Special Report

Best Hidden Gem Mexican Restaurant in Every State

Courtesy of Meagan N. via Yelp

Hand-written whiteboard menus and cash-only takeout windows don’t necessarily evoke images of mouthwatering food, especially when the menu features items such as lengua (cow tongue) and buche (pig stomach). Bu8t if you’re looking for authentic Mexican food, your best bet is at restaurants that serve traditional delicacies like these — lest you end up with a three-cheese blend with burger meat in a stale hard-taco shell. (Traditional Mexican taco toppings are cilantro, onion, and lime rather than shredded cheese, and soft, handmade corn tortillas are a must.)

As adventurous eaters, more concerned with the food itself than with fancy service and chic interiors, have discovered hole-in-the-wall taquerías and even food trucks — hidden gems — often serve the most flavorful fare around. (Here is the best hidden gem restaurant in every state.)

24/7 Tempo has sought out the best hidden gem Mexican restaurant in every state, using reviews and ratings from a wide range of websites, including Food & Wine, The Daily Meal, Cheapism, Eater, Yelp, Thrillist, and Taste of Home, as well as state and regional restaurant listings. (For a wider choice of places, see also our list of the best Mexican restaurant in every state.)

Click here to see the best hidden gem Mexican restaurant in every state

A handful of them are indeed food trucks offering limited menus featuring mostly classic street taco fillings like carnitas and al pastor. Menus at these trucks and restaurants alike are often in Spanish (sometimes with English translations) and glass bottles of imported Mexican Coke are a staple beverage. Many of these gems are small, family-run establishments that serve an incredibly loyal customer base and are known for having the only authentic Mexican food in town.  

Source: Courtesy of Los Dos Hermanos LLC - Taco Truck

Alabama: Los Dos Hermanos (truck)
> Location: Birmingham

This 12-year veteran taco truck was named one of the 25 best taco trucks in America by the travel site Far and Wide. In addition to the standard taco meats, Los Dos Hermanos offers classic Mexican specialties like ceviche, lengua, buche, tripe, and lamb barbacoa. Reviewers rave about the burritos but warn that the lunch line can be long.

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Source: Courtesy of David B. via Yelp

Alaska: Oscar’s Taco Grande
> Location: Anchorage

In business since 1979, this cash-only eatery in Anchorage delivers burritos and tacos with perfectly spiced toppings at the lowest prices around (try $4.50 for a breakfast burrito.) What keeps customers coming back is the consistency of the food and the congeniality of owner Oscar Hernandez.

Source: Courtesy of La Bamba Mexican Grill Restaurant

Arizona: La Bamba Mexican Grill
> Location: La Mirage

With a pared down menu of tacos, quesadillas, tortas, and salads, this upbeat, casual joint is known for its great service and outstanding tacos, which dozens of reviewers say are the best they’ve ever had. Customers love the fish and shrimp tacos, churros, and drinks including horchata and fresh watermelon juice.

Source: Courtesy of Taquería Gloria

Arkansas: Taquería Gloria (truck)
> Location: Little Rock

Offering the most authentic Mexican food in Little Rock, this extremely affordable taco truck is open late and features staples like chicken and chorizo as well as tripe, chicharrones, and tender barbacoa. Customers love the handmade tortillas and the burritos.

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Source: Courtesy of El Molino Central Sonoma

California: El Molino Central
> Location: Boyes Hot Springs

This Sonoma restaurant specializes in California style tacos and has a seasonal menu with vegetarian options including swiss chard or butternut squash enchiladas. Some crowd favorites are the pork tamales, Oaxacan mole, halibut ceviche, and beer-battered fish tacos.

Source: Courtesy of Joseph C. via Yelp

Colorado: La Calle Taquería y Carnitas
> Location: Centennial

Chivo (goat) tacos are a favorite at this modest but lively establishment, while other abundantly meaty specialties include cueritos (pork rinds), higado (calf’s liver), chorizo, and of course carnitas. All tacos are $1.99 on Tuesdays.

