San Diego’s culinary culture is heavily influenced by Mexican food. However, it is worth remembering that California was still part of Mexico less than two centuries ago.
Are you heading to San Diego for a vacation to relax? If you are in the mood for Mexican food, then you will be in for a treat. Mexican restaurants in San Diego serve up some of the tastiest food in line with this country’s rich culinary tradition.
But if we’re talking about culinary attractions, Mexican food is San Diego’s biggest draw. San Diego has much more to offer than cheap fish tacos and frankfurter burritos when it comes to traditional Mexican cuisine and in this article, we will delve into the best Mexican restaurants in San Diego that will prove that fact.
Imagine tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and more, along with an ice-cold Corona beer or margarita. It can be difficult to decide where to eat when you travel here, but fortunately, this article offers some suggestions.
Whether you’re strolling up to a food truck or tucking into a full plate, you’re guaranteed an authentic meal. In order to bring you a list of the top ten Mexican restaurants in San Diego, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring them. Hope you enjoy it!
Table of Contents
The 10 Best Mexican Restaurants In San Diego
202 Park Blvd., San Diego // +526241416394
Almost 20 years have passed since Lilita’s first Chula Vista location opened. The company has since expanded to five locations, including this one in East Village near PETCO Park and the Convention Center.
I really love a lot of their menu items that are favorites such as carne asada fries, carne asada burrito, the tsunami burrito (shrimp and carne asada mix), as well as tacos.
Their hot sauces are fiery and flavorful. Portions are big, so prepare to go home full or share. It’s casual and quick, so either order and take it to go, or sit down in the restaurant to eat. I promise you’ll love it either way!
Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant
4050 Adams Ave., San Diego // +16192824413
The Meza family has owned and operated Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant in the Kensington neighborhood for over 40 years.
In addition to excellent Mexican food, the restaurant is known for its overall community spirit. They support local organizations and take pride in treating their employees well.
I can’t pick just a few items because the entire menu is good, but try the chicken enchiladas, carnitas, green salsa, and flan. The rice and beans dish is the right choice as well. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Because of their popularity, the restaurant can get quite busy, but they do accept reservations for parties of six or more. In addition, children’s menus are available at Ponce’s, and Ponce’s can even cater your next event.
Lucha Libre Taco Shop
1810 W. Washington St., San Diego // +16192968226
You can get authentic Mexican food at Lucha Libre Taco Shop, including tacos and burritos served in a colorful setting representing traditional Mexican wrestling.
This is the place you need to visit if you’ve ever craved a good Tijuana dog (or “TJ” dog). It consists of a beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with condiments and fajita-like vegetables.
There are also breakfast tacos, a Huevos Rancheros burrito, and more that can be enjoyed as your first meal of the day.
The pricing is considered reasonable for the amount of food you get, and you will receive a discount if you wear a Lucha mask!
560 Fourth Ave., San Diego // +16196963466
La Puerta gives the Gaslamp district a much-needed taste of Baja, California. Chef Tono Garcia grew up in Baja, California, trained in Mexico City, and has now brought his pure organic regional Mexican cooking to San Diego.
It is favored for tequila by locals and tourists alike—with over a hundred of 100% blue agave tequilas on offer, complete with tasting notes. My favorite menu items are the carne asada quesadillas and their cochinita pork taco.
During happy hour, half of the drinks and appetizers, such as carne asada fries, are usually offered daily from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm and again at 10:00 pm to close.
You can stop by for late-night treats in the kitchen until 1:00 am. You can also stop by for brunch with $3 mimosas!
Las Cuatro Milpas
1857 Logan Ave., San Diego // +16192344460
Since 1933, Las Cuatro Milpas has been serving the community as a veritable institution. It’s the best Mexican food in San Diego, with a simple but satisfying menu.
Go there on Saturday to enjoy chicken or pork tacos (regular or rolled), tamales, burritos, and chorizo con huevos.
My favorite choice there is the rolled taco with carne asada steak. There’s also a drive-through mode for people who are on the way to somewhere else.
The line can get long at peak hours, so beat it by arriving early-ish.
