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.
Fresh and tasty Mexican fare free of preservatives, MSG, and mummy crumbs fills the menu at Pancho Villa. Start with a small serving of guacamole and chips ($3) or an avocado caesar salad ($6.25) to jar rusty stomach gears into action. Hang a fang on the super vegetarian burrito, a tightly wrapped torpedo of rice, beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and salsa ($6.25), or dine on chile-verde chicken ($9.35), steak and prawn quesadillas with cheese and salsa ($10.50), or pollo asado ($9.95). For dessert, fluff out your cheeks with flan ($3.75) or a churro ($1.50).
Hola! Mexican Restaurant & Cantina fills its patrons with authentic Mexican food cooked up on mesquite grills and crafted with fresh ingredients. Start lunch with a tostada salad ($7.45), and follow it with a crab enchilada ($8.95) or sope, a corn masa pillow plumped with your choice of meat or cheese and topped with the likely leafy suspects ($8.65). Dinner diners can begin with three quesadillas fritas—corn turnovers filled with cheese, potatoes, and bell peppers ($7.25)—followed by the house specialty, arroz con pollo, a dish of sautéed boneless chicken breast drenched with chile-tomato sauce and served atop Mexican rice ($13.25), then molded into the shape of guests' auras. The bar at each location offers plenty of wines and more than 100 specialty tequilas, which can be conjured into margarita classicas ($8.25) or real fruit margaritas ($8.75) made with strawberry, mango, pineapple, and more, crafted to meet your blood-alcohol level's recommended daily serving of fermented agave juice.
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.
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.