6 Top Mexican Restaurants in Raleigh (let’s taco ’bout them)

It seems like most people love Mexican food all over the world, and especially here in the U.S. But depending upon what state you live in, some regions are better than others. If you are looking for Mexican restaurants in Raleigh, allow me to introduce you to a few good options below!

Man holding up tow plates with 6 tacos on them
Great tacos at 13 Tapas & Taps

Unlike our favorite Asian restaurants where I feel like I can speak with good authority on Asian food having lived in Asia and traveled the region extensively, keep in mind that we have never visited Mexico (I don’t call a cruise ship shore excursion to Cozumel as having really visited), and we obviously didn’t grow up in places like Houston or Southern California, so our exposure has been limited.

Lady sitting at a table with Mexican food including burrito's and tacos
Gym Tacos

But, as long-term travelers I am very good at researching places to eat and getting a feel for what’s popular and getting a good sense from online reviews. With that said, down below are my favorite Mexican spots in Raleigh we have personally tried so far, and if you are on your phone searching for “Mexican near me” they are a good place to start.

And of course, my list is subjective and not extensive, so please let me hear your list of suggested places in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Mexican Restaurants in Raleigh

Gringo a Go Go (downtown Raleigh)

People dining on an outdoor patio
Love the outdoor patio!

For Mexican restaurants in downtown Raleigh, this is my current fave. I love the vintage vibe of this former ESSO gas station turned restaurant on the edge of Historic Oakwood, and if you’re looking for Mexican restaurants in downtown Raleigh it is hard to go wrong here!

It’s a place I enjoy for their colorful outdoor patio surrounded by plants, the cool and interesting interior, and real Mexican food that all adds up to offering a lovely neighborhood atmosphere.

Popular menu items include their tacos, chorizo con queso, quesadillas, guacamole ed chilaquiles with carnitas, spinach empanadas, plus delicious vegetarian and vegan options. And, they have great margaritas and a full bar including Mezcal. 

Gringo A Go Go Mexican Restaurant, Raleigh, NC
Tasty and colorful

Sitting outside is where I like to be and they have large umbrellas to protect you from the glaring sun. But do step inside and glance over the welcoming interior of the restaurant with vintage photographs, Day of the Dead masks, Mexican décor and artifacts, and fedoras lining the walls – there is plenty to look at.

Gringo A Go Go offers seasonal hand-crafted Margaritas ranging from watermelon to mango habanero – you can also stick with a traditional Margarita and the salt rim if that’s what you like.

Now open for brunch on Sunday’s, so if you’re looking for a unique and relaxing way to slowly open up Sunday with a Mexican twist, go here.

4 plates of Mexican food
Brunch spread for the family

The menu is a tribute to Fredy’s family Central Mexican heritage, and the most popular items on the menu areHuevos Con Chorizo, Chilaquiles Rojos, and Heuvos Rancheros.

Gonza Tacos y Tequila

People eating inside a colorful Mexican restaurant
Fun vibes here!

With its ideal location on Hillsborough Street across from NC State University, Gonza Tacos y Tequila is where we like to eat Mexican food in Raleigh before attending a nearby Wolfpack women’s basketball game at Reynolds Coliseum

Featuring Colombian-Mexican cuisine, hand crafted Latin cocktails, an extensive variety of tequilas and regional spirits, and a carefully selected list of Latin wines and beers, this place has a fun, upbeat atmosphere and vibe.

As you enter your attention quickly pans to the cool decor of lanterns that make for a unique ambiance, and Gonza is a solid option for Mexican food in Raleigh with friends, on a fun date night, or family gatherings – our kids really enjoy it here too! 

Popular dishes at Gonza Tacos include the El plátano, Nachos Gabachos, beef short rib, the fajitas, the burritos, Talega Del Platano, the tacos, the Mexican flag, and delicious Margaritas.

Man holding up a plate of Nachos
Nachos Gabachos

Don’t sleep on their desserts. Our kids love the Churros and the Talega de Platano ice cream dessert, but it is phenomenal.

When the weather is nice outside, grab a seat by the open windows for a nice indoor/outdoor experience overlooking Hillsborough Street.

Family of 4 eating lunch in a Mexican restaurant
Lunch at their Cary location

They have four locations in total, including an awesome location in Cary (Waverly Place) that is open for lunch and has a kids playground out the front – perfect for mom and dad who want to sit outside and have a Margarita as the kids play!

13 Tacos & Taps (North Raleigh)

Table of Mexican food
Amazing tacos here!

Looking for Mexican restaurants in North Raleigh? You can taco me back to 13 Tacos and Taps anytime for their delicious and creative tacos!

We’ve had the pleasure of dining at this restaurant in North Raleigh and were blown away by their unique offerings, taste, and freshness and walked away full – tacos never usually fill me up!

Plate of guacamole and a Margarita
Excellent Guac + Margaritas

Located in North Raleigh off Durant Rd in the Falls River Town Center towards Wake Forest direction, they are a bit of a hidden gem and have a “Taco Fusion Menu” with unique and interesting fillings, and the tacos we ordered were:

  • El Massaman (I love beef Massaman at a Thai restaurant, and their take on it is unique).
  • Red Bird (chicken adobado – their award winning taco)
  • Moo Moo III (seared filet Mignon)

They also have traditional tacos, and their guac is made in-house fresh daily and possibly the best we’ve had in North Carolina. All of this can be washed down with some excellent Margaritas.

