20 Great Local Mexican Restaurants
In a region where Latin flavors dominate the culinary scene thanks to a plethora of talented chefs and restaurateurs, Mexican food reigns supreme, with a long list of excellent sit-down restaurants, quick-service establishments, bodegas, bakeries, food trucks and more. Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants enrich our community in so many ways, and their influence can be seen in the restaurants that punctuate nearly every neighborhood in town. We searched high and low for our favorites. Here they are.
530 U.S. 41 Bypass, Venice, (941) 486-0005; 4436 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941) 379-2880; 8405 N. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota, (941) 359-9303; mipueblomexican.com
With three locations in Sarasota County, it’s tough to miss this staple. Our favorite destination, however, is the Venice restaurant, where an upstairs terrace overlooks a central dining room where margaritas flow and a mariachi band serenades hungry diners. Try a combination plate for a sampler of their most popular dishes. It’s a Venice gem.
Acapulco Mexican Restaurant
1833 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton, (941) 708-3308, acapulcolwr.com
Pollo con mole is the name of the game at this Lakewood Ranch restaurant. Made with huge chunks of chicken breast soaked in a flavorful chocolate-based sauce, the dish resonates with us and, apparently, the locals, who line up for a crack at it. It’s so good that it justifies putting Acapulco on this list all by itself. A tip: Once you’re done with the mole, don’t forget to order the flan. It’s a touch thicker than usual, and it makes for a sugary end to a decadent meal.
Poblanos Mexican Grill & Bar
5779 53rd Ave. E., #9724, Bradenton, (941) 739-9800, poblanosmex.com
Nothing beats freshly made guacamole, and at this Lakewood Ranch hotspot, fresh avocados dominate the menu, which includes three guacamole options. Don’t miss out on the “guac this way,” made tableside so you can enjoy dinner and a show. The enchiladas suiza are also an excellent choice; made with chicken and topped in a creamy sauce, they are rich, filling and delicious.
Paraiso Mexican Grille & Bar
2639 Placida Road, Englewood, (941) 460-8081, paraisomexicanbarandgrille.com
The Tex-Mex spirit is alive and well at this South County joint. Dishes like bistec en chile Colorado and huaraches (fried corn tortillas topped with refried beans) highlight the menu, which also features favorites like fajitas, quesadillas and burritos. Complete your meal with a generous margarita and you’ll be in heaven.
Bombón Mexican Restaurant
1118 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 487-8199, sarasotabombon.com
We love the food at Bombón, where signature dishes like tostones rellenos (fried plantains with chicken or shrimp and melted cheese) and epic tortas (Mexican sandwiches) are the highlights of the menu. But what we love most is that this restaurant turns into a late-night hotspot after hours. Dance the calories away with other weekend warriors for an outrageously fun night out.
3525 First St. E., Bradenton, (941) 744-1034; 5612 14th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 900-2134; 3410 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton, (941) 981-9089; acapulcotropicalsupermarket.com
Acapulco Tropical isn’t just a restaurant. It’s a lifestyle. Enter one, and you’ll find a sprawling mini-mall that combines grocery store, butcher shop, bakery, lunch counter and a lot more. You can even buy jewelry here and get your prescriptions filled. It can be easy to miss the restaurant portion of the facility, but don’t make that mistake. You’ll find huge plates of rich mole, pozole (a thick stew) and cochinita pibil (pork roasted in banana leaves), plus handy items like tacos and burritos.
Casa Maya Mexican Restaurant
8126 Lakewood Main St., Bradenton, (941) 907-9449, casamayalwr.com
Three cheers for all things molcajete at this downtown Lakewood Ranch eatery. Named for the large stone bowl in which it’s served, this dish overflows with meat and cheese in a flavorful sauce. The menu skews Tex-Mex, but has loads of traditional Mexican items, as well. Don’t forget to order a pitcher of margaritas or sangria for the table for lots of laughs and a dose of refreshment.
