesy goodness."

                                                El Delfin is worth a visit, especially if you like Mexican-style seafood.

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  El Delfin has amazing mariscos - snapper a la veracruzana, ceviche, cocktel de camaron, etc. It's by FAR The best authentic Mexican I've had in the Bay Area.

                                                  Authentic Oaxacan - not high end, but incredible - you have to go to Watsonville. Fiesta Tepa Sehuayo.

                                                2. re: Squeat Mungry

                                                  Well, I had another dissatifying meal at La Barca in the Marina again last night. I think it is important when discussing mexican that everyone understands the diff. between "authentic" mexican, and old school mexican-american (what my brothers and I call "slop on a plate" 2-3 item combos where all the cheese and sauce is melted over everything along with rice and refried beans, and you wash it all down with margaritas, which I personally prefer, and La Barca is a horrible place to satisfy this craving unfortunately.

                                                  To refute westside mexican vs eastside mexican in LA, it really just depends on what you are looking for. I totally disagree that you need to go to east la for good mexican. It simply isnt true. Pacos has 2 westside locations and excellent food. The BEST homemade tortillas (both flour and corn) that you will ever taste, and you can get a booth to watch them make the tortillas. El Coyote in Hollywood has very good green corn tamales, good tacos, tasty beans and chips with both a warm thick tomatoey salsa and chilled, thinner spicier salsa, but other items on the menu might not be so great. Still even though some may consider El Coyote "average" compared to other LA mexican places it is still 1000X better than Tommys or La Barca in San Francisco.

                                                  1. re: luckygrlllll

                                                    Paco's is really mediocre... it would have absolutely no chance of making in Mexico... but the Westside does have some decent places most notably:

                                                    Monte Alban
                                                    Border Grill
                                                    Loteria Grill
                                                    Taqueria Sanchez

                                                    1. re: luckygrlllll

                                                      La Barca is horrible IMO. Pacos and El Coyote both mediocre, IMO. Sure there are decent places on the West Side but for more authentic and excellent there are far too many great places on The East Side to settle unless you just don't want to drive for it.

                                                      Tommy's to me is a watering hole for Margaritas to actually eat there is another story.

                                                      1. re: Lori SF

                                                        Again, the differentiation is not being addressed in the above posts. I am looking for good mexican american dining in San Francisco, similar to a Pacos or El Coyote in Los Angeles, which is different from Eat Nopals recommendations.

                                                        1. re: luckygrlllll

                                                          You're replying to the wrong post - this is not your original post since you set up a different discussion.

                                                      2. re: luckygrlllll

                                                        Totally agree. La Barca is thoroughly mediocre. SF does taquerias better than it does authentic or (even gringo) sit-down Mexican. On a tangential note, Eat's LA recs are spot on.

                                                    2. Hey Dave... if your friend wants to go on a hunt, Mateo Granados (a native of Oxcutzcab,Yucatan was the Executive Chef at Dry Creek Kitchen (a fairly highly regarded restaurant in Healdsburg).... and he is now out doing stuff at farmer markets, catering and invitation only 5 course affairs at various country clubs etcs., Your friend can sign up at his website and get the invitations.... I think there is an event coming up.

                                                      Further... a Vineyard Manager at Kendall Jackson is Mexican and his wife is a cook and related to Presidente Calderon's personal chef... they throw shin digs on the KJ premises every so often... if your friend hooks in to the Mateo Granados crowd then might be able to get invitations to this crowd. Over the holidays, they had an Alta Cocina Mexicana dinner prepared by the lady who is Presidente Calderon's personal chef.... in addition to Granados, the guy that owns Roosevelt Parlor and a few other reastaurants in S.F. was there.... so its a pretty small community.

                                                      I learned about it at a Sonoma Wine Grape Growers Association mixer... but couldn't make it due to a then almost newborn.

                                                      That was long... but the point is that is probably the only place in Northern California to find any decent quality fine dining comparable to what you would find in Contemporary Mexico.

                                                      1. I know everyone wants to find the undiscovered gem, but as a SoCal transplant to NorCal, I have to say that for my money the best SoCal-esque taqueria in the city is the one everyone knows: La Taqueria @ 25th & Mission. I've tried a million places and La Taqueria wins hands down. Yes, it's pricey, and yes, it's can be crowded--but it's that way for a reason. If your friend hasn't been there yet, Dave, he/she won't be disappointed.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: adrock111

                                                          Question for you... what is a SoCal-esque taqueria to you? I am also from So Cal, and am having trouble coming up with the defining characteristics... do you have a particular place in mind that perfectly embodies this SoCal esqueness?

