Top Spots in Philadelphia to Enjoy Cuisine from South of the Border

The city of Philadelphia's got a lot of Mexican restaurants to choose from. Yet when you're thumbing through the choices, how do you know which establishments are worth heading out to? Which ones offer good take out and delivery? Which ones compliment their food with a decent bar experience so you can meet up with friends or take a date there? These are pressing questions that need answers, and fortunately 10Best can sort out the answers so no Mexican dining experience has to be a bad one. Why not head out to El Vez for authentic cuisine that's perfect for a nice meal with someone special. For a more casual experience that's still high on the deliciousness scale, try Cucina Zapata and be prepared for an experience that'll have you returning for another round all too soon. From casual and Tex-Mex-ish to authentic-style food options, Philadelphia has a lot of choices when it comes to Mexican. Several of these great dining venues are also top spots to enjoy happy hour or try an interesting cocktail or two. At least one allows you to bring your own tequila to concoct your own margarita. What's not to love about an option like that? With so many choices, there's bound to be a venue that suits your taste to a tee.


Don't be fooled by this quiet Bella Vista establishment's setting. It can rock the Mexican cuisine. Takeout is also available and is reported to be just as good a table service. Locals who get a hankering for basic bites such as burritos, tacos, tamales and the like know this place to be a no-disappointment type of establishment. It's BYOB and cash-only, and not a huge hunk of space, but the rewards are high when you get what you order and dig in to delicious Mexican grub. Early risers will appreciate the breakfast options available, and those who hunger up later in the day can get what they're craving for lunch or dinner.

University City

This terrific Mexican-fusion restaurant experience comes to you via a food truck at S. 31st and Ludlow Streets on the campus of Drexel University. According to those in the know, these folks wrote the book on food truck experiences, and put together cuisine you'll be amazed comes from a kitchen on wheels. Visiting this culinary hotspot, however, does get rather crowded due to its delicious food options and adoring fans. Don't be put off, however. Venture up and select from options such as Cap'n Crunch crusted tilapia burritos, short rib tacos, veggie burger, Chicken satay tacos, fish burrito, or chicken katsu with egg.

Outside the city

This is a wonderful suburban Mexican restaurant serving authentic dishes complimented by a tasty tequila bar and quiet neighborhood setting. For those times when making a drive out of the city is part of the fun, Los Sarapes is a fun destination. Locals like it for the quiet fun, scrmptious authentic Mexican fare, and great drink options, including ladies night margarita specials on Wednesdays from 5-10pm. Lunch and dinner options are available and include appetizers, salads, homemade soups, a small plates menu, desserts, specials and a variety of drinks that compliment the meal choices well, or are great as stand-alone options.


Hungry diners to this Rittenhouse Square eatery have described Tequila's dishes as true, traditional choices that rise above the same-old Mexican fare. A standout choice since it opened in 1986, this chandelier-laden restaurant delivers all kinds of selections from all over Mexico. Patrons can select their choices from the poetic menu descriptions, and feel assured they;re getting a meal that will please the palate. Lunch features a three-course meal that will only set you back $15, and happy hour here launches quite early, at 2pm, for those people interested in settling in and celebrating a tad earlier every once in a while.

City dwellers close to the tip of Northern Liberties have an excellent dining option when it comes to Mexican cuisine by hitting up Las Cazuelas. The recipes here are aimed at the authentic dishes, as the owner is from Mexico himself. Open since November of 1999, this mainstay dining venue has garnered great reviews and been featured in magazines and newspapers in both Philadelphia as well as other parts of the country. Take a seat here and dive into dishes such as Tampiquena, a marinated flank steak served with a corn tamale and cactus salad; or Tacos Dorados, crispy corn tortillas filled with chicken and topped with sour cream, salsa and cheese. Yum.

This casual atmosphere diner pleases customers with its funky decor, delicious food, affordable prices and tasty margaritas. Join them for happy hour, which comes highly rated from regular patrons. Headed up by Stephen Starr, this venue has been impressing customers at lunch and dinner since the 1990s. Dive into delicious meal choices such as rice, refried back beans, corn on the cob, casual, chile en nogada, and chipotle bbq. Be sure to try the guacamole. Staff is also well versed on the food choices, and in addition to their dedicated gluten-free menu, can guide those needing gluten-free options to the choices that are best for them.

South Street

Named after the legendary Mexican princess who is credited with using the juice of the agave plant to create a forerunner of tequila, this trendy lounge specializes in snazzy cocktails and haute morsels. Table side preparation of guacamole, anyone? House-made tamales, as well as meat, poultry and seafood prepared to your liking round out the offerings at this Society Hill hotspot. It's unpretentious, yet a bit upscale, and serves as a great date-night spot or place to celebrate a special occasion. The place is cozy, with a welcoming appearance and attractive decor that's just bright enough to be pleasing to the eye.

This BYOT ("T" for tequila) earns high praise for its innovative Mexican fare and even higher praise for its imaginative margarita mixes. It's Mexican in Midtown, and it does't disappoint. With a terrific street-food-inspired menu, Lolita's menu choices includes options like seared cauliflower tacos, grilled octopus tostadas, duck-fat tamales, braised short rib chilaquiles and carne asada. At the bar, feel free to order a cocktail that's a step above and Mexican themed, like a cucumber jalapeño margarita or an el pelirrojo margarita. Other choices include tequila, tamarind sour, or mezcal. There's also a lunch and late-night menu, and there are plenty of gluten free options for those who need them.

University City

Distrito is the Mexican restaurant concept by Jose Garces, the chef behind the acclaimed Philadelphia restaurants Amada, Tinto, Chifa, Village Whiskey & Garces Trading Company and others. Distrito is a high-energy restaurant inspired by the spirited culture and cuisine of Mexico City. The Distrito menu features Chef Garces' fresh interpretations of classic Mexican fare and beverages, including over 65 tequilas and margaritas made with fresh seasonal fruits. A striking decor includes a hot pink and bright green color scheme, a wall constructed from over 600 colorful, campy masks of lucha libre, or "free fight" professional wrestlers, and a booth crafted from a Volkswagen Beetle, a typical Mexico City taxi cab.

Fun and energetic decor and a lively environment make this a must-visit for the hip and happening. Fresh and flavorful Mexican food such as homemade salsa, lobster tacos, and sweet and tasty churros make a visit here worth its weight in pesos. If you're in the mood for Mexican cuisine that's fresh and well-made, El Vez doesn't disappoint. Step out with girlfriends or coworkers and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere complimented by south-of-the-border entrees that please one and all. Chicken quesadillas, homemade guacamole, a variety of seafood taco options, salsa, nachos, carnitas and more will keep your crowd very happy. Ole!