El Tio Carlos
Inside the Red Barn Flea Market, 1707 First St. E., Bradenton, (941) 201-4610
Enjoy killer tacos with a side of people watching at El Tio Carlos, a stand inside the Red Barn Flea Market that, for years, was known as Maria’s Restaurant. The small kitchen cranks out an impressive pick of tacos, tostadas, sopes, gorditas and burritos. We always go for the pork al pastor, which is served in an intense orange sauce, and blaze it up with either the green or red hot sauce. The cactus tacos make for an excellent vegetarian choice, and be sure to order a horchata or a freshly made agua fresca to cool yourself down.
El Toro Bravo
3218 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 924-0006, eltorobravosarasota.com
Since 2005, chef Ruben Caban has been serving up delicious Mexican food to Sarasota diners. Chiles rellenos, enchiladas, chimichangas and even huevos rancheros are some of the highlights from the menu, which Caban describes as “Southwest Mexican” because of its unique blend of styles and ingredients. We love the sopaipillas (fried pastries) to finish the meal on a sweet note.
La Brisa Tacos Y Mariscos
1156 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 552-8868, labrisatacosymariscos.com
One of a series of small restaurants located on north 301 that make the neighborhood one of the best (and perhaps most underrated) dining districts in Sarasota, La Brisa (“the breeze”) offers mainstays like enchiladas, gorditas, fajitas and more. Seafood is a specialty here, so you’ll find shrimp and fish options, as well as terrific ceviche, in addition to the standard chicken, beef and pork selections. The carnitas is great.
La Primavera Supermarket & Restaurant
901 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 366-5321
La Primavera is a top spot for street tacos, in part because of the big machine up front that is constantly cranking out freshly pressed and toasted corn tortillas. Choose your filling and pile it on one of those vessels, then decorate the concoction with onion, cilantro and a squirt of lime. Salsa roja or verde amp up the flavors while adding a touch of heat. After a filling meal, be sure to resupply your home kitchen; the space doubles as a mini grocery store, with all types of products you won’t find at your neighborhood Publix.
Mariscos Azteca Mexican Seafood Restaurant
1100 N. Tuttle Ave., #8, Sarasota, (941) 210-3873, mariscosazte.ca.com
Fresh seafood is the name of the game here, where you’ll find generously sized entrées built around plump shrimp, grilled grouper, steamed crab legs and mussels and anything else that swims in the sea. If you’re feeling hungry, splurge on a molcajete, the lava rock bowl that comes either cold or hot and overflows with a riot of colorful ingredients and plenty of sauces and toppings to gild the lily.
Guerrero’s Bakery and Mexican Restaurant
3557 Webber St., Sarasota, (941) 923-4459, orderguerrerosbakery.com
Guerrero’s is a mighty mini-empire of Mexican cuisine, with two separate buildings that straddle Webber Street. On the north side, you’ll find a sit-down restaurant with sombreros hanging from brick walls and a steady stream of sizzling fajita platters emerging from the kitchen in the rear. We recommend the shrimp chimichanga, which is roughly the size of a submarine. On the south side of the street, you’ll encounter a wall of brightly colored Mexican pastries that you grab with metal tongs, as well as a full butcher counter and all sorts of pantry staples.
Island House Taqueria
2773 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941) 922-8226, islandhousetaqueria.com
Cozy vibes abound at this punk rock neighborhood joint. Its small bar is always filled with regulars and the cashier doubles as a bartender. Choose a preparation style like a taco, burrito, chimichanga or quesadilla, then select a filling from a variety that includes cochinita pibil. We’re huge fans of the vegetarian batata quesadilla, teeming with roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, avocado and salsa verde.