                                                          1. re: adrock111

                                                            I find La Taqueria to be very disappointing -- and WAY overpriced. But I'm disappointed by most LA taquerias, too, so maybe that's a good sign for your friend.

                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                              I know La Taqueria is pricey but I really think the quality is high, and, for me, worth it.

                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                In fairness, I have to admit that the price of a super burrito has increased at other taquerias in the area. I seem to recall my last super chicken at TSJ checking in at around $7 or $8.

                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                  I had a $3.50 chicken taco (super) at La Taqueria a couple of weeks ago, after not eating there for several years. It was great. Better than I remembered. The carnitas tacos and chicken burrito my family ordered were also extremely tasty. Nice horchata and jamaica also. So on at least one day, it was worth the money.

                                                            2. There is a very good mexico city style taco place in Oakland, called (grimace) Chili Jalapenos, or something like that, and it's on San Pablo. their carne asada is superb, as is their brain tacos, and al carbon. It's the closest thing i've found to l.a. taquerias. a close 2nd is El Buen Sabor at 17th & Valencia - and i'm only talking about carne asada tacos here. As for mexican restaurants - i agree, they don't exist here like they do in l.a. if you want something similar to El Coyote, try Mexicali Rose in downtown Oakland. not only is there more diversity of latinos here, i found it extremely odd when i moved here 11 years ago that most people don't speak some spanish, as they do down south. i know our community is smaller, but still - the Mission is a good portion of San Francisco, but it doesn't seem to bleed. In L.A., everyone speaks some spanish, because they've all grown up either working with or being served by or cooked for (in restaurants, i'm not trying to be elitest here!) by Mexicans or some other latin americans. but don't get me wrong, i prefer SF any day.

                                                              if you go into Richmond in the East Bay, there are some pretty good replicas, but not the same thing . . . Portumex, 721 23rd St., comes to mind . . . and i actually like La Rondalla in the City (Valencia & 20th?) for just comforting mexican food - not the BEST mexican food, just good down-homey.

                                                              that said, does anyone from L.A. know El Abajeno, in Culver City? i would die to find something like that up here . . .

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                La Rondalla apparently has been closed:


                                                                I drove by Chili Jalapenos last night, made a note to put it on my 'to try sometime' list. Any other reports on it?

                                                                1. re: mariacarmen


                                                                  Chile Jalapenos
                                                                  6706 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

                                                                2. I'm not from L.A., but I just found this thread very interesting, in terms of what the OP was looking for. Sounds like something I'd want.

                                                                  I have been to La Casita, and I think it's pretty good, and probably has what you are looking for.

                                                                  I think La Pinata is better for the chips, salsa, and drinks, compared to La Casita's food, but I haven't tried too many things there.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: nuraman00

                                                                    Hard to believe in this entire thread nobody mentioned el huarache azteca in Fruitvale, which has all the D.F. faves, stuff you never see on other menus like nopales and huilacoche (sp). Great food every time I have been.

                                                                    Maybe the title for the discussion was off, and you were looking for a taqueria?

                                                                    1. re: roster

                                                                      The title says, "in SF." Otherwise I'd have mentioned it right off. Great, great place.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Good point, but with all the discussion here comparing LA places, stuff mentioned in the south bay, I figured it was open season. I didn't see anyone mention la oaxquena in the mission either, or may be I missed. That is decent too...

                                                                        1. re: roster

                                                                          This thread veered into taqueria and retro American Mexican, which is like discussing American food exclusively in the context of diners.

                                                                          High-end take on country/lower middle class Mexican classics: Nopalito
                                                                          Typical every day restaurant: Los Rosales on 14th/S Van Ness
                                                                          Mexican Taqueria: depends on what kind of meat, and in my mind it isn't La Taqueria.
                                                                          Californian version of a Taqueria: Little Chihuahua
                                                                          Regional Mexican (La Oaxaquena, Poc Chuc...)
                                                                          Retro (1950's imitation) style "Mexican": Velvet Cantina, greatly aided by a takeout jar of salsa from the nearby Papalote
                                                                          Healthy burrito joint: Papalote (great salsa, skip the chicken, steak is good, vegetarians will be happy)