Looking for some of the best Mexican food you’ll find north of the border? Considering the fact that California was once part of Mexico, it’s not surprising that Mexican food throughout the state is plentiful. For this latest update, December 2020, new additions include Los Guisados Del Patrón, Tacos El Patron, and the El Gallo Giro taco truck.
In San Francisco, where the ratio of restaurants to square miles in a U.S. city is surpassed only by New York, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to authentic Mexican food. Whether you’re after a quick burrito at a neighborhood taqueria, or a sit-down dinner at a more upscale venue, here’s a guide to the best Mexican choices the city has to offer.
Unsurprisingly, the widest choice of taquerias can found in the Mission, San Francisco’s Latin Quarter. Named after the Mission Delores that was built by Spanish settlers in the late 18th Century, the neighborhood today is an eclectic mix of produce markets, thrift stores, dive bars, and restaurants. In the 1950s, Mexican immigrants began settling here, bringing with them their local food traditions that are evident in the throngs of taquerias and burrito houses that line the streets today.
8 Best Tacos in San Francisco (2020 Update)
First up on Mission Street between 24th and 25th Street is La Taqueria. Although priced slightly higher than other taquerias nearby, you’ll be getting high-quality meat, organic ingredients, as well as fresh salsa and guacamole that are famous in their own right. La Tacqueria is truly where you can find one of the best tacos in SF.
This is also one of the few places in the city where you can get crispy tacos, where a deep-fried tortilla is wrapped in a regular tortilla to give it extra crunch. (Although it’s not on the menu, order your tacos “dorado” style for extra crispiness). One downside is it only stays open until 9 pm, so if you’re craving a late-night food fix, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
One option is El Farolito, which stays open until 3 am on weeknights and 4 am on weekends. Like La Taqueria, El Farolito is informal and accepts cash only. Although the tacos and enchiladas are top-notch, it’s their tightly rolled, gargantuan burritos for which they are famous, and which many people consider to be the best in the city.
Pancho Villa on Mission and 16th Streets also offers excellent burritos, as well as a full salsa bar if you’re looking for a lively nighttime atmosphere. If you’re not hungry enough for their huge regular-sized burritos, order the baby burrito: although it’s slightly smaller, it’s still more than enough for an average appetite.
The food here is fast and consistently fresh, and there are good vegetarian options too such as the range of veggie burritos, or the garlic mushroom quesadilla. Pancho Villa’s popularity is also due to its convenient location right outside the BART station and a stone’s throw from the slew of trendy dive bars on 16th Street. Not surprisingly, this is considered the best taqueria SF has to offer!
If you’re looking for more than a quick bite, a good option for a sit-down meal is at Puerto Alegre on Valencia and 16th Street. The restaurant’s popularity and no-reservation policy for parties under six means it gets crowded quickly, so get there early if you wanted to be seated right away.
Puerto Alegre is a great option for larger groups since they offer bargain-priced combo plates and margarita pitchers which are arguably even more famous than their food. If you’re lucky, you’ll be serenaded by a wandering Mariachi band before they continue on down Valencia.
Tacos El Patron
Their namesake Taco Patrón, with grilled shrimp and melted cheese is a must. They are known to have the best birria tacos San Francisco has to offer. So, another favorite is the quesabirria the cheesy beef Tijuana-style birria taco. Their beans are delicious and cooked with bacon, but they do offer a vegetarian option as well.
Los Guisados Del Patrón
From the owners of Tacos El Patron, is this wonderful new addition to the best tacos in San Francisco list! The menu at this Mission taco shop is centered on tacos de guisado, which are tacos topped with saucy stews and sauces. The menu offers 18+ different varieties every day.
Top sellers are the pork chile verde and cochinita pibil (a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Peninsula). They are also known for their vegetarian options.
El Gallo Giro Taco Truck
The El Gallo Giro truck is parked in its usual spot at 23rd and Treat Ave from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are consistently voted the best taco truck in San Francisco. Come by for juicy carnitas and flavorful grilled chicken street tacos SF has to offer.
Nick’s Crispy Tacos
Outside of the Mission, Mexican restaurants tend to be more upscale. One example is Nick’s Crispy Tacos in Russian Hill, which shares seating space with the Rouge nightclub in order to save on rental space.
Because of this quirky arrangement, you can enjoy crispy fish tacos (order them “Nick’s way” for added cheese and guacamole) while seated in velvet booths with chandeliers overhead. If you go on Tuesdays, enjoy Happy Hour until 9 pm, and tacos are $2 each – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than that in the area or a better fish taco in San Francisco.
What and Where:
La Taqueria (2889 Mission St, 415-285-7117
El Farolito (2777 Mission St, 415-826-4870)
Pancho Villa Taqueria (3071 16th St, 415-864-8840)
Puerto Alegre (546 Valencia St, 415-255-8201)
Tacos El Patron (1500 S Van Ness Ave #100, 415-829-7315)
Los Guisados Del Patrón (601 S Van Ness Ave, 415-757-0100)
El Gallo Giro (23rd and Treat Ave, 415-240-1224)
Nick’s Crispy Tacos (1500 Broadway, 415-409-8226)
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