The San Francisco Chronicle's Leah Garchik hails Pancho Villa as “the French Laundry of taquerias,” a comparison that checks out after appraising the farm-fresh tomatoes, crisp peppers, and succulent meats that leave no room for preservatives, lard, or MSG on its menu. The Fiesta-platter appetizer ($10.95) brings families together to share in a parade of south-of-the-border flavors that includes garlic prawns, chicken flautas, and a heap of salsa primed for confetti cannons. Grilled-salmon burritos ($7.75) unite the flat-tortilla expanses of Mexico’s deserts with candies plucked from California’s sea, and tofu tacos ($2.25) take vegetarians on silken soy rafts down the Rio Grande. Guests can feast on combo dinners, which pair enchilada, flauta, or chili relleno entrees ($11) with traditional sides such as rice, beans, salad, and extra tortillas. Pulpy aguas frescas ($2–$3.50), in handcrafted flavors such as pineapple and tamarind, ensure that parched throats need not pursue second careers as broomstick sanders.
A baby-blue "Bienvenidos" greets customers as they step into the warm yellows and oranges of El Sinaloense Mexican Restaurant. Vibrant portraits of south-of-the-border feasts and beaches embellish the sun-toned walls, between which the waitstaff frequently refills each table's bottomless bowl of housemade salsa. Diners chase chips with seafood specialties born on the shores of Sinaloa, such as the topolobampo, a fillet of grilled fish crowned with clams, prawns, and octopus. A more traditional Mexican plate, the Molcajete stars jalapeños, onions, and cheese next to chicken and shrimp simmered with nopales.
Since 1980, the Ramirez family has tapped into the flavors of its native Jalisco, a region in central Mexico, to fill the plates at La Hacienda. They banned lard from their kitchen and stocked it with lean meats to give each dish a heart-healthy edge. Regional specialties, such as meatball soup, share tables with steaks, fajitas, and enchiladas doused in completely vegetarian sauces. The restaurant is intimate, housing fewer than 10 tables and booths and no bleachers. Colorful papel picado banners brighten the space, which features walls are covered in eclectic Mexican artwork.
The tortillas at Nikko’s Mexican Grill are the primary ingredient in most dishes, holding together the fillings of fish tacos, barbeque chicken burritos, and shrimp enchiladas. So, since these tortillas play such a central role, the owners decided not to simply rely on one variety to do all of the work. Instead, they stock whole-grain tortillas in classic wheat, tomato, or spinach flavors, helping customers tame the spiciness of red-chile-soaked wet burritos or enhance the fresh flavors of cactus tacos. Most of the house’s dishes come with rice and beans, and can be paired with jiggling slices of the house-made flan.
La Victoria Taqueria's signature orange sauce spins vibrantly hued, piquant accents across time-tested Mexican fare including burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. Amid spice-laden clouds of steam, chefs forge the sauce from a secret family recipe and sell it by the bottle due to its popularity and ability to escape paper bags. The eatery's two-tone booths brim with the sounds of gleefully chattering silverware, and catering services launch supplies to distant parties and meetings.
To some San Franciscans, a trek to the East Bay qualifies as a lengthy daytrip. One can only imagine their reluctance to travel hundreds of miles for authentic Mexican cuisine. Thankfully, Melissa’s Taqueria brings south-of-the-border flavors to Brisbane with a menu of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos packed with carne asada and al pastor. The kitchen stays busy throughout the day as chefs churn out dinner plates and breakfasts of pancakes and huevos rancheros.
The chefs at both locations of the family-run Guerrero's Taqueria man the grill all day cranking out plate-busting breakfasts, jam-packed burritos, tamales. Guests order at the counter, then find a seat in inside or at one of the green picnic tables outside, where they tuck into Mexican staples, such as the super shrimp burrito or huevos con chorizo. Imported sodas, beers, and horchata quench thirsts, while servings of flan make for a sweet end to the meal. Guerrero's Taqueria recently expanded its reach and opened a new, second location in Fairmont Shopping Center in Pacifica. In addition to traditional Mexican favorites, this location offers a different take on mainstays such as California Burritos, which are made with french fries instead of beans, and California Nachos, which are made with french fries instead of chips.