“Mexican food” can mean many different things in this country. There are Mexican-inspired fast-food chains like Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Chipotle, and combination-plate dinner-house operations with a Mexican theme, including Acapulco, Chevy’s Fresh Mex, and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. There are specialists in Tex-Mex, California-Mexican, and (very much its own category) New Mexican cuisine.
There are roadside taco stands, counter-service Mexican delis, and food trucks (some of which specialize in the unlikely but agreeable Mexican-Korean hybrid style popularized by chef Roy Choi’s Kogi trucks in Los Angeles). Increasingly, too, there are restaurants that more accurately reflect the dining scene in Mexico itself these days, among them genre-busting establishments opened by noted Mexico City chefs Gabriela Cámara (San Francisco and Los Angeles) and Enrique Olvera (New York and Los Angeles).
Whatever the particulars, we love Mexican food in America. According to a recent study of American eating preferences by YouGov, the British-based market research and data analytics company, it’s our second-favorite international cuisine, after Italian.
The firm surveyed more than 25,000 people worldwide, recording the percentage of those in each country who have tried various kinds of food and liked them. Some 86% of U.S. respondents gave the nod to Mexican, while 88% named Italian — possibly simply because more people had tried it. (Not surprisingly, our favorite cuisine, at 91%, was American.)
Further evidence is given by DoorDash, the nation’s number-one food delivery service, which revealed that some Mexican dishes are among 2019’s 15 most popular food orders in America.
Our love affair with Mexican-style dishes doesn’t seem to be abating, either, as DoorDash also reports that tortilla soup, chicken fajitas, and stuffed jalapeños are among the top 15 foods on the rise for 2020.
From casual to sophisticated, Americanized to authentic, here are the Mexican restaurants Yelp users like the most in every state — the best places for us to express our affection for one of the world’s most vibrant and delicious cuisines.
To identify the best Mexican restaurant in every state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the top-rated restaurants nationwide in the Mexican and New Mexican categories on Yelp. To be considered, restaurants needed to be in or near a city with a population of at least 100,000 people. In states with few or no cities of this size, restaurants in smaller cities were also considered. This data was obtained on January 2, 2020. Chain restaurants, food trucks, take-out places without seating, pan-Latino or Central American establishments, and restaurants specializing in Korean-Mexican and other hybrid cuisines were eliminated from the list, as were Mexican markets unless they had in-store restaurants.