Courtesy of Rubi's at Maxwell Street Market

Satisfy your craving for Mexican food at these restaurants serving the best tacos, mole, and barbacoa north of the border.

Maxwell Street Market, Chicago

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Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., an otherwise industrial-looking stretch of Desplaines between Roosevelt and Polk streets in the South Loop transforms into one of America’s required destinations for anyone serious about Mexican food. Tarp-covered, plastic-wrapped, makeshift stands draw lines for hours as the cooks stationed behind hot grills press homemade tortillas and dish out all the classics from carne asada, al pastor, and barbacoa to zucchini squash blossoms and huitlacoche. Taqueria la Flor de Mexico, Rubi’s, Manolo's, and Tacos D.F…. there are great spots here, but we’re partial to La Paz. The quesadillas get covered with the meat of your choice, with tons of onions and cilantro, and the super-hot salsa verde leaves you with a wonderfully spicy mess best paired with a medio litro of Mexican Coke.

cityofchicago.org

Best Mexican Restaurants in the U.S.

Maxwell Street Market, Chicago

Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., an otherwise industrial-looking stretch of Desplaines between Roosevelt and Polk streets in the South Loop transforms into one of America’s required destinations for anyone serious about Mexican food. Tarp-covered, plastic-wrapped, makeshift stands draw lines for hours as the cooks stationed behind hot grills press homemade tortillas and dish out all the classics from carne asada, al pastor, and barbacoa to zucchini squash blossoms and huitlacoche. Taqueria la Flor de Mexico, Rubi’s, Manolo's, and Tacos D.F…. there are great spots here, but we’re partial to La Paz. The quesadillas get covered with the meat of your choice, with tons of onions and cilantro, and the super-hot salsa verde leaves you with a wonderfully spicy mess best paired with a medio litro of Mexican Coke.

cityofchicago.org

Courtesy of Rubi's at Maxwell Street Market

Best Mexican Restaurants in the U.S.

The menu at D.C.’s Oyamel has several pages devoted to drinks, but not a single frozen margarita. Instead, diners can expect limited-edition mezcal, as well as fries in mole sauce and tacos with chapulines (sautéed grasshoppers).  

Chef José Andrés’s consistently packed restaurant is proof that our appreciation of the varied regional cuisines of Mexico has come a long way. Such Oaxaca-inspired dishes, once hard to find in the U.S., are increasingly considered mainstream. And while authenticity is prized, some of the country’s most highly regarded chefs have also turned their attention and creativity to Mexican, which has become somewhat of a cuisine célèbre

Oklahoma-born chef Rick Bayless was an early champion, and his high-end Mexican restaurant Topolobampo in Chicago serves cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted dish typical of the Yucatán Peninsula. In New York, other high-profile chefs like Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina and April Bloomfield of Salvation Taco are generating buzz for pushing the cuisine’s limits (case in point: guacamole with guanciale, sea urchin, and pistachio).

Still, when it comes to quality Mexican food in the U.S., two forces dominate: California with its fish tacos, super-fresh ingredients, and Mission burritos; and Texas, which spawned Tex-Mex and a more recent crop of more traditional restaurants devoted to, say, Mexico City or Veracruz. Chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s in Houston has been nominated for a 2013 James Beard Award for creations like his lamb barbacoa braised in garlic and chiles then slow-roasted in agave.

At least as coveted as a table at Hugo’s is a tamale from Las Cuatro Milpas, known for long lines in San Diego, or a taco and cool glass of horchata from El Rey Del Taco along Atlanta’s Buford Highway. These favorite Mexican places share a commitment to quality ingredients, tortillas and salsas that are house made, and the right ratio of chiles and complex seasonings—often resulting in a fiery kick.

Check out our picks, and share your go-to Mexican restaurant in the comments below.

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