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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 North Bay

Agave Mexican Restaurant (Healdsburg) Finding good Oaxacan food north of Los Angeles is a Mexican food lover’s version of comet spotting— which is why Octavio Diaz’s restaurant, hidden away in a strip mall in Healdsburg, feels like such a find. Though Agave doesn’t delve deep into the region’s eloquent cuisine, it does stock mezcals by the dozen and serve a couple of Oaxacan classics: tlayudas, for one, crisp tortillas the size of a vinyl album, smeared with avocado-leafscented puréed black beans and adorned with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, and tasajo (beef). Diaz’s mother makes her own mole negro, slathered over chicken or chicken-filled enchiladas. It’s sweeter than most versions you’ll taste in the southern Mexican state, but its flashing layers of spice are elegantly balanced. 1063 Vine St. (near Westside Rd.), 707-433-2411

La Gran Chiquita Taqueria (Oakland) This taqueria, at the axis of Fruitvale’s comida central, hustles on weekends. Late Saturday morning, the kid working behind the steam-fogged glass at the taco station up front is filling steamed tortillas with cabeza and tripitas, while dudes in A’s caps, stuffed four to a booth, are ravaging pambazos—mighty orange sandwiches filled with chorizo and potato, dipped in guajillo chili salsa, and griddled crisp. But what you’ve come for is a foil packet of weekend barbacoa, the version called pancita: beef, including tripe and small intestine, roasted down to a suave mash. 3503 International Blvd. (at 35th Ave.), 510-533-6484

Tortas Ahogadas Mi Barrio (Oakland) Random banquet chairs, linoleum floors, and an all-female staff with beehive hair exist in laid-back country diners all over America. But at this homage to the Jalisco region of Mexico, there’s a wall map of Guadalajara and the TV is stuck on Mexican pop videos. Tortas ahogadas, “wet” sandwiches, are the thing: thin shingles of roasted pork on a crusty Guadalajara-style roll called a birote, ladled with thin orange salsa (it comes with a spoon for basting at the table). Finish with a plastic ramekin of jericalla, flan’s rustic cousin. It has a lovely dark top skin, as shiny as buffed rancho boots. 4749 International Blvd. (at 48th Ave.), 510-434-9454

Copita (Sausalito) When it opened in spring 2012, it took a while for this restaurant owned by TV personality Joanne Weir and restaurateur Larry Mindel to find its bearings. Today—under its second chef, Gonzalo Rivera Jr., who spent six years as executive chef of Michael Mina and Nemi Restaurant in Mexico City—it’s on solid ground. Rivera studies traditional dishes and then rewrites them from the inside out. Among his most successful creations are tacos with crunchy cubes of pork belly and pipián; fritter-like quesadillas stuffed with braised chicharrones; and a birria with a potent salsa macha dabbed onto the goat meat. The best example of Rivera’s approach may be the chicken enchiladas with a graceful manchamanteles mole that blends dried chilies, Christmastime spices, and autumnal apples and pears. 739 Bridgeway (at Anchor St.), 415-331-7400


Read More:
Our Big, Hot (Sometimes Fancy, Sometimes Not) Mexican Moment
The 22 Best Mexican Restaurants in the Bay Area
The Best Mexican Food in Redwood City 
Richmond Is the New Fruitvale 
Try Today's Four Coolest Mezcal Cocktails 
Where to Find the Best Food Trucks Right Now 
Classic Mexican Restaurants
The Secret Burrito Cravings of the Bay's Top Chefs

The No Cooking Solution for Your Next Diner Party


Originally published in the February 2014 issue of San Francisco. 

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