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Sep 28, 2012 06:47 AM

Best mexican food in San Francisco?

I'm visiting San Francisco in November and while I know the town isn't "known" for mexican food, I also know there are tons of great little (or not so little) spots that offer up yummy mexican food. I'm talking enchiladas, tacos, refried beans...the usual stuff but done really well.

I'm craving this kind of mexican food since I moved from Arizona/california to kentucky. It simply doesn't exist here. They put a thick, sweet red sauce or white cheese sauce on EVERYTHING. it's horrible. I just want a basic chips and salsa fix with fresh, well-made food.

Where would you guys suggest I go? I'm staying in the SOMA area.


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  1. Sounds like you are looking for a good taquaria. Everyone has their favorite, but I would recommend La Taquaria just off the 25th Street BART stop in the Mission. It costs a little bit more than your average taquaria, but the quality and ingredients are better as well.

    If you go, make sure to get some salsa verde out of the plastic squeeze bottles between bites!

    1. Taqueria San Jose for tacos al pastor and of chorizo. I have no memory of their chips but the salsas are good.

      Enchiladas, maybe El Metate?

      1. What are some good options for non-taqueria Mexican? I find that people often ask me this question, and I'm never sure where to send people. Doesn't necessarily have to be fancy or even sit-down....there are a few places on Mission that i have yet to try as part of my La Lengua Chronicles, so maybe I'll discover something there (Las Brisas comes to mind), but what else?

        15 Replies
          1. re: Dave MP

            More of an index than a set of reviews/quality check, but this thread might be helpful:

            Based on that thread, I've enjoyed a few good meals at El Delfin and El Huarache Azteca (Oakland), and the botanas at Los Yaquis. Chilango didn't work out so well.

            1. re: Dave MP

              I am once again looking to get the answer to this question. Chava's looks good, though I'm hoping for something for tomorrow that is open past 8 PM (Chava's apparently closes at this time).

              Other thoughts for non-taqueria Mexican in Mission/Bernal Area would be great. Yucatasia might work. Anything else on Mission Street that is worthwhile?

              1. re: Dave MP

                Los Yaquis sounds good: Anyone been recently? It seems like they close at 7:30 so might not work for me either.

                1. re: Dave MP

                  El Zocalo is open until 3 am
                  3230 Mission Street
                  (between 29th St & Valencia St)

                  not on Mission Street:
                  SanJalisco is open until 10 pm
                  901 S Van Ness Avenue
                  (between 21st St & 20th St)

                  Chilango is open until 10 pm
                  235 Church Street
                  (between Market St & 15th St)

                  1. re: Cynsa

                    Sending friends to El Delfin, Los Yaquis, SanJalisco, Nopalito and Chilango when they want more than a burrito.

                    1. re: Cynsa

                      we enjoyed some of the best Mexican eats we've had in either SF or Alameda counties at Nopalito. vibrantly fresh organic produce, high quality humanely raised meats (encouraging our indulgence in both the quesadilla with chicharron and the carnitas). we were sitting next to the expediter, and all the plates going out looked very appetizing, including the achiote rubbed trout and the fish tacos with swordfish. a very precise, cheerful, efficient crew in the kitchen, the sole woman making tortillas in her own corner. the totopos made with a heap of fresh tortilla chips looked irresistible.

                      their prices are naturally on a different scale than a taqueria, but with two very good microbrews, a salad, and three medium sized courses we couldn't eat everything, and it was just under $60. -- many places in SF could not do as well for $30. per capita.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        Ended up at El Zocalo last night.

                        I thought the horchata was a tad watery, but my DC really liked it. I had an arrayan agua fresca, and it was very good. Cheese w/ loroco pupusas are freshly made and filled with piping hot cheese. Tacos al pastor plate had two large tacos, salsa, rice and beans. I didn't eat much of these, but the beans I tasted (refried) were pretty good.

                        Thanks again for the suggestions

                      2. re: Cynsa

                        +1 for Chilango. I have eaten there a few times over the past two years and have enjoyed the somewhat lighter and well-made Mexican food they serve.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Do they still use the green masa at Chilango? That was kind of cool...

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Sorry, don't remember having that...

                      3. re: Dave MP

                        El Delfin recently closed and is now La Movida and Pal's Takeaway. Glad to see it replaced with something good though! :

                        It would be nice to hear an update on Yucatan restaurant Poc Chuc. They're now closed on Wednesdays and Sundays, but are otherwise open until 10pm.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          I visited Poc Chuc recently, and had a similar feeling about it as on my first visit shortly after it opened: strangely introverted service, food is good but not outstanding, pretty good prices for a sit-down meal in a decent setting.

                          1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                            My assessment was about the same as Prabhakar Ragde's when I last ate at Poc Chuc in Jan 2012. Not that amazing, and it didn't make me want to return.

                            But I remember really liking it back in 2008.

                    2. I *love* La Taqueria for their tacos and aqua fresca. But that won't satisfy your enchilada craving. And when it comes to the kind of homey, rice and beans, old-school Mexican food, everyone has their own favorites and there's no real arbiter of "best".

                      A few places are notable for my tastes:

                      Roosevelt Tamale Parlor: totally old-school but maybe even more on its game now than a few years back. The neighborhood has changed, but they continue to thrive.

                      La Corneta: closer to the style of La Taqueria - not sure how their enchiladas are since I always get burritos there - but a cheap, sure bet.

                      El Toro Taqueria: like La Corneta, a solid, can't miss, cheap choice.

                      Puerto Allegre: my all time favorite place and habitual first choice for SF-style Mexican with table service and a full bar. They've "updated" their menu to go beyond the old-school standards, but they still have the standards there. I've had their 2-enchilada dinner plate many, many times and its homey, satisfying, goodness with rice, beans, shredded lettuce and a side of steamed tortillas - sure to scratch your itch.

                      That said, I'm not sure where the "best" enchiladas of that style are found in SF. I love Puerto Allegre, and I think it hits the target you've painted, but I'm not sure it stands above the rest. I know a whole lot of us are waiting to see what the about-to-reopen-after-at-least-a-decade La Rondalla will be like. It definitely use to be the kind of place you're looking for. Will they go upscale or stick to their roots?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BernalKC

                        Roosevelt Tamale Parlor used to be very old-school Mexican-American, but in 2008 the kitchen got a makeover by Karen Taylor of Primavera. Anybody been recently?

                      2. This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. And I definitely know that favorite mexican food is very subjective, based on what we grew up eating, or fell in love with as an adult. My first taste of "real" mexican food was in Phoenix, which had a totally different flavor and style than the mexican food I later had in los angeles, where I lived for ten years. And again, my now ex-MIL, who was born in mexico, made food with an entirely different flavor than what I was used to from restaurants.

                        But trust me - no one in Kentucky can make good mexican food. There's this gloppy white sauce on everything you order and without it, it's even worse. Or you can opt for a thick, sweet red sauce that they douse on enchiladas, etc. Ugh. My now ex-husband, of Latino descent, couldn't eat the stuff without gagging.