If it were up to us, we’d keep a bottle of Cholula hot sauce permanently in our carry-on. That’s because the taco, that delectable corn (or flour) vessel for tender meats and savoury salsas, has made its way around the globe. Its tasty cousins – the fajita, torta, enchilada and quesadilla – have also made a major imprint on the map. In honour of Cinco de Mayo (a holiday that technically exists because of a Mexican victory over the French, but in practice is a celebration of the margarita), we’ve rounded up 15 of our favourite Mexican restaurants all over the world.
Los Angeles El Compadre
There’s guac on just about every block in LA, but El Compadre has that no se que that makes people life-long regulars. You don’t just frequent El Compadre; you eat, breathe and live the bistec ranchero in this place. There are three locations, including one in Hollywood that’s just up Sunset Boulevard from Chateau Marmont.
Chicago Cantón Regio
Sadly, the city’s reigning king of quesadillas – Nuevo León – burned to the ground last year. Fortunately, the owners opened a new place directly across the street. Cantón Regio may be the new kid in Chicago’s Pilsen neighbourhood, but its menu is backed by decades of expertise.
New York City Empellón Taqueria
The tortillas are pressed fresh and the queso fundido is served sizzling in this small West Village spot on the corner of West Fourth and West 10th Streets. Happy hour includes discounts on tacos, beer and margaritas, and the brunch menu features a can’t-be-missed early-morning michelada.
London Maria Sabina
Give a Brit a fish taco and you feed him for a day. Teach Brits to appreciate the delectable Mexican dishes cooked up on the daily in Pop Brixton and you feed them for a lifetime. This tortilla-filled market stall continues to grow in popularity. Try the chicken tinga and then wash it down with tequila, Mexican beer or agua fresca – all on the menu.
Come for the carnitas, stay for the mezcal cocktails. In the 3rd arrondissement, Candelaria is a taquería meets cocktail bar with a small food counter up front and barmen in the back who mix inventive concoctions with agave spirits. Try the ‘Orange is the New Black’, which combines mezcal and aquavit with carrot, ginger, lime and lemon.
Santorini Señor Zorba
The name says it all: if San Antonio had a baby with Santorini, he would grow to be Señor Zorba. The food is more Tex-Mex than straightforward Mexican, and there are Greek options on the menu for those who aren’t prepared to go full-fledged fajita. The views may be this cliff-side restaurant’s biggest draw; feast your eyes on the Aegean sea as you dip your chips into house-made salsa.
Bali Motel Mexicola
Don’t let the name fool you. You can’t actually sleep at Motel Mexicola (though certainly plenty have tried after sufficient rounds of tequila shots). This hospitable restaurant and bar is ideal for a raucous night out in Seminyak. There are DJs, dancing and kingfish ceviche that’ll knock your sarong off.
Here, sangria takes a page from sake’s book and can be ordered hot or cold. Beyond that, the menu sticks to the script, with cheesy nachos, fajitas, chimichangas and quesadillas. This is likely the only joint near Naka-Meguro station with Day of the Dead decor.
Berlin Maria Bonita
There was a time when Germans ate ketchup-based salsa and slathered their burritos with mayonnaise. Fortunately, the dark days are over and authentic Mexican food has firmly taken root in Berlin. Maria Bonita, in Prenzlauer Berg, set up shop in 2009 and has been satisfying chilaquiles cravings ever since.
Sydney Playa Takeria
If Frida Kahlo were around today and she took a trip to Sydney, she’d probably stay at the art-friendly Old Clare hotel (they regularly host exhibitions) and then walk about 20 minutes to Playa Takeria for a taste of home. Stop by for deals on Burrito Mondays, Taco Tuesdays or Senorita Wednesdays (Frida’s favourite… we assume).
Or, head to Mexico and go straight to the source…
Cabo San Lucas Manta
Inside The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, this upscale eatery is the vision of Enrique Olvera – one of the most buzzed-about chefs in the world right now. Seafood is the focus here – which makes sense, considering the ocean views from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows – and the influence is Japanese fused with traditional Mexican cooking.
San Jose del Cabo Acre
Farm-to-table dining has taken off on the Baja Peninsula, and Acre, which just opened in late 2015, is hip to it. The restaurant sits on 25 acres of farmland, and not only are the ingredients sourced locally, so is the furniture, dishware and lighting. But don’t worry; that doesn’t mean you’ll only be drinking green smoothies here. The cocktail menu is robust, with an herb-smoked negroni and lavender-laced mezcal.
Mexico City Bravo Lonchería
When in town, it’s practically required to give the local tortas a try, and here’s the place to do it. Served on house-made rolls, the classic Mexican sandwiches here come packed with grilled octopus, chicken, oxtail or sometimes pork belly. Wash it all down with a bottle of Victoria beer.
Tulum Casa Jaguar
Come hungry, bring cash and be prepared to eat some crickets. Okay, the crickets are optional (the cash isn’t… no cards, FYI), but the crunchy critters are useful as a tequila chaser. Like any restaurant in Tulum that’s worth its weight in dream catchers, Casa Jaguar is an open-air eatery tucked within the jungle. Stay late on Thursday nights for a bohemian dance party.
San Miguel de Allende Moxi
Another creation from culinary mastermind Enrique Olvera, Moxi is located inside Hotel Matilda. Chow down on tamales, eggplant mole, quesadillas made with seasonal veggies, and pumpkin risotto, then simply take your satisfied belly back to your suite for a well-deserved siesta.
Featured image via Playa Takeria