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Food & Drink

Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

November 15, 2010 9:44 AM

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(credit: chandostacos.com)

(credit: chandostacos.com)

The Sacramento area is home to some awesome Mexican restaurants,  with some carrying on a decades-long tradition of excellence. Here’s a list of 10.

Azul Mexican Food And Tequila Bar

1050 20th St
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 447-4040

Among the “new bred” of midtown restaurants where the food is innovative and the atmosphere lively, Azul features live music and a popular free chips and salsa bar. Among house favorites are the reasonably priced luncheon appetizers like the quesadilla ($4). Fish dishes are all the rage, particularly the mahi mahi burrito and shrimp taco. Taco Tuesdays is a great deal with $1.25 tacos and $2.50 draft beer.

centro Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: centrococina.com)

Centro Cocina Mexicana

2730 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
916-442-2552
www.centrococina.com

Located in arguably the most lively midtown restaurant district, Centro is likely the most energetic eatery in the area. Tequila enthusiasts are in nirvana because more than 150 selections of tequilas are offered and margaritas feature fresh lime juice. The menu is vast and includes: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, pozole, fresh fish, grilled meats and poultry dishes. The decor is eclectic and the bar is adorned with Mexican folk art from the state of Oaxaca.

chandos tacos Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: chandostacos.com)

Chando’s Tacos

863 Arden Wy.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 641-8226
www.chandostacos.com

Often described as the “quintessential taco stand,” Chando’s packs in a crowd a lunchtime — and at other times, too. But that’s not to say there’s a long wait. Chando, the owner, often takes the orders and the staff is prepared. The service is fast and the food is fresh and portions plentiful. The flavor in meat gets praised often, and one of the best deals is a sizable bag of fresh tortilla chips and ideal pico de gallo for $1.

el amigo Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: facebook.com)

El Amigo

5722 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 451-8482

Tucked behind the mall anchored by Rite-Aid and Save Mart on Folsom Blvd., El Amigo is a family style restaurant in a horrible location. But like many successful ethnic restaurants it does well despite its locale because it’s like frequented by diners of Hispanic heritage. Three dishes are among the signature offerings: mole chicken enchiladas, cemerones rancheros and the super burrito. Two notes: the restaurant uses tongue and when a server says the plates are hot, he or she means it.

el novillero Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: elnov.com)

El Novillero

4216 Franklin Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95826
(916) 456-4287
www.elnov.com

Now more than 41 years old, the family owned restaurant is often crowded and renowned for is vast menu and large portions. House favorites include chile verde with regulars praising the spicy and salty consistency. Carnitas, chimmichangas and carne asada are among other favorites. El Novillero may be the only Mexican restaurant in Sacramento that serves pickle chips. Despite its popularity, don’t fret — the parking lot is huge.

el patron Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: patronbarandgrill.com)

El Patron Bar & Grill

6601 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 455-8945
http://www.patronbarandgrill.com

Through the years, the location has been home to several ethnic restaurants, with El Patron attracting a steady neighborhood and Sacramento State crowd. Carnitas and molcajete get praised off, but it’s $1 Tuesday Taco Night that defines a great deal. Four kinds of taco are offered complemented $1 Bud Light and $3 Margaritas. It’s a popular offer but it’s not overly crowded.

Island Tacos

5096 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 451-2210

Best described as the quick place to get a street taco, this is a fresh, no frills, hole-in-the-wall (read parking lot) kiosk with just the basics, tacos to burritos. The meat-onion-cilantro mix works and the fresh salsa is a treat. It’s so small (less than 100 square feet) there’s no indoor seating and only an few plastic tables outside. As such, take-away is the best best. Burritos and quesadillas are huge.

nopalitos cafe Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: nopalitoscafe.com)

Nopalitos Southwest Cafe

5530 H St
Sacramento, CA 95819
(916) 452-8226
www.nopalitoscafe.com

Opened in 1992 by husband/wife team of Dave and Rose Hanke, Nopalitos is little corner joint that’s become a neighborhood icon. Rose handles the counter and cash register while Dave is her behind-the-scenes counterpart. It’s breakfast and lunch only, Monday through Friday. It’s fresh stuff and some of the best in town. Breakfast staples include chile verde and machaca. A steady, daily lunch crowd has its favorites, too, with a variety of specials and “quick-hits” like rice bowls with various choices of meat and vegetables.

oscars mexican food Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: facebook.com)

Oscars Very Mexican Food

3061 Freeport Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 443-8310

Next to McClatchy High School, Oscars is a “institution” for burrito connoisseurs, particularly two varieties, the breakfast burrito and California burrito made with french fries, not refried beans. The burritos are huge (easily two meals) and prices are right for tight budgets. Parking is limited as is seating. Lunch phone orders are popular because they’re ready when you arrive.

zocalo Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

(credit: zocalo.com)

Zocalo

1801 Capitol Ave
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 441-0303
www.zocalosacramento.com

Housed in the renovated Arnold Brothers Building, which was built for a Hudson car dealership in the 1920s, the restaurant is tastefully decorated with classic foliage and stylish furniture and high ceilings. Signature dishes are highlighted the enchilada en mole, but there’s plenty more even the simple house staple, cilantro rice, prompts return customers. There’s a generous daily Happy Hour featuring $2 Naco Tacos and margaritas with real lime juice and agave nectar. Regulars particularly rave about the blackberry margarita.

- James Raia is a freelance journalist living in Sacramento. His work can be found at byjamesraia.com.

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