Texas Dominates Best Mexican Restaurants in America Rankings — See Which Houston, Dallas and Austin Spots Made the Cut

Houston’s relatively new Chivos restaurant garners national attention as one of the 44 best Mexican restaurants in the country.

Looks authentic and is authentic as Maize in Houston’s Memorial area offers time-honored cooking methods and historically accurate ingredients that define the cuisine.

The menu from Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Cue in Brownsville, named as one of the best Mexican eateries in the country.

Chivos’ pollo al carbon shows how this new Heights restaurant is more Mexican than Tex-Mex. (Photo by Dylan McEwan)

Tabletop delights from Austin’s award-wining restaurant Suerta give an idea of why it was named one of the best Mexican restaurants in America.

When the editors at Thrillist took on the task of naming the best Mexican (not Tex-Mex) restaurants in America, they coursed through roadside taquerias, homey cantinas and new hotspots elevating South of the Border cuisine. The result is an alphabetical list of 44 restaurants from New York to Phoenix to San Diego.

Texas put nine restaurants on the Best Mexican Restaurants list, some of which you’ve definitely heard of and some you may not know about — and one of which appears to have been closed for several years. That ties California — which also places nine restaurants on this list of 44 — as the state with the most entries.

Read on to see which Mexican restaurants in Texas made the cut and found out some of the judges’ favorite dishes.

Alas, somehow no San Antonio Mexican restaurants caught Thrillist’s attention.

Houston

Houston garnered three of the coveted 44 spots.

Praised for its “modern Mexican-American” cuisine by PaperCity, Thrillist points to The Heights restaurant’s soy-glazed and wood-fired pollo a la leña and a stunning duck breast in fig mole as not to be missed. It describes chef Thomas Bille and Night Moves Hospitality’s restaurant as “Mexican-American cuisine in a way that fits right in with Houston’s Mutt City moniker.” That almost lovable sobriquet dates back nearly a decade ago.

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Houston’s Memorial area makes an appearance with this authentic Mexican restaurant where time-honored cooking methods and historically accurate ingredients define the food. “Fresh corn esquites (Mexican corn salad) is addicting as ever, as is the corn tres leches. Here, the kernel is king,” Thrillist gushes.

Located in an unassuming strip center on Dacoma, not far from U.S. 290, “Chef Emmanuel Chavez is on a mission to restore the cultural value of maíze, and we’d say he’s succeeding,” Thrillist writes. Tatemó will change the way you think about tortillas as Chavez uses the ancient nixtamalization technique to process heirloom corn into masa for off-the-charts fresh tortillas.

Tasting menus are by reservation with a walk-in Sunday brunch. Menu options include tlacoyos, sopes, quesadillas, masa pancakes, pozole and carne asada.

Who knew that downtown’s Marriott Marquis houses one of the city’s finest, particularly when it comes to Oaxacan cuisine? It’s yet another win for dynamic duo Chef Hugo Ortega and restaurateur Tracy Vaught.
The author’s rave over “Ortega’s sensational landscape of moles.”

Dallas

Two Dallas restaurants made the Best Mexican Restaurants in America list, even though one seems to have closed three years ago. Go figure.

“An ever-changing tasting menu is chef-owner Regino Rojas love letter to Michoacán cuisine,” Thrillist notes. Diners here accept the eight-course, prix fixe chef’s tasting menu as a chance to explore the traditional flavors of Michoacan cuisine.

“Of Dallas’ few Oaxacan restaurants, Mi Lindo Oaxaca is the best, period,” Thrillist writes. Only problem is, you may need a time machine to go here. The Facebook page has been taken down. No one answers the phone at the number given in Zmenu. And the Advocate Oak Cliff says this West Davis restaurant closed in 2019. Perhaps this Thrillist entry is actually a loving eulogy.

Austin

Three Austin restaurants are celebrating their inclusion in the 44 best Mexican restaurants in the entire country.

Recognized in September as one of the nation’s best new chefs by Food & Wine magazine, Fermín Núñez leads the kitchen at Suerta with traditional Mexican cooking techniques and a passion for massa. Thrillist crows, “This East Austin institution has long been hailed as the number one purveyor of authentic Mexican cuisine, and it indeed lives up to the hype.”

This cozy joint on Barton Springs Road with Butler District Park across the street is noted for its rooftop patio that offers views to the downtown skyline. “Here, chef Alma Alcocer showers Austin with Mexico City–born gems like crema de elote and roasted duck relleno, among other enticing dishes,” Thrillist writes.

The Austin Proper Hotel & Residences is home to what many, including Thrillist, rate as the best Mexican restaurant in the city, even though the restaurant website calls its food “Texas-inspired Mexican cuisine.” But don’t think Tex-Mex, please. La Piscina’s menu specializes in ceviches, fresh oysters and table-top sizzling fajitas.

Brownsville

Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Q

South Texas, ever so close to the Mexico border, manages only one restaurant in the Thrillist compendium. “True, traditional South Texas barbacoa — cow head cooked slowly in an earthen pit — has largely disappeared in a commercial sense thanks to ‘health codes’ and the like. That is, with the vitally important exception of what’s happening at Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Q in the Texas border city of Brownsville,” Thrillist writes.

Fans of Vera also praise the build your own tacos with hot corn tortillas and homemade salsa and menudo and other dishes that have diners lining up when the doors open at 5 am and continuing to come through till the 2:30 pm closing time — or until the food runs out.