11 Best Authentic Mexican Restaurants in San Diego

One of the best things about San Diego is that there’s some of the most authentic Mexican food and tacos in the country. Located only 20 miles away from the Mexican border, many of the chefs, local flavors and even ingredients from Mexico make their way to the San Diego food scene. The result is a vibrant and thriving Mexican food scene, present in nearly every neighborhood in San Diego.

With so many great Mexican restaurants to pick from, we’ve narrowed it down to our 11 favorite spots for an authentic Mexican meal in San Diego. Some of these picks might be more authentic than others, but we hand picked each of them for their awesome food, great atmospheres and, of course, delicious margaritas.

So without further ado, here are 11 of our favorite spots:

1. The Taco Stand

Tacos from The Taco Stand in San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

The Taco Stand is one of San Diego’s taco gems, and it has what are arguably some of the best tacos in San Diego. Locals swear by these tacos, waiting in long lines out the door for a weekend taco. The entire restaurant is inspired by the street food of Tijuana, so you know you’re getting an authentic Mexican meal.

There are three locations (downtown, North Park & La Jolla), so it’s a convenient place to try no matter where in San Diego you are. We tried the Carne Asada, Al Pastor, and Pollo Asado tacos. All were incredible, and we also ordered some Mexican street corn which was amazing. Keep in mind that The Taco Stand is counter serve with first come first serve seating, so this may not be the place to go if you’re looking for a nice sit down meal.

  • Style: Counter serve
  • Locations: La Jolla, Gaslamp, North Park, Encinitas
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Only beer
  • Price: $

2. Jose’s Courtroom

Enchiladas from Jose's Courtroom, La Jolla | Jack and Gab Explore

You can’t leave San Diego without trying some authentic Mexican enchiladas and churros! Jose’s Courtroom in La Jolla is the perfect spot to do just that. Located just a few blocks from the ocean, Jose’s lets you enjoy your dinner with stunning views of the sunset and the scent of fresh ocean air.

Churros from Jose's Courtroom, La Jolla | Jack and Gab Explore

Don’t forget to save room for some warm and delicious churros after dinner. Served with ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, and whipped cream, you won’t want to miss out on these incredible churros.

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: La Jolla
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $$

3. Las Cuatro Milpas

Tacos and Tamales from Las Cuatro Milpas in San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood has deep roots in Mexican American culture.  It’s a neighborhood that is on the rise for its rich food and art scene. It’s also worth visiting for Las Cuatro Milpas alone, an old school Mexican restaurant that opened back in 1933. The atmosphere is very casual, with communal tables located throughout the restaurant.

The food is incredible and very authentic, we love the tacos and tamales (pictured above). The tortillas are the best part, and for good reason. You can see them rolling the tortillas out in the back and then cooking them, so you know they’re very fresh. Keep in mind that Las Quatro Milpas is cash only.

  • Style: Counter serve
  • Locations: Barrio Logan
  • Payment: Cash only
  • Alcohol: None
  • Price: $
  • *Closed Sunday*

4. The Tequila Factory 

Margaritas from The Tequila Factory in Old Town, San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

Whether you’re just looking for some killer tequila or you want an entire meal, The Tequila Factory in Old Town is an awesome spot to check out. Located on a hill that offers scenic views of the surroundings, this place has some pretty incredible margaritas.

We had already eaten when we went, but they have an all-you-can-eat Champagne Buffet Brunch that looked amazing. The buffet is 9 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s $25 for adults and $11 for kids.

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: Old Town
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $$

5. Del Sur Mexican Cantina

Del Sur Mexican Cantina | Jack and Gab Explore

Del Sur is one of San Diego locals’ best kept secrets. Located in San Diego’s charming yet quiet South Park neighborhood, this restaurant is the perfect spot if you are looking for a relaxing and romantic meal. The entire restaurant is decorated beautifully, and there is a great patio outside if you feel like eating al fresco.

The specialty margaritas are great at this place, including the coconut margarita that we had off the special menu.  The taco plates are great, and a nice option for if you feel like eating a little healthier but don’t want to order a salad. Overall, this is an awesome place to try for a quiet evening in South Park.

