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The 22 Hottest Mexican Restaurants in the Bay Area

The best places to chow down.

La Torta Gorda in the Mission serves up more than the city's best tortas.

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Tacos at Cosecha in Old Oakland

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Padrecito in Cole Valley

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Ana Maria Campos ready to take orders at Taqueria Campos

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At Taqueria Vallarta in the Mission, tacos get cooked up on a plancha

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Armando Macuil, the owner of La Torta Gorda

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Cosecha in Swan’s Market gives Mexican food the Chez Panisse treatment.

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Scooping up ceviche at Copita

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Lining up for tacos at Taqueria Vallarta

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The East Bay

Comal (Berkeley) This sleek, industrial restaurant is contained in a beast of a space. There are multiple vantage points from which to dine, but the lofty canopied patio, blessed with space heaters, is prime real estate. Within the restaurant are two bars—a subtle hint that you should put in an order for one of Matthew Campbell’s beautifully balanced mezcal- and tequila-based cocktails, such as the house margarita made with blanco tequila, orange-scented agave syrup, and lime. Chef Matt Gandin honed his skills at Delfina, and his point of view drifts to the California side of Cal-Mex. A plato fuerte of roasted turkey with three moles can taste as out of place as some Irish dude looks hitting the Cabo playa. But with antojitos—such as tripe guisado and albóndigas in fierce, dark adobo—Gandin finds his truest calling. 2020 Shattuck Ave. (at University Ave.), 510-926-6300

Cosecha (Oakland) As a rambling market café with shared tables, Cosecha is part of the revival of old oakland’s Swan’s Market. For the evening’s plato fuerte, chef-owner Dominica rice-Cisneros cooks up concentrated pozole verde and braised pork shoulder—dishes that pay tribute to Mexico’s old-school loncherias, the casual food counters in markets and shopping arcades. yet rice-Cisneros, who emerged from Chez Panisse’s stable, cooks from a modern point of view. her persimmon and pomegranate salad is astonishing. Most nights, the revival of Swan’s Market still feels like a work in progress, but Cosecha has already arrived. 907 Washington St. (at 9th St.), 510-452-5900

Mariscos La Costa (Oakland) The chilled-out Fruitvale location of this local seafood-cocktail joint actually has a parking lot, which makes life easy. La Costa’s ceviche tostadas and cocktails are nowhere near as plush or oceanic as those at prototypical coctelerias on Mexico’s Gulf Coast (the imitation crab here is wispy, the octopus rubbery). But the aguachiles are good, and they come with a bonus: the sharp tang of Fruitvale itself. 3625 International Blvd. (at 37th Ave.), 510-533-9566

Molcajete (Oakland) Mexican food in the Bay Area tends to be bipolar: Either it’s the food of immigrants, made by Mexican-born cooks for customers with deep ties to the motherland, or it’s Cal-Mex, made by chefs working in a Mexican genre, crossing over for a broad spectrum. Molcajete— Manuel and Rosy Torres’s place at the Oaksterdam edge of Uptown— pleasantly blurs the lines. Manuel may be from Guadalajara, but his menu is pan-Mexican: Oaxacan molotes de tinga, chanclas from Puebla, and a Yucatecan cochinita pibil with a resiny brightness from achiote and citrus. The couple also owns Antojeria Mexicana El Chilar, a very good taqueria a few blocks away. 1734 Webster St. (near 19th St.), 510-466-6652

Nido (Oakland) At the warehouse edge of Jack London Square, Silvia and Cory McCollow’s contemporary Mexican restaurant and bar nestles up against 880. The young owners have made their location into a point of gritty Oakland pride, with decor that embraces shipping container panels and wooden pallets. Silvia McCollow’s kitchen interprets classics from Puebla, Jalisco, and Nayarit with a sincerity that results in amazing dishes, like a coconut flan that falls somewhere between a solid and pure silk. Nido’s chicken pozole, made with dark pasilla chilies, serves as a tribute from Oakland’s new generation of Mexican cooks. 444 Oak St. (near 5th St.), 510-444-6436

Tacos El Grullo (Oakland) The six-block stretch of International Boulevard from Fruitvale Avenue southeast to Otaez is Latino Oakland’s plaza grande, a Sunday promenade to swag out with your primos. But a lot of locals do their serious eating half a mile north of International on quieter Foothill Boulevard, at spots like El Grullo, which feels like a hot dog stand—and probably was. If the women here don’t make the Bay Area’s best tacos, they’re certainly bracket finalists. Fans of soft chunks of cabeza will love the salsa verde it’s served with, and the shiny guajillo salsa makes the most of the offal-ness of the tripitas (chitterlings). If you order the pozole, steel yourself: El Grullo’s is delicious but intensely rich. 2630 Foothill Blvd. (at 27th Ave.), 510-261-6091

Tacubaya (Berkeley) It might have been 11 years ago that Thomas Schnetz, the chef-owner of Doña Tomás, doubled down by adding Tacubaya to his stable of restaurants (he also has Xolo, a burrito joint in Uptown Oakland). But this taqueria, situated on Berkeley’s Fourth Street, is still turning out some of the most soulful Mexican food in Berkeley. Go at noon on weekends for a bowl of menudo, tinted tobacco-brown by ancho chilies, and a lovely plate of revueltos norteños (scrambled eggs with cactus). Pork al pastor—spinning on its pineapple-topped trompo— is often on offer, ready for shaving onto house tortillas for tacos. 1788 4th St. (near Virginia St.), 510-525-5160

Taqueria Campos (Oakland) Since 2006, Ana Maria Campos has been making Fruitvale’s best pozole, menudo, and goat birria—the triad of Jalisco rancho soups—from her small kitchen in a Popsicle-orange taco stand next to a park. The four-table dining room hunkers behind a sidewalk taco window. With luck, you’ll be served an antojito-size gnarl of chicharrón and warm mashed beans for dipping, a prelude to birria that’s as plush as velour. As for Campos’s menudo blanco, its broth is as clear as day. The service crawls, but the food is worth the wait. 3659 Foothill Blvd. (at Harrington St.), 510-261-4260

Page three: The Four Mexican Restaurants Not to Be Missed in the North Bay