Ed Fernandez Restaurant Birrieria
2265 Flower Ave. # D, San Diego // +16196288235
If you’re looking for the best birria this side of the border, head to Nestor, and let Migues Angel and Jorge Fernandez serve you a bowl of theirs.
Slow-cooked overnight, the beef, chiles, and spices combine into a delicious stew that’s ready for tucking into warm corn tortillas and garnished with fresh radishes, cilantro and onions.
Get the tacos for self-assembly or have them already assembled, fried in birria oil, and ready to be dipped into the outstanding consomme they serve.
It’s a great place with excellent customer service, so feel free to ask questions if you don’t know what something is. They’re so helpful!
Lola 55 Tacos & Cocktails
1290 F St., San Diego // +16195429155
Lola 55 offers mouthwatering meat and seafood dishes and is one of the best Mexican restaurants in San Diego.
There are many creative combinations of tacos here, such as baby carrot adobada and squash blossom relleno.
Achiote-rubbed pork belly with grilled pineapple and ribeye carne asada, both cooked to order on the mesquite wood-burning grill, are just a few of their highlight items.
A bowl of posole verde is comforting, while fried masa disks are just plain delicious. Don’t forget to save room for the Mexican mole-chocolate ice cream and addictively crunchy churros.
Lola 55 also serves vegetarians and vegans, offering meat alternatives in addition to cheese-sprayed vegetables commonly found on most menus.
Usually, takeout salads aren’t the most creative, but the Lola Caesar is an exception. Made in the original style using whole, crisp romaine leaves tossed in anchovy dressing with Parmesan, pepper and toasted bread, it is full of flavor. Amazing!
2414 San Diego Ave., San Diego // +16192552090
A short distance away from El Campo Santo cemetery is Tahona, San Diego’s best mezcaleria. Menu items are short and concise, consisting of three types of tacos: chicken tinga, beef barbacoa, and mushroom.
While the tacos are delectable, what you really need to see is the killer lineup of tequila and mezcal cocktail options and tastings.
There are a half dozen different cocktail versions, from twisty Palomas to juicy watermelon Whaley House punches.
Every Sunday, there are live Spanish guitar performances and thirty artisanal and ancestral bottles of mezcal representing a dozen or so different agave varieties. It’s such a nice and lively bar, and I highly recommend you visit it!
143 W. San Ysidro Blvd., San Ysidro // +16198567013
As soon as she opened her taqueria on the main drag of San Ysidro in late 2018, Priscilla Curiel began receiving a lot of attention.
If you go, you might want to order their adobada al carbon, a tribute to the local Tijuana taqueros and their grilled marinated pork: juicy chunks you pick up with your hands and eat with salsa in hand.
You should also get the tuetano, a hefty chunk of beef shank bone roasted until soft and dunked in birria broth and grilled. Spoon it on the birria or scoop bits into a hot tortilla with salsa macha.
You can pair it with another Yucatan specialty, cochinita pibil “dirty style,” which is roasted pork shoulder marinated in citrus juice and achiote, pulled and piled onto a tortilla with pickled onion and cilantro.
TJ Oyster Bar
4410 Bonita Rd., Bonita // +16194344780
Everyone in San Diego knows that when it comes to Mexican food, there’s no better place to find the best Mexican food in San Diego than TJ Oyster Bar.
Enjoy a seafood feast where the specialty of the house is raw and marinated in citrus juice seafood, such as ceviches and aguachiles, piled onto tostadas or served cocktail-style.
You can choose from fried fish, smoked tuna, garlic shrimp, octopus, and stingray, as well as larger entrees like whole fish wallpaper (steamed in parchment paper) and burritos.
With your meal, you can wash it all down with a margarita, mojito or michelada, or even a cold beer from the menu.
Now that we’ve shown you the best Mexican restaurants in San Diego, which will you try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Igor Jovanovski is an aspiring digital nomad, travel blogger and graphic designer who really loves food. He also has a creative side, and he works as a freelance graphic designer in his spare time. He has traveled across Europe quite a few times since he was young and recently started his mission to visit every country in the world! Igor’s favorite thing about traveling is the way he gets to know new people, food, places and cultures.
This exciting experience helps him create his own stories and make memories that will last forever