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Source: Courtesy of Aztec Grill & Grocery

Connecticut: Aztec Grill & Grocery
> Location: North Haven

This counter-service restaurant serves tacos, burritos, and breakfast sandwiches as well as Mexican specialties like alambre (grilled beef covered in bacon, peppers, onions, salsa, and melted cheese) and freshly made huaraches and sopes. Customers appreciate the large portions and great service.

Source: Courtesy of El Pique - Wilmington

Delaware: El Pique
> Location: Wilmington

This no-frills eatery connected to a liquor store offers a limited but enticing menu that includes a few crowd pleasers like lamb birria tacos, lamb stew with chickpeas and rice, and tamales verde. Reviewers recommend not being turned off by the modest exterior, and heading inside for the five-for-$5 taco Tuesday deal.

Source: Courtesy of Official Nando's Taquería

Florida: Nando’s Taquería (truck)
> Location: Englewood

Unbeatable prices, friendly service, and high quality are to be expected from this Englewood food truck. In addition to tasty hot sauces and tender steak tacos, Nando’s serves pambazos — sandwiches stuffed with chorizo and potatoes and dipped in guajillo pepper sauce.

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Source: Courtesy of Chantel B. via Yelp

Georgia: El Serranito
> Location: Woodstock

Tucked into a BP gas station on a major highway, El Serranito wows customers with its shrimp and fish tacos, aguas frescas, and impeccably plated tostadas. A rarer item on the menu is the cemita poblana, a Pueblan-style sandwich on a soft, sesame seeded bun, filled with a breaded cutlet, avocado, Oaxaca cheese, and chipotles.

Source: Courtesy of Tan T. via Yelp

Hawaii: Ono Loco Tacos
> Location: Honolulu

Serving a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, Ono Loco takes pride in its ingredient sourcing — which includes Hawaiian angus beef — and its friendly service. The salsa verde, California burrito, fresh seafood, and carne asada fries have earned it many return customers.

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Source: Courtesy of Morenita's Mexican Cuisine

Idaho: Morenita’s Mexican Cuisine
> Location: Idaho Falls

This counter-service, family-owned restaurant and bakery boasts a full menu of breakfasts, platters, daily specials, and house-made desserts and hot sauces. Top items include the tacos rancheros, chile rellenos, beef barbacoa tacos, and flan.

Illinois: Birrieria Zaragoza
> Location: Chicago

What sets this family-owned restaurant apart from other Mexican eateries is its claim to fame: goat. Owner Juan Zaragoza specializes in goat recipes from his native Jalisco, serving platters of bone-in roasted goat, soups, and birria tacos, along with an outstanding fire-roasted molcajete salsa.

Source: Courtesy of Taquería Luz Tacos

Indiana: Taquería Luz Tacos
> Location: Union City

Located in the back of a Mexican grocery store, this authentic, bang-for-your-buck taquería serves filling portions of all the essential dishes with specialties including sopes, fried tacos dorados, and tortas cubanas.

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Source: Courtesy of La Juanita Taquería

Iowa: La Juanita Taquería
> Location: Storm Lake

Open late and boasting the area’s best burritos, La Juanita is a favorite of locals, tourists, and college students in a town that sees a healthy mix of all three. It is known for its affordable, swift service as well as its lengua tacos and shrimp fajitas.

Source: Courtesy of Tarahumara's Mexican Restaurant #1

Kansas: Tarahumara’s Mexican Restaurant #1
> Location: Kansas City

This tiny restaurant offers limited seating but is big on flavor. With meats seasoned to perfection, homemade salsas, and tamales with a cult following, Tarahumara’s keeps their customers happy. Try the sopes and chile rellenos, and take advantage of the drive-through.

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Source: Courtesy of El Gran Tako

Kentucky: El Gran Tako
> Location: Lexington

Known as the most authentic, affordable tacos in Lexington, El Gran Tako has a huge taco selection (and huge, filling tacos) with every traditional topping you could imagine and then some, as well as an extensive menu of tortas, burritos, seafood, freshly made aguas frescas, and desserts. It’s open late on Friday and Saturday.