Chef and owner David has been in the industry for a long time, and his passion and personality shine through – tell him Craig & Caz from This Is Raleigh sent you. 

Definitely one of the best restaurants in Raleigh for tacos, and consider their “Chefs Corner”, an intimate semi-private spot tucked away in the corner. 

Bartaco (North Hills)

Man holding up a tray of four tacos
More great tacos here!

Let’s taco ’bout Bartaco in North Hills. If you like unique and tasty tacos, fresh and delicious Margaritas, and cool vibes that make you feel like you’re in coastal Carolina, and gluten free restaurants, you’ll love this spot.

One of the most popular restaurants in North Hills, Bartaco is not only home to our favorite tacos in Raleigh but it’s more than just a place to eat, it’s an experience to savor. 

Table of Mexican food
Feast your eyes on this spread!

Yes, it is a chain, but with locations mostly over the East Coast (including Raleigh and Chapel Hill), I feel it’s a worthy Mexican restaurant to visit again and again.

As I enter I’m swept up into the fun tempo. A sprawling bar sits at the center, and high tops that ring the bar help spread out the energy till it reaches the tables lining the walls and those out on the beach-shack style patio.

Of course tacos are their specialties and they range from your traditional Baja Fish to the more innovative falafel, seared chorizo, or crispy oyster and combine flavors from a variety of cultures such as Asian, Spanish, Mediterranean, and Mexican.

Plate of three tacos
Some of our favorite tacos here!

There are 13 proteins to choose from, with Bartaco’s most popular being the glazed pork belly that has a spicy arbol sauce that you’ll want to put on all the things. Look around bartaco and you won’t find any one particular type of person dining here, and in keeping with being a place for all, cauliflower, mushrooms, and chickpea are on offer for our vegans. And yes, it is also dog friendly!

My favorite other dish has to be the fried plantains tossed in salt + cayenne pepper from the ‘not-taco” taco menu and a quesadilla that is absolutely sensational (you could add an AF there for extra emphasis). And the Key Lime Pie in a Jar is a hit, too!

Margaritas plus bowls of guacamole and dips
Creamy guacamole + salsa roja and verde

For drinks. I recommend a spicy Mezcal Margarita paired perfectly with the creamy guacamole. The salsa roja and verde accompanying it also vie for top dipping spot. Read our full review of Bartaco

La Santa

Bowl of guacamole
Good chips and guac

One of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Raleigh and located in the lively Glenwood South District, La Santa serves up authentic and traditional tasting Mexican food using recipes from Guadalajara.

Here you’ll find a fun atmosphere and vibe with interesting and colorful decor, friendly and helpful service, and music that keeps the mood light and energetic. 

Popular dishes include their signature burrito (Burrito Momia – a burrito wrapped with bacon), the guacamole, the ceviche, and Queso on the side – great chips and salsa too! 

Their Margaritas are popular and made with fresh fruit and organic Agave nectar, and they have some excellent Mezcal cocktails. All lunch specials are $10 on Monday-Friday, from 11:00am-2:30pm. They also have a dedicated vegan menu. 

Fun spot to eat with a group of friends, on a date night, or with your spouse!

Gym Tacos

People dining outside a Mexican restaurant

What started as just a food truck in 2019 has now turned into a brick and mortar. The original truck at 220 E Six Forks Rd is still there, but there’s also now a restaurant on Hillsborough Street not far from NC State University.

We’ve known about Gym Tacos for a while due to others sharing it online, and drive past the location on Hillsborough often, but only just stopped there this past weekend for our first experience. 

Three tacos on a plate
I tasted three different tacos

It always seems busy, and the vibe inside was upbeat, inviting and clean with plenty of seating, but we grabbed one of the tables outside in the warm sunshine. 

Placing my order, the staff was friendly and helpful and I initially ordered three tacos for myself and the Gym Tostada (Fried corn tortilla, shrimp, homemade avocado cream, spring mix, Pico de Gallo, roasted corn) for Caroline. 

Plate of shrimp covered in green sauce
Gym Tostada

After seeing that the tacos were a bit on the small side, and me being hungry, I added a steak burrito to my order and I’m so glad I did. 

The tacos are hand-made corn tortillas and I added onion and cilantro on top of my chosen proteins:

  • Pollo (chicken)
  • Cecina (flank steak) 
  • Suadero (rose meat) the suadero cut is taken from the middle of the cow.

I did enjoy the taco shells, and my favorite filling was probably the Pollo (chicken), while the others were a little on the drier side and underwhelming for the hype – they do have a variety of sauces you can add. 

Table of Mexican food

But for a taco joint, I actually preferred the Burrito more which was very good, tasty and filling, and for now I do prefer the tacos at 13 Tacos & Taps and Bartaco.

But I do want to go back and try their signature shrimp taco, and the nacho tower which they are known for. 

We are yet to try several of the other popular Mexican restaurants in Raleigh. We have had great cocktails at Centro in downtown, but haven’t eaten there yet. Same with El Rodeo, a popular lunch spot in downtown. Others that come highly recommended include Taqueria El Toro (just south of Raleigh), and Salt & Lime Cabo Grill.

Oh, we did enjoy the tacos at Standard Beer + Food, and in Cary, Totopos is very good and we need to revisit there! 

Now it’s your turn, what are your favorite Mexican restaurants in Raleigh? Where should we go next for the best Mexican in Raleigh?

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