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: South Park
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $

6. Cantina Mayahuel

Guacamole and Salsa from Cantina Mayahuel | Jack and Gab Explore

If you don’t like tequila, then don’t go to Cantina Mayahuel. This place is renowned for their extensive tequila list and incredible margaritas. While there are a ton of more expensive tequilas on the list, try the house margarita if you don’t feel like breaking the bank–it’s one of the best margaritas that you can get in all of San Diego.

They also have a great food menu. We recommend ordering the guacamole/salsa trio for an appetizer, then some tacos for dinner. Everything is very authentic and cooked to perfection in the open kitchen.

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: Normal Heights
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $

7. Salud!

Tacos from Salud in San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

Salud has one of the coolest atmospheres out of any taco shop in San Diego. With 80’s music blasting and colorful wall art featuring tattoos and motorcycles, Salud will transport you to another time. It started out as a taco catering company and expanded into its current brick and mortar location back in 2015.

The tacos at Salud are incredible, whether you go with the popular Al Pastor or opt for a fish taco (pictured above) instead. This place can get quite busy so you may have to wait in line. Keep in mind that tables are first come first serve and since it’s so busy, the tables can be a little messy. Well worth it for a killer taco.

  • Style: Counter serve
  • Locations: Barrio Logan
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Beer and select alcoholic beverages
  • Price: $

8. Puesto

Tacos from Puesto in San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

Puesto is one of the more popular spots in San Diego for a fancier Mexican meal in modern digs. It’s usually very busy (especially during summer months), so make sure that you make a reservation or call ahead of time to avoid waiting a while for a table.

Known for their crazy taco ingredients, you can order tacos with ingredients such as octopus, mushrooms, cactus, and more. Puesto also has an awesome tequila selection, but it’s a bit pricy so be prepared to spend a bit more for non-house tequila.

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: Seaport Village (Gaslamp), La Jolla
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $$

9. Margarita’s Kitchen & Cantina

Margaritas and Street Corn from Margarita's Kitchen and Cantina in

This probably isn’t the most authentic Mexican restaurant, but we had to include it on the list for it’s amazing location and incredible street corn. Margarita’s Kitchen & Cantina is located right on the water in San Diego’s Seaport Village, and is basically just a small kitchen with an ordering window and surrounding picnic tables.

We love to order a few margaritas and a Mexican style street corn and sit at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water to enjoy our meal. This definitely isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a quiet relaxing meal, but it’s perfect for a quick bite to eat with a scenic view.

  • Style: Counter serve with picnic tables
  • Locations: Seaport Village
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Select drinks
  • Price: $

10. Cafe Coyote

Carne Asada from Cafe Coyote in Old Town, San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

If you’re looking for a restaurant that’s representative of San Diego’s Mexican food scene, Cafe Coyote is the spot to go. Old Town’s Mexican food scene is a rite of passage in San Diego, and Cafe Coyote is among its most popular restaurants.

The menu has a ton of delicious options to pick from, and everything is incredibly flavorful and delicious. The carne asada platter (pictured above) is one of our favorites.

Margaritas from Cafe Coyote in Old Town, San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

You can’t leave Cafe Coyote without trying one of their famed massive margaritas. You can get them in pretty much every fruity flavor that you can imagine, frozen or on the rocks. Whichever one you decide to order, you’re in for a real treat!

  • Style: Full service
  • Locations: Old Town
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Full bar
  • Price: $$

11. City Tacos

Tacos from City Tacos in North Park, San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

Late night tacos at City Tacos in North Park is something of a rite of passage among San Diego locals. North Park is famous for its breweries and after having one too many IPAs, there’s nothing more delicious than a fresh taco from City Tacos.

Picking a taco from their long list of delicious taco combinations is no small feat (especially after you’ve been drinking). We recommend the Atun Fresco Taco (Raw ahi tuna, green apples, cucumber, Serrano chilies and toasted peanuts) or the Carne Asada taco (Grilled Angus steak, pinto beans, guacamole, red onion, cilantro, tomato and house red salsa).

  • Style: Counter serve
  • Locations: North Park
  • Payment: Cash or credit
  • Alcohol: Local beer
  • Price: $

Bonus Stops

San Diego has more than just Mexican restaurants, but also many pieces of Mexican culture and history. So if you’re looking to experience more than just Mexican food, a few of the best places to visit and explore are Old Town, Barrio Logan, and Chicano Park.

Which Mexican Restaurant do you think looks the best? Drop us a comment below!

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Authentic Mexican Restaurants in San Diego | Jack and Gab Explore

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