Our town’s affection for the cuisines of Mexico spans steak houses, marisquerias, brunch, and a new emphasis on nixtamal tradition. And tacos—always tacos. Read on for our favorite spots, fancy and casual, all over town. If you’re looking for Tex-Mex, we’ve got a few spots for you over here.
Pike Place Market
Aldo Góngora runs Sazón with his extended family, but opened this walkup antojitos counter in Pike Place Market to pursue an admirable goal: Maíz imports sacks of heirloom Mexican corn, then nixtamalizes it to make tortillas (and sopes, huaraches, tostadas, and gorditas) from scratch. Guisado-style tacos come topped with your choices of braised meats—all great—and a coffee menu draws on all that fresh masa for steamy cups of atole or chocolate-laced champurrado.
Folkloric skeleton La Catrina looks down on a gently industrial dining room—walls full of art, bar full of mezcal, and a menu full of choices. Tacos, platos, pozole, and mole-drenched enchiladas display considerable care and refreshingly reasonable prices. Meanwhile, a courtyard out back rises to any margaritas-and-guac happy hour occasion.
David Orozco’s steak house grills high-end beef (including Wagyu from the U.S., Australia, and Japan) in Mexican cuts like peinecillo, vacio, or zabuton. The runaway hit is the sprawling carne asada—or maybe the papa loca, a baked potato loaded in the extreme.
Springy hand-formed tortillas are good enough to eat straight from the griddle. They’re even better when filled with charred carne asada, the titular carnitas, or al pastor that melds pork, spices, and pineapple sweetness. The food from the busy open kitchen blows away meals at way fancier (and more expensive) places.
When Osbaldo Hernandez and Dennis Ramey decided to start their own business, their first hire was crucial: Osbaldo’s mom, Eva. They amped up her traditional, firm creations with even more filling—half-pound bundles stuffed with pork in red chile sauce, sweet potato in mole, or chorizo and cheese. No wonder lines are a way of life at the Greenlake walkup counter (the name hearkens back to the operation’s farmers market origins).
For nearly 20 years, Gloria Perez has recreated the flavors of her native Oaxaca in a casual hangout on Ballard Avenue, adorned with tiles and nearly always full of diners. The lush, labor-intensive mole negro may be La Carta’s signature, but care infuses the entire menu, from tlayudas to ceviche to lamb birria. Like so many of its neighbors, the restaurant has added a spiffy covered streatery out front.
Burien, Everett, Federal Way, Lakewood
Freddy Zavala’s original birria shop in the corner of Guadalupe Market puts out tacos of tender, shredded birria, with a sidecar of beef consommé for dipping. But the frenzied love for this growing chainlet stems from the additional layer of melted mozzarella that gets crisped at the edges. The vampiros add even more crunch to this equation, while a churro ice cream sundae keeps the decadence going.
Chester Gerl nixtamalizes his own heirloom corn, thus Gracia is one of a very few places in town making its tortillas entirely from scratch. Gerl’s chef sensibility makes a subtle imprint across a broad menu of antojitos, entrees, brunch, and a la carte tacos (and, oh, the cocktails). The streatery out front is just as atmospheric as the dining room.
The longstanding Senor Moose changed its name, ever so slightly, but remains an all-day institution. Mornings might mean deep-flavored machaca hash or huevos rancheros in the pink, plant-filled dining room. By afternoon tacos and tequila drinks rule in the gaily covered seating out front.
Greenwood, White Center
In a neighborhood rich with birria and asada, White Center’s local love coalesces around a taco truck permanently parked next to a covered seating area. Fans hesitate to even speak of the “special burrito” for fear this satisfying $2.50 apparition will disappear. Throw in the new adjacent elote stand, a pantheon of platos and taco combos, and the ability to tote this meal to nearby Beer Star—it’s easy to understand La Fondita’s following. A new location in North Seattle has a nice patio setup.
Ballard, Queen Anne
A sensational breakfast and lunch spot that will fill you up with tacos, tortas, huevos divorciados, and a week’s worth of hearty breakfast dishes. Owners Angelica Martin, Aldo Góngora, and Roxana Martin have a second location on Queen Anne that folds in seafood dishes from Góngora’s native Baja California (and nixtamalizes corn for some of the tortillas).