Source: Courtesy of Peter N. via Yelp

Louisiana: Taquería El Cazador (truck)
> Location: Lafayette

This unassuming truck, tucked in next to a laundromat and a car wash, serves some of the cheapest tacos around. A great lunch spot with a pared down menu of classics, El Cazador delivers generous portions with unapologetic spice.

Source: Courtesy of Vazquez Mexican Takeout

Maine: Vazquez Mexican Takeout
> Location: Milbridge

Formerly housed in a bus and serving migrant workers on a blueberry farm, this family-run business has upgraded to a permanent take-out stand with some picnic table seating. Their pride and joy are their fresh handmade corn and flour tortillas — the most authentic you’ll find downeast.

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Source: Courtesy of Levine T. via Yelp

Maryland: Tortillería Sinaloa
> Location: Baltimore

In addition to selling stacks of hot, freshly pressed corn tortillas by the pound, this Baltimore treasure serves a limited selection of superb tacos, soups, tamales, and specials, including a tilapia taco with Old Bay butter sauce.

Source: Courtesy of Taquería Jalisco

Massachusetts: Taquería Jalisco
> Location: Boston

This Eastie restaurant offers much more than colorful tilework and the best birria tacos in Boston. It also features an all-day breakfast menu, live music on Saturdays, house-made aguas frescas, and an authentic pozole (a soup of pork, hominy, and red chiles) worth writing home about.

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Source: Courtesy of Joe C. via Yelp

Michigan: Taquería El Rey
> Location: Detroit

The smoky smell of grilling chicken greets customers as they enter this 20-plus-year-old cash-only establishment, specializing in whole barbecued chickens and ribs. A wide selection of beer, tequila, and margaritas are available to accompany some of Detroit’s finest tacos, burritos, and salsa verde.

Source: Courtesy of Kara D. via Yelp

Minnesota: El Taco Riendo
> Location: Minneapolis

This popular eatery is known for having the best nachos in town, but customers also rave about the chicken tinga, steak tacos, camarones a la diabla, and the elote. Generous (shareable) portions are to be expected, especially if you get the torta.

Source: Courtesy of Wyld K. via Yelp

Mississippi: Juarez Tacos El Payo (truck)
> Location: Ridgeland

Double corn tortillas are necessary to contain the heaping portions of lengua, shrimp, and steak that come on these tacos. Quesadillas and burritos, with the obligatory red and green sauces, round out the simple menu at this food truck, found in a gas station parking lot on the outskirts of Jackson.

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Source: Courtesy of La Tejana Taquería

Missouri: La Tejana Taquería
> Location: Bridgeton

Attached to a family-owned market and liquor store, this laid back eatery brings a rare, authentic Mexican flavor to St. Louis. Reviewers comment on the thick, crispy tortilla chips, al pastor tacos, chicken tinga, and exceedingly friendly owners.

Source: Courtesy of Taquería Montaña

Montana: Taquería Montaña
> Location: Missoula

With overstuffed burritos and a heaping scoop of salsa on every taco, this Missoula restaurant gives great value. Care is put into every ingredient, from the homemade salsas to the rice and beans. The spicy pork tacos are a must.

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Source: Courtesy of Super Taco Restaurant

Nebraska: Super Taco
> Location: Lincoln

The something-for-everyone menu at this little strip-mall restaurant offers burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, flautas, nachos, tlacoyos (thick masa-dough ovals), and of course tacos, among other things. A wide choice of meat toppings or fillings for any of these is available, including lengua, tripa, chorizo, and cecina (dried beef).

Source: Courtesy of Taquería Casa Del Sabor 1

Nevada: Taquería Casa Del Sabor 1 (truck)
> Location: Las Vegas

Open 24 hours in downtown Las Vegas, this bustling taco truck is busiest around 10 p.m. Customers love the al pastor tacos and the salsas — especially the habanero cream sauce. The only downside is the wait during peak evening hours.

