Food / Wellbeing

8 of the best places to eat Mexican food in Sydney

mexican restaurants

It's become a personal motto that everything has a time and place. Lowbrow can be just as nourishing as its highbrow counterparts, all we ask for is balance. And after decades of wet, cumin-heavy Old El Paso-spiced beef mince and Tex Mex establishments like Montezuma's (remember her?), Sydney finally has a handful of authentic Mexican restaurants to steady the scales.

What was once an offering of liquid cheese and sour cream nachos, has blossomed into a host of places dishing out Mexican fare that spotlights the country's many regional cuisines – from tortas and tejuino in Guadalajara to Oaxacan mole and memelas. There's not a single sombrero or Dia de los Muertos mural in sight. Because what often gets lost in translation is just how diverse food culture is in Mexico, something that can be chalked up to colonialism and migration patterns, with Aztec, Mayan, Spanish, French and Filipino influences.

Below, 8 of the best Mexican restaurants in Sydney.

Itacate & Mexican Deli

A Nahuatl word for "your share of food," in early 2021 Rosa Cienfuegos opened an outpost in Redfern. Unlike her Dulwich Hill spot, Itacate is more restaurant than deli, although you can still pick up all the beloved Mexican pantry staples.

 

Rico's Tacos

 

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Toby Wilson has offered up tacos under many pseudonyms. There was Ghostboy Cantina, the time he slung tacos from Tio's Cerveceria and later on at The George Hotel in Waterloo. Then in 2021, Wilson opened his first brick-and-mortar shop in Chippendale, entitled Rico's Tacos and we all finally got our wish: a permanent outpost for the taco king. Stop by, stay a while or rush through on your lunch break, in true taqueria form you get to decide the pace. It's a bare bones sunny space where you can sample whatever tacos are on special, zucchini flower quesadillas, and the moreish salty-smoky hash brown and salsa roja combo. Wash it all down with a syrupy bottle of Mexican Coca Cola or hibiscus iced tea. Pure bliss.

 

Maíz

Mexican brunch is still a novelty in Sydney, given the dearth of options to do so. Maíz ensures the novelty isn't the only drawcard. There are no tacos or breakfast burritos, instead you're asked to familiarise yourself with dishes like sopes (a raised masa base with toppings), tlacoyos, the hangover-friendly chilaquiles and tortas, a dish wish a similar history to the French-influenced Banh Mi. In summer they're serving a variety of housemade popsicles, with flavours like pineapple and basil, watermelon and hibiscus chamoy, mango pulp and candied ancho chilli.

 

Nativo Sydney

After stints at Michelin-starred La Chevre d'Or along with Santa Catarina and Bar Patron in Sydney, Manuel Diaz bit the bullet and opened up his own joint in Pyrmont. The taqueria marries native Australian ingredients and the French techniques Diaz learned in Europe with his own knowledge of Indigenous food traditions across Mexico, hailing from Oaxaca himself. His menu is stacked with a variety of tacos from beef birria to Zarandeado octopus, with smaller snacks or "antojitos" up for grabs also.

 

Tamaleria & Mexican Deli

When Rosa Cienfuegos arrived in Sydney from Mexico City in 2009, the food landscape was rough for Mexican expats after a taste of home. After helping her dad run El Cuervo Cantina in Enmore, Cienfuegos started cooking on her own. Eventually the demand was so high she set up her own digs in Dulwich Hill in 2018. As the name suggests, come here for Cienfuegos' beloved tamales, alternatively you pick up an assortment of frozen meals to eat at home, including a host of hard-to-secure pantry items like chamoy, chillies, clamato, tortillas, Skwinkles salsaghetti, and more.

 

Chica Bonita

 

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This Manly institution is the kind of place where the Tecates are ice cold, the margaritas are free-flowing and if you're hankering after a California-style burrito, there's no side eye here. It's a spritely neighbourhood joint, with simple, no-fuss white guy Mexican.

 

Sonora

The team behind Bondi’s Taquiza, Carbón, La Palma and Calita have expanded into the inner city suburb of Potts Point. Sonora may not be the only Mexican joint in the vicinity, but it's sole spot doling out food as they do in the arid northern state of Sonora. Think flour tortillas over corn, Sinoloan influences and yes, a bottomless brunch to hit the group chat up about.

 

Chula

If your idea of Mexican night is taco Tuesday then slip into Chula where Achiote-marinated pork and nopales tacos are in abundance. Order a Paloma and watch the night wash over you from its Potts Point verandah. Chef's kiss.

 

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Images: @maizstreetfood; @sonora.mexican; @ricostacotruck; @ricostacotruck