Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Apr 4, 2011 04:20 PM

Favorite old school Mexican restaurant in SF ?

thank you !

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. By old-school you mean Mexican-American?

    12 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Tia Margarita's has the old school vibe and they serve hot flour tortilla's with a bowl filled with wax paper pats of butter. Very garlic-ky salsa and platters with pools of refried beans with a layer of melted jack.

      Very Mexican America - just a little tough to park.

      Tia Margarita Mexican Restaurant
      19th Avenue Clement, San Francisco, CA 94102

      1. re: Robert Lauriston


        No , family run , authentic, classic.

        thank you .

        1. re: supper_hound


          Chava's Mexican Restaurant
          2839 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Ha! At first glance I thought you said Chevy's...

          2. re: supper_hound

            Authentic, classic: Nopalito. Excellent, could in be in Mexico, but not family run.

            306 Broderick St, San Francisco, CA

            1. re: Thomas Nash

              Nopalito? Really? I think that is pretty much the opposite of what the OP is asking for.

              To me Nopalito is a rejection of the "classic" family run Mexican American joint, a re-invention of it that features expensive, boutique, pretension in the name of being holier-than-thou. Even if the OP is looking for a classic-reinvented-with-organic-locavore-goodness, I'd recommend Green Chili Kitchen over Nopalito.

              1. re: BernalKC

                The OP clarified and said he did NOT want Mexican-American, but classic, authentic, and family run. I pointed out that Nopalito is not family run but that it is very authentic and classic Mexican regional cooking -- much like you would get at a restaurant of this class in Mexico City.

                Mexican food is much more than just cheap dives. It can be refined and even boutique.

                1. re: Thomas Nash

                  I see your point about the OP saying no to Mexican-American. But that is somewhat in conflict with "old school" and "classic", which I think we'd both agree don't apply to Nopalito and would suggest what we used to call Mexican, but thanks to places like Nopalito we'd now call Mexican-American.

                  Whatever, a lot of good suggestions on either side of the line here...

                  1. re: BernalKC

                    Actually, we don't agree.

                    Nopalito is classic, old school of the type you would find in Mexico City or elsewhere in Mexico, but not in the USA.

                    My problem is that too often we start talking about restaurants in the context of the Americanized versions of a national cuisine. I keep pushing on this forum for a focus on what a cuisine is like in its native country. Almost invariably that is superior to what has become the American standardized version, even when the American version is done well.

                    Why this is the case is an interesting question. It has to do with more than just toning down to American tastes. I think one factor is it allows taking short cuts on the ingredients that in the native versions create a multi-dimensional complex dish. This may be because in early renditions of a dish in American restaurants, customers come to identify with one dominant flavor and that then becomes the signature of the Americanized version.

                    This is the same discussion as in the Mission Chinese Food thread...

                    Mission Chinese Food
                    2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1. re: Thomas Nash

                      These are complicated issues.

                      These days, it might be easier to find first-rate handmade tortillas around here than in many places in Mexico.

                      Slavish attempts to replicate a foreign tradition aren't always as successful as staying true to the spirit and style of the tradition while adapting it to local produce. That's not such an issue for Mexican cuisines, since we can get most of the ingredients.

            2. re: supper_hound

              Puerto Alegre. I've been going there for 30 years now. Same family. Same formula, though the menu has expanded over the years. Definitely classic.

              Puerto Alegre Restaurant
              546 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          3. For burritos- La Cumbre, steak.

            The worst burrito they've ever made is 50 times better than anything in New York.


            Btw- it's linking to one in SM- I'm referring to the one in the city.

            La Cumbre Taqueria
            515 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1 Reply
            1. re: twan55

              I think supper_hound is from Boston and the Mission burrito is not authentic Mexican.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                Tommy is very similar to Tia Margarita's. I actually prefer Tia's which is also like Juan's in Berkeley and others of the combo plate ilk.

                But I think the OP wanted something less American style.