Source: Courtesy of El Rincon Zacatecano Taquería

New Hampshire: El Rincon Zacatecano Taquería
> Location: Manchester

This full-service cantina offers dozens of specialty margaritas and a high energy atmosphere. The menu has a large selection of seafood dishes, specialty plates, and appetizers, including the best empanadas in town.

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Source: Courtesy of Eric G. via Yelp

New Jersey: Pancho’s Mexican Taquería
> Location: Atlantic City

With made-to-order corn tortillas and a wide selection of meat and vegetarian toppings, this hole-in-the-wall taco joint draws locals and tourists back again and again. The friendly staff is a plus.

Source: Courtesy of Celine H. via Yelp

New Mexico: Taquería Mexico
> Location: Albuquerque

Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Sunday, this busy, affordable eatery serves a full breakfast menu as well as lunch and dinner combo plates, tortas, soups, and seafood. Favorites on the menu include the shrimp cocktail, fish tacos, and a carne asada burrito.

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Source: Courtesy of Taquería La Picardia

New York: Taquería La Picardia
> Location: Port Chester

This Grateful Dead-themed restaurant across from the historic Capitol Theater serves up groovy tunes, strong margaritas, and full range of tacos (including tacos árabes, a Middle Eastern-inspired Puebla specialty of spiced pork in a pita-like shell), among other dishes, and is open until midnight every night. Lunch specials (margarita included) and taco Tuesday deals await.

Source: Courtesy of Michelle L. via Yelp

North Carolina: Taquería La Vaquita
> Location: Durham

Known for the tan-and-white cow statue on its roof, this bustling little roadside shack is famous for its tacos, so waits can be long around lunchtime. Juicy meats and huge, perfectly stuffed tamales have made many return customers.

Source: Courtesy of Doug R. via Yelp

North Dakota: El Parícutin
> Location: Dickinson

If you’re looking for the biggest and best burrito in North Dakota, look no further than El Parícutin. The wet green and Baja varieties are crowd favorites, and the Mexican candies and house-made hot sauces seal the deal.

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Source: Courtesy of Los Agavez Taquería

Ohio: Los Agavez Taquería (truck)
> Location: Columbus

This bright orange truck serves equally colorful fare including red Tijuana-style birria tacos, with tortillas that are dipped into a deep red chile broth before they hit the griddle. Loyal customers can be seen braving the cold for their daily Happy Agave burrito.

Oklahoma: Big Truck Tacos
> Location: Oklahoma City

Catering not only to meat-lovers, but also to a vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free clientele, Big Truck Tacos (with both brick-and-mortar and actual truck incarnations) has made a name for itself in Oklahoma City with its edgy menu that includes smoked tofu, hickory-smoked cow tongue, and fried avocado tacos.

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Source: Courtesy of Cheng-Tsung L. via Yelp

Oregon: Santa Cruz Panadería y Taquería
> Location: Portland

Nestled into a cozy Mexican bakery and market, this neighborhood favorite serves up homemade tortillas and some of the best creamy avocado sauce in Portland. Vegetarians beware — even the rice and beans are cooked with big chunks of meat.

Source: Courtesy of Aquí Es -- A Taste of Mexico

Pennsylvania: Aquí Es — A Taste of Mexico
> Location: Bethlehem

Ranked as the nation’s third best taquería by Business Insider in 2019, this tiny cash-only eatery slings jumbo burritos and perfectly seasoned tacos on homemade tortillas. Customers consistently remark on the freshness of the ingredients and the low prices.

Source: Courtesy of Alycia G. via Yelp

Rhode Island: Al Son de Mi Barrio
> Location: Providence

This affordable eatery is known for its speedy service and incredible, authentic tacos. Whether it’s a quick lunch you’re after, or a sit-down dinner with complimentary chips and salsa, this family-owned Providence gem will not let you down.

