Aqui es Texcoco brings out the flavors of traditional lamb barbacoa that are popular in its namesake Mexican municipality. Lamb is the centerpiece of the menu, whether you want cuts, ribs, tripe, or brain. They also offer specialities like grilled quail.
520 Broadway, Chula Vista | 619-427-4045
Casa de Pico is an old San Diego favorite, serving traditional Mexican dishes in a bright and festive environment, complete with an in-house mariachi band. The enchiladas are standout items, along with their horchata.
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa | 619-463-3267
Tuck into a seat on the airy patio and this restaurant’s modern Cabo-inspired decor will make you forget that you’re in the suburbs. Continue the temporary vacation with a bowl of pozole, fish tacos, and a tequila flight. They also have a kids’ menu and tacos served family style.
2674 Gateway Road, Bressi Ranch | 760-405-4195
Chuy’s is the place to go for quintessential taco shop food. Rather than following fads, Chuy’s serves big portions of the classics (think burritos as long as your forearm), with the friendly service barely beating out the surf-and-turf burrito for the main attraction.
6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Rolando | 619-469-7777
One of the few Mexican restaurants solely focusing on breakfast, Cocina 35 is renowned for their chilaquiles, which you can build how you like or select from their six specials. While they also have a lunch menu, it is best to get here early.
1435 Sixth Avenue, Downtown | 619-431-5611
Cocina de Barrio is a modern take on classic Oaxacan food. The menu has a significant plant-based section to go along with the costillas en salsa verde and crudos. Tuesday through Friday there is also a happy hour for you to try their selection of mezcal.
3707 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest | 619-677-2770
If you’re a tequila connoisseur, this is the place for you. The Old Town institution has a tequila museum with over 2,000 different brands in its collection. Savor the taste of the spirit on one of the restaurant’s two terraces.
2304 San Diego Avenue, Old Town | 619-220-0692
Named after their main dish, El Borrego specializes in lamb barbacoa in the Hidalgo style. Order it by the kilo or try it in a traditional mixiote. Patio dining will be opening soon.
4280 El Cajon Boulevard, Normal Heights | 619-281-1355
Another restaurant that has recently expanded their patio, El Zarape serves historic Mexican food alongside margarita flights. The highlights of the menu include the build-your-own taco trio and the enmoladas (enchiladas covered with mole).
3201 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights | 619-578-2600
Located just minutes away from La Jolla Shores, Galaxy Taco serves modern Mexican fare in a vibrant location. They also have a varied menu of cocktails and margaritas to go along with it.
2259 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla | 858-228-5655
Isabel Cruz’s namesake project in Mission Beach combines Asian influences with Mexican cuisine to create a healthy menu for breakfast and lunch. Bowls make up most of lunch, while breakfast has scrambles, quesadillas, and pancakes available. The food at her Bankers Hill restaurant is just as bold as the brightly colored walls and Dia de los Muertos decor: Favorites like pollo diablo and tamales are made with a healthy spin and as many organic ingredients as possible.
966 Felspar Street, Mission Beach | 858-272-8400
2706 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill | 619-501-7827
While this brightly decorated cafe has no relation to the former president, it is certainly worthy of the connection. Jimmy Carter’s serves a mix of classic Mexican, American, and Mexican-American dishes, including a weekend brunch.
3172 Fifth Avenue, Bankers Hill | 619-295-2070
The Contreras-Curiel family has built a mariscos empire over the past three generations, and they have four Karina’s restaurants in San Diego. The Otay Ranch location is beautifully modern and has a spacious patio and courtyard, serving a mix of traditional and updated Mexican food. The ten varieties of ceviche are particularly noteworthy to go along with your shrimp and ribeye.
2015 Birch Road, Chula Vista | 619-591-4444
Combining classic Mexican food with creative new takes, Lolita’s Eastlake location has an ample patio. Ingredients are locally sourced for some of the best chimichangas and burritos around.
871 Showroom Place, Chula Vista | 619-565-2271
With a menu as vivid and colorful as their namesake wrestlers, Lucha Libre is sure to win you over. Their burritos and tacos are a mix of modern and traditional with vegetarian options, and a whole section devoted to varieties of California burrito.
1810 West Washington Street, Mission Hills | 619-296-8226
Hailing from Puerto Nuevo in Baja, Ortega’s captures some of the region’s coastal small-town feel in an upscale setting. They still get their lobster from Puerto Nuevo, the centerpiece of a menu focusing on high-end seafood.
141 University Avenue, Hillcrest | 619-692-4200
Puesto delivers upscale tacos (all served on blue corn tortillas) and sharing plates in a chic environment. Three varieties of guacamole make for a perfect pairing with their sizeable alcohol selection.
5010 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley | 619-333-2167
Located right near historic Chicano Park and recently reopened, ¡Salud! blends Northern Mexican street food with Chicano influences. The focus is on the tacos, with burritos, nachos, and quesadillas filling out the menu. Their Vampiro michelada is mixed with a housemade spicy and savory tomato juice.
2196 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan | 619-255-3856
Super Cocina is no-frills in the best way possible—it delivers the comfort of home cooking. The huevos oaxaqueños stand out for breakfast, while the mole poblano is the star at lunch.
3627 University Avenue, Normal Heights | 619-584-6244
Tacos el Gordo is an institution; it originated in Tijuana and opened its first San Diego location over 20 years ago. Tacos and their associates are pretty much all they do, but they do them better than anyone else in true Tijuana style.
3265 Palm Avenue, Otay Mesa West | 619-575-7280
Tahona recently updated their patio dining area, so now is the perfect time to try one of the 120-plus mezcals available. The tasting menu divides the spirit into varieties by agave species, which you can pair with camarones a la diabla or a carnitas burrito.
2414 San Diego Avenue, Old Town | 619-255-2090
Dedicated to bringing the taste of Baja seafood at an affordable price to San Diego, TJ Oyster Bar’s got stingray, octopus, salmon, and more in burritos, tacos, pescadillas, and tostadas.
4410 Bonita Road, Bonita | 619-434-4780