                1. re: myst

                  The one time I tried Juan's Place, well, I didn't go back. Stuck in the past in a bad way.

                  Mexicali Rose in downtown Oakland does that retro stuff pretty well.

                  Mexicali Rose Restaurant
                  701 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94607

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Yes. I don't tend to lean toward retro, but I know several places that do it "well". I generally stick with tequila, chips, salsa and guacamole. Pretty safe. Plus I get full without an entree.......

                    Juan's has flour chips which is just evil. Tia Margarita was in my old "hood" and I have to admit a hot buttered flour tortilla with a spoonful of salsa was pretty tasty. But I will share these things with "road food" or somewhere else as retro is not really hound-worthy.

                    1. re: myst

                      i like the melted cheese with chips they serve at Tia's - queso fundido? It's the only place I've ever had that, and love it.

                      There are certain dishes i just love at Tommy's - the Yucatecan specialties. Their poc chuc drives me crazy, and i used to love their rice (tho I think it's changed) and their salsa, which they use also as the dressing on their salads. I haven't eaten enough at Tia's enough to compare - mostly just have margaritas and chips and the aforementioned delicious melted cheese debacle.

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        I think the people at Poc-Chuc all came from Tommy's.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      i do like Mexicali Rose - do agree it's better than Juan's.

                      Mexicali Rose Restaurant
                      701 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94607

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Agreed on Juan's. I live nearby and it stands out in my mind as a place I've heard so many grea/nostalgic things about when I describe where I live, and I can't imagine how anybody could like it. I mean, there are tons of places I'm not so excited about but realize people have different preferences, but unless there is a genre of people who like mushy, oily, bland food I don't get it. Interesting fact--the fajitas contained broccoli, but not in some sort of Cal-health way, in an overcooked, smelly, floppy way. Though I'm still curious as to whether it used to be much better or whether my nostalgia-havers were wearing rosy, margarita-filled glasses.

                        1. re:

                          Have you tried their crab enchiladas?

                          1. re: sydthekyd

                            I was at Juan's a month ago. Sadly it has gone down hill and the crab enchilada wasn't very good. I had a taste...not as I remember it. On the flip side, everything on the daily special board was good, so there's hope. I had the goat and it was very good.

                            p.s. Don Juan (the original) was there...lots of people stopped by to say hi.

                          2. re:

                            I friend who is one of those people who love it dragged me to Juan's once. I don't even remember what I ate, but I never wanted to go back.

                            Speaking of Berkeley, though, La Fiesta was old school, and I think the new incarnation will be, too. The food at La Fiesta always (in my mind, anyway), had more freshness than places like Juan's. Also very old school in the East Bay: Acapulco in Alameda.

                            La Fiesta Restaurant
                            240 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                      2. re: mariacarmen

                        I agree with Mariacarmen on Tommy's on Geary. When I ate there, I seemed to be transported back to 1968. Of course, the added benefit is the huge tequila selection curated by Julio. He is a very impressive guy.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          He is. and poor guy just lost his father a few weeks ago, too...

                        2. re: mariacarmen

                          Which old school dishes does Tommy's do best?

                          Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
                          5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                          1. re: prima

                            well, my favorites are the Yucatecan dishes, like poc chuc, so maybe that's not what you consider old school, but they do enchiladas well - very cheesy, gooey (that's what i think of when i think of old school Mexican(-American?). I used to love their rice, but I think it's changed....i like their Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, chile relleno... my sister used to call their Special Dinner a "dairy delight" (Two Cheese Enchiladas in a Green Tomatiilo Sauce, Topped with Sour Cream, Served with Rice, Beans, Salad and Tortillas). I love their spicy salsa (i think at one time they had a hot and a mild.) Good guac.

                        3. El Delfin, on 24th St.

                          El Delfin
                          3066 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                          1. Used to go to Don Ramon's w/ some coworkers about 12yrs ago -- is that still around?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kc72

                              It is.


                              Don Ramon's Mexican Restaurant
                              225 11th, San Francisco, CA 94102