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Dining Out 2 minutes 18 August 2021

The Best Mexican Restaurants in San Diego in MICHELIN Guide California

Here's where to go to get your fix of carnitas, tamales, adobada and, of course, tacos.

Mexican cuisine California United Cuisines of California

Just 30 minutes from the US-Mexican border, San Diego has some of the most delicious Mexican eateries in California. Here are the best Mexican restaurants in and around San Diego.

Las Cuatro Milpas. Photo @hepua_lahaole/Instagram
Las Cuatro Milpas. Photo @hepua_lahaole/Instagram

Tuétano Taqueria (San Ysidro)

With the Mexican border just minutes away, you might be tempted to skip this homey spot for a more “authentic” meal in Tijuana. But the taco cognoscenti know that Chef Priscilla Curiel’s guisados are every inch the equal of Baja’s—down to the fair prices and hefty portions (and without the long lines on your way home). Chef Curiel has amassed a cult following for her rich beef birria, crowned with a bone for scooping buttery marrow atop the taco. 

Las Cuatro Milpas (San Diego)

This legacy restaurant is packed with loyal patrons who drive miles out of their way for a tamale or taco. It’s old-school for sure, so if you’re the type who likes to substitute this for that, you’ll be laughed out of here. Instead, grab a tray and move along the queue where you’ll barely have time to read the menu. Dishes are simple and sumptuous, like chorizo with rice and beans as well as tacos filled with chicken or pork. Don’t miss the hot sauce at the end of the line—it’s what takes these eats to the next level.

LOLA 55 (San Diego)

The taco variations on offer here lean more sophisticated with creative combinations such as baby carrot adobada and squash blossom relleno. Ribeye carne asada cooked to order on the mesquite wood-burning grill or achiote-rubbed pork belly with grilled pineapple are just some of the winners. Posole verde is comfort in a bowl, while fried masa disks are plain delectable. Remember to save room for the Mexican mole-chocolate ice cream and addictively crunchy churros.

Oscar's Mexican Seafood. Photo @theboldappetite/Instagram
Oscar's Mexican Seafood. Photo @theboldappetite/Instagram

Tacos El Gordo (San Diego)

Look for the telltale sign of this taqueria—that smoky gray exterior with hot pink trim—and you’ll know you’ve arrived at a local hot spot. Those in the know make a beeline for the sweet and spicy adobado pork tacos. Feel your taste buds tingle as taqueros slice hunks of spicy meat from massive spit-roasted cones of crimson adobada. Then grab a tray and stacks of napkins, as food this good doesn't come without a mess. Unique cuts are on offer here, including tripe, pork cheek, tongue and brain. Mulas, vampiras and quesadillas round out the selection.

Lucha Libre (San Diego)

This is a kitschy shrine to the masked warriors hailing from south of the border. The entire space exudes tons of fun, but you’ll need a wrestler-sized appetite to tackle its seriously good food. Tacos filled with steak and seafood are incredibly heartwarming, with a secret chipotle sauce adding just the right amount of heat. But, their burritos are for true competitors—bursting at the seams, these beasts are big, fat and quite delicious. 

Oscar's Mexican Seafood (San Diego)

This south-of-the-border gem seems straight out of central casting for a classic surfer snack shack. The original member of the local chain that opened in 2011, it's laid-back, breezy, and set just blocks away from the beach, so you won’t need to brush the sand off your feet to eat here. Dineon seafood-centric Mexican food, where tacos take center stage with familiar renditions—like crispy fish and shrimp, as well as more unusual selections including grilled octopus and adobo-marinated tuna.


Puesto. Photo by Anne Watson, courtesy of Puesto
Puesto. Photo by Anne Watson, courtesy of Puesto

Puesto (La Jolla)

There may be other Puesto locations, but this one seems to outshine the pack. The cuisine here has a restrained heat that emphasizes the fresh, bright flavors of Mexico, beginning with the pure pleasure from thin, crisp chips and fire-roasted salsa. Come on Taco Tuesdays when prices are slashed to explore their array of tasty fillings, many of which show artisanal flair through market-sourced grilled fish, garlicky mushrooms or zucchini and cactus.

The Taco Stand (La Jolla)

One of three locations, this family-run taqueria is inspired by the taco stands located just an hour away in Tijuana, but the name might as well refer to what you’ll be doing here. That’s right, you’ll be doing a lot of standing around, as the lines are long. The tacos, burritos and elote with mayo, parmesan and chili powder are all deliciously messy. The marinated pork in the al pastor taco is pure bliss; grilled mahi mahi is appetizing; and flame-grilled nopales are just right for vegetarians.

The Taco Stand. Photo by Michelin North America
The Taco Stand. Photo by Michelin North America

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