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Source: Courtesy of Taquería El Guiri-Guiri

South Carolina: Taquería El Guiri-Guiri
> Location: Anderson

Tucked in behind a Mexican market, this hidden spot serves real home-style Mexican cuisine including whole fried mojarra (a tropical fish), and some seriously spicy hot sauces. Meats are perfectly seasoned and the bacon-wrapped burrito is a treat not usually found outside of Tucson.

Source: Courtesy of Sabor a Mexico

South Dakota: Sabor a Mexico
> Location: Rapid City

A compact, sit-down restaurant with a small selection of bottled beer as well as margaritas, this friendly eatery offers breakfast all day and lunch specials. Customers laud the tamales, sopes, and chile rellenos.

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Source: Courtesy of Carnicería y Taquería Don Juan

Tennessee: Carnicería y Taquería Don Juan
> Location: Nashville

Serving whole smoked chickens in addition to all the traditional taco fillings — including buche, lengua, chicharrón, and barbacoa — this taquería excels at meat. The creamy salsa verde is a must for just about any menu item.

Source: Courtesy of Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que

Texas: Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que
> Location: Brownsville

Open for 66 years, this Texas smokehouse specializes not in Texas-style ‘cue but in pit-smoked cow heads, offering up tacos and platters of smoked cachete (cheek meat), lengua, and even eyeballs (which sell out by 8 a.m.), with stacks of fresh tortillas. Vera’s is only open Friday through Sunday for limited hours, closing early if they sell out — which they often do.

Source: Courtesy of Tacos Don Rafa

Utah: Tacos Don Rafa (truck)
> Location: Salt Lake City

Open daily until 11:45 p.m., this Salt Lake City staple serves cheap tacos, burritos, and quesadillas bursting with meat and toppings. Customers love the carne asada burrito and chicken mole tacos.

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Source: Courtesy of El Cortijo Taquería y Cantina

Vermont: El Cortijo Taquería y Cantina
> Location: Burlington

With a large alcohol menu, brunch offerings, and well-flavored vegetarian options, this hip cantina is a great spot to meet some friends for a lively meal. The Mexican-inspired menu includes serrano pepper margaritas, elote dip, adobo roasted carrots, and crispy fish tacos with tequila-lime crema.

Source: Courtesy of Meagan N. via Yelp

Virginia: Tacos El Chilango (truck)
> Location: Arlington

The exceedingly friendly service at this D.C.-area food truck is an attraction second only to their delectable tacos. Their loyal customer base rave about the juicy meat and authentic flavor, and often drive far out of their way to stop here for a bite.

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Source: Courtesy of Trejo's Mexican Restaurant

Washington: Trejo’s Mexican Restaurant
> Location: Pasco

A bustling little restaurant with great prices and service, Trejo’s serves a full menu of Mexican favorites (including the best al pastor in town), but specializes in seafood. Try the freshwater prawn soup, octopus ceviche tostadas, or shrimp cooked a dozen different ways.

Source: Courtesy of Viva Mexico

West Virginia: Viva Mexico
> Location: Inwood

This family owned cantina has space for larger groups and parties, and is known for its hospitality and kind owners. Customers crave the huge margaritas and fried chimichangas at this colorful local hangout.

Source: Courtesy of Pancho's Tacos

Wisconsin: Pancho’s Tacos (truck)
> Location: Madison

This mobile food truck makes its way around Madison, and can be seen serving lunch outside the Veterans Hospital, dinner at the Ale Asylum brewery, and all day at various festivals and events. Follow them on social media to find out where they’ll be dishing out their elote, nachos, tacos, and more.

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Source: Courtesy of Su Casa Cafe

Wyoming: Su Casa
> Location: Sinclair

A local and tourist favorite just off I-80, Su Casa is famous for their green chile and their sweet and savory sopapillas, as well as their jovial atmosphere and service. Wyoming residents travel here from neighboring counties to score some of the best Mexican food in the state.

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