If you’re like us, you don’t need a special occasion to get out and stuff your face with Mexican food. A great plate of carne asada, the perfect street taco, or an incredibly tasty mole dish when it’s just the right combination of sweet and spicy, with that heat that just sneaks up in the back of your throat…yeah, we’re fans.
But on Cinco de Mayo, when Mexico commemorates its 1862 victory over France in the Franco-Mexican War, we like to take our quest for great Mexican food up a notch. So in honor of the holiday, and of some of our favorite eats on any day of the year, we’ve put together a list of Mexican restaurants throughout the state that we’re sure you’ll want to visit.
SAN FRANCISCO: LA TAQUERIA
If you’re really serious about your Mexican food, work up an appetite and head to the Mission District for what Travel and Leisure calls “the best tacos and burritos in the whole world” at La Taqueria.
What to order: The super carnitas burrito or the lengua tacos, if you dare
What to expect: A line that’s worth waiting in and the need to walk a few San Francisco hills when you’e done gorging yourself
Location: 28889 Mission St. in The Mission District, San Francisco
SAN JOSE: ZONA ROSA
For locally sourced, seasonal food in a small farm-to-table eatery where everything is made in house and from family recipes, take a seat at Zona Rosa in San Jose.
What to order: The carne asada. Don’t ask, just do it. An the bacon guacamole. Put it on everything.
What to know: There’s no hard liquor, so leave your margarita craving behind.
Location: 1411 The Alameda, San Jose
LOS ANGELES: EL PARIAN
This unassuming Pico-Union restaurant may be light on ambiance, but not on flavor. El Parian has a bevy of fans behind the iron gates who come for the food and leave satisfied—among them, the L.A. Times, who calls their birria “the best Mexican dish in Los Angeles.”
What to order: Birria (goat stew) tacos
What to expect: There’s a “family” side of the restaurant and a drinking side. Make sure you choose carefully.
Location: 1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
SAN DIEGO: EL AGAVE
El Agave is a standout that sets itself apart from the traditional fare found throughout the city, this Mexican gastronomy restaurant uses authentic flavors and innovative techniques, with delicious results.
What to order: The Mole Negro, one of 10 unique mole dishes on the menu, and this one has deep fried banana. No, seriously.
What to expect: If you like tequila, plan to stay awhile; they have 2,000 different kinds
Location: 1555 Camino Del Mar in del Mar, CA and 2304 San Diego Ave. in Old Town San Diego