The Spot Tacos & More
2303 First St., Bradenton, (941) 741-2011
Situated in an affordable housing complex near the Red Barn Flea Market, The Spot is both a fun hangout for people in the neighborhood, as well as a destination restaurant for people from all over, who come for owner Laura Betancourt’s thoughtfully crafted dishes. To experience the best of The Spot, try the birria tacos, which are stuffed with braised beef checks and toasted on a flattop after being dunked in a rich broth. For $10, you can get three tacos and a bowl of that broth to dip them in, or just four tacos. It’s one of the best deals in town.
Screaming Goat Taqueria
6566 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 210-3992, screaming-goat.com
At Screaming Goat in Gulf Gate, they do things a little differently. Traditional fillings like barbacoa (braised beef) and pollo asado (spiced chicken) are available in taco, burrito, salad or bowl form. But the fun doesn’t stop there. The Korean barbecue taco has a cult following, and for good reason. This taco spot is also heaven for vegetarians and vegans, with plenty of options like masa-dusted cauliflower or vegan chorizo.
3436 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 366-8081
Technically a Salvadoran restaurant that is beloved for its incredible pupusas, Bitia’s makes this list because of its similarly impressive tacos, tamales, burritos, soups and entrées. The specialty here is pork, with a menu that includes chorizo, al pastor, carnitas, pork belly and cueritos—pork skin. Pile the pork of your choice into a mix of tacos and other vessels, and top the package with Salvadoran curtido, a crunchy cabbage slaw that adds a pungent counterpoint to the rich, fatty flavors of all that meat.
1603 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 706-2395; 101 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach, (941) 281-2990; wickedcantina.com
This spot is a must-try for any Tex-Mex lover. With a top-notch margarita menu that has more than 10 options, it’s a great place to get your drink on after a long day at work. The signature queso is packed with chilies and onions, and the team promises you’ll want to ask for seconds. Try the seafood enchiladas for a Floridian spin on a classic dish. They’re stuffed with mahi, grouper and shrimp and topped with a creamy sauce.
6895 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 312-4754
Good things happen inside gas station restaurants. Located in a Texaco station on the South Trail, Taco Jalisco is a great spot to load up on affordable and fantastic tacos. Start with the chilaquiles (fried tortillas topped with red or green sauce, sour cream and cheese) and finish strong with any of the several tacos on the menu. We love that they have lengua (beef tongue), which keeps us coming back.
935 N. Beneva Road, #701, Sarasota, (941) 260-8343, reynastaqueria.com; Sarasota Square Mall Food Court, 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, #FC7, Sarasota, (941) 271-4624, reyanastaqueriasouth.com
This writer’s No. 1 choice for fantastic, consistent and authentic Mexican cuisine. Chef Gino Calleja astounds diners with fantastic tacos, street corn and rotating dishes each day of the week. Set aside Tuesdays for a molote, an empanada-style pocket made with blue corn flour and stuffed with shredded chicken and cheese. Their weekend tamales are also excellent. Be sure to save room for a house-made churro for dessert. They come piping hot out of the fryer and are covered with cinnamon and sugar.
Plus! Street Hustle
Two food trucks that make Mexican food just as tasty as any restaurant.
Doña Betty Tacos
5510 14th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 580-4730
A cult favorite for late-night tacos and burritos, the Doña Betty taco truck got its start serving people stumbling drunk and hungry out of a Bradenton nightclub. These days, it sets up in a parking lot on U.S. 41, where people start lining up as soon as the truck arrives. We love the intensely flavored beef cheek barbacoa tacos, which come loaded with cilantro, onion and shredded cheese. They’re also served with sautéed onions, pickled jalapeño and carrots, hunks of pineapple and plenty of salsa. Four tacos make for a perfect feast.
886 S. Packinghouse Road, Sarasota, (941) 462-8155
You’ll usually find this truck set up in a barren lot in east Sarasota, where the staff cranks out tacos, quesadillas, chimichangas and other Mexican specialties. The al pastor tacos and beef asada tacos are exceptional, and they come dressed with a fiery red sauce that will scorch your taste buds. The horchata has a thick, starchy texture, with plenty of sweetness and fragrant cinnamon to improve your lunch break.