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Fish Tacos at Taqueria Pico de Gallo (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Foodie 15: Best Mexican Restaurants in Southern Tucson

Updated March 5, 2024

If you’re looking for the best Mexican food in Tucson, south of the I-10 is a great place to start.

On the south side Tucson Mexican restaurants feature everything from authentic enchiladas, chile relleno, tamales, and tacos, to traditional aguas frescas, such as Jamaica — a beverage made from red hibiscus flowers — and horchata — a sweet rice drink.

Many Southside restaurants are family owned, some have been around for upwards of 20 years, and there’s one that’s been open for over 75. Great Mexican food made from a place of heart and home and history is hard to beat.

This guide takes a look at some of the best southern Tucson Mexican food — we even called in some local experts to weigh in with their personal picks. This includes DJ Herm Guzman, Ben’s Bells founder Jeannette Maré, Visit Tucson’s Dan Gibson, and two-time Tucson Iron Chef Danny Perez.

Their recommendations are marked with STAR ICONS on the map and FOODIE FAVORITE badges below.

Learn how we create our guides here.

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs (photo Credit: Jackie Tran)

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs – South 12th Ave

Your go-to spot for a taste of Sonora right in Tucson. Famous for their Sonoran Style Hot Dogs and Carne Asada Tacos, this place has been a local favorite since ’94.

The covered patio is a chill place to escape the desert heat, and with a cold Michelada in hand, you’re in for a tasty and authentic Mexican treat.

a picture of mexican food
Shrimp Culichi at Casa Valencia (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Casa Valencia

Casa Valencia brings a splash of seafood to Mexican and Latin flavors. The Carne Asada Tacos are a hit, and dishes like Camaron Culichi are on point. Vegetarians, fret not – they’ve got options for you, too!

Sonoran Hot Dogs from El Guero Canelo (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

El Güero Canelo Restaurant – 22nd St.

El Guero Canelo found its roots in 1993 when the Contreras family opened it. They went on to be a key proponent becoming of the Sonoran hot dog, a dish that emerged in Tucson in the late 1960s. 30 years later, they’re famous for those bacon-wrapped beauties. Load them up with all your favorite fixings and bite into a soft Mexican bun.

But it doesn’t stop at hot dogs—their menu stretches from huevos rancheros to zesty carne asada-filled tacos, and the music accompanies it all perfectly.

(Photo courtesy of El Merendero)

El Merendero

Foodie Favorite:
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DJ Herm

“The best Mexican restaurants are south of 22nd…El Merendero is one of my favorites.”

El Merendero is Spanish for “the picnic area” or “outdoor cafe” – but they’re so much more than that. Tucson’s El Merendero is an all around cozy restaurant that’s been serving up Mexican and Southwestern grub since ’86. Their menu is a sea of options and daily specials.

Try their classic Mexican breakfast and their sweet tea, or make a meal of their Ceviche Tostadas and churros.

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Topopo Salad at Guillermo's Double L (Photo credit: Edie Jarolim)

Guillermo’s Double L

Foodie Favorite:
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Jeannette Maré

“..for me, it’s a big atmosphere thing. It’s a feeling — if I walk into a place, and I feel like I’m in Mexico…they’re just so welcoming and warm.”

A respected hidden gem in Tucson, Guillermo’s blends classy and chill into a great Mexican restaurant experience. They’ve been on South 4th Ave. since 1948, if you can believe it.

Among the the most popular items is the Topopo Salad, which comes in a giant, crispy corn tortilla coated in refried beans and served with lettuce, peas, carrots, tomatoes, cheese, and your choice of meat. If that’s not your thing, go for the Gorditas and Jalapeno Cheese Crisps.

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Carne de Res Chile Rojo at Jalisco Tortilleria (Photo credit: Gloria Knott)

Jalisco Restaurante

Early bird or not, Jalisco Restaurante has got your Mexican breakfast and brunch cravings covered. The menu includes classics such as chilaquiles, carne asada burros, tamales, tortas, quesadillas, and more.

Don’t forget to grab some fresh cookies, tortillas, or Mexican candies on the way out.

a plate of food on a table
Chile Rellenos and Chicken Taquitos at Little Mexico (Photo credit: Gloria Knott)

Little Mexico Restaurant

The Palomarez and Estrada families opened Little Mexico in 1993. In the last 23 years, Little Mexico has held strong on the value of family.

Each dish at Little Mexico is made from a family recipe, including tamales, chile rellenos, chile con carne, chorizo, and even the salsa – all made fresh daily.

Not only is the family heavily involved in the creation of the food, but most of the employees are also Palomarez and Estrada relatives.

Little Mexico runs a sister business on Valencia — Little Mexico Steakhouse — which offers similar Mexican dishes as well as mesquite-grilled steaks.

(Photo Courtesy of Maico Restaurant Mexican Food)

Maico Restaurant Mexican Food

Maico’s menu is a blend of traditional Mexican flavors with items like machaca and potato tacos. Their tacos are top-tier and they even  earned a spotlight on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for its menudo and goat birria. That’s how you KNOW its authentic Mexican cuisine.

Grab yourself a big carne asada burrito, a ceviche tostada, or a handful of fish tacos and wash it down with their horchata!

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Shrimp Culichi at Mariscos Chihuahua (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Mariscos Chihuaha – South 6th