Lupe Flores is a musician by profession, but her pandemic taco pivot proved so successful, she’s kept it going even now that she’s back on the road. Thank goodness. Flores makes her crunchy, twice-fried tacos just like her Mexican-Lebanese grandmother taught her as a child, filling them with hushwe-style beef cooked in brown butter (or some decadent vegan cauliflower). Find them at the front counter inside Jupiter Bar. And don’t eat the toothpicks.
Just south of Jefferson Park, a companionable coffee shop serves coffee and espresso laced with Mexican tradition, like cafe de olla. The drinks are great, but Quilombo’s menu of tamales (nopales, chorizo and cheese, salsa verde, and so many more) are the jam. Order them cold to prep at home, warm to eat on the go, or with a 12-ounce americano or coffee—a brilliant $5.50 breakfast special.
This longtime mezcal-driven restaurant on Pine has re-sorted itself into a new mercado, with a few distinct areas: an ebullient rooftop cantina made for summer, a small but dazzling craft mezcal bar, and a streetside churro window. Inside, the original Mezcaleria Oaxaca remains a reliable destination for plates of carne asada or chicken in housemade mole negro…and plenty of mezcal.
A family-owned steak house on 10th Avenue East presents Mexican cuts like zabuton and peinecillo—sizzling, perfectly seasoned, and sourced from the same ranches that supply the city’s top-tier beef temples. Antojitos, tortillas, and a memorable chile en nogada round out a pretty magical, meat-driven meal, served by the light of lanterns hung from the driftwood tree in the center of the room.
This market on Greenwood’s main drag keeps a low profile—and hides a dynamite taqueria behind the grocery aisles, filled with bags of tortillas and jars of huitlacoche. Place your order at the counter for tacos piled with your choice of eight meats or the majestic sopes.
Atmosphere titans James Weimann and Deming Maclise tricked out their Mexican restaurant with the same maximalist glamor as its showy siblings (Stoneburner, Rhein Haus, et al.). But chef Manny Arce is an underheralded talent, putting out elegant tacos and platos that don’t feel dumbed down. The compound currently includes a takeout lunch window and a covered streetside patio.
Kayaks have been paddling up for tacos and margaritas since the 1990s. In 2019, Rumba owner Travis Rosenthal purchased this house-turned-cafe, clinging to the Portage Bay shoreline. He imported a few tropical high notes from his Capitol Hill rum bar and upgraded the food without changing the easy-access nature of the tacos, burritos, and chips and guac. A summer cantina below the main patio has a separate bar and taco truck.
It’s the family-run neighborhood restaurant of your dreams—expansive happy hour, futbol on in the lively bar, a tostada snack that greets you the moment you sit down. That neighborhood just happens to be Pike/Pine. A broad menu of tacos, enchiladas, soups, and so many margaritas combines comfort with care.
Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Central District, South Lake Union
Roberto Salmerón’s tribute to the affordable Mexican street tacos he grew up on involves two lightly griddled corn tortillas piled with adobada—marinated pork sheared off a vertical spit and topped with a square of grilled pineapple—or other fillings like carne asada, pollo asado, prickly pear cactus leaf. Now, mercifully, Tacos Chukís has four locations around town, and a user-friendly online ordering system. The menu includes tortas, mulitas, miniature burritos, and meat served on a grilled paddle of cactus in lieu of a tortilla, but it’s hard to resist those tacos.
Fonda La Catrina’s sibling marisqueria down the street has a more modern, whitewashed sensibility that balances seafood tacos, shrimp dishes, and sopa de mariscos with enchiladas and queso fundido. The cocktail list introduces agave spirits into everything from negronis to old fashioneds, but expect plenty of margaritas on the spacious back patio.
Capitol Hill, First Hill
Carmelo Gaspar spent 25 years working prep at Cactus before striking out with some showstopping tacos and his own family-run window inside Hillcrest Market. Fresh tortillas preview the quality levels of what goes inside: rich campechano, nopales with fresh grill marks, an al pastor that plays fiery pork against cool pineapple. A second location just off the Hill at 12th and Cherry offers a larger menu and some seating.
Some people discover Elonka and Martin Perez’s friendly spot through its all-day breakfast tacos: fluffy flour tortillas stuffed with eggs, diced potato, and a host of meat options. But the enormous menu has so many other entry points: barbacoa, vegan burritos, chorizo breakfast scrambles, al pastor tortas on grilled telera rolls, and sturdy tacos of the non-breakfast variety. The original, in a strip mall across from the Othello light rail station, spun off a sleeker location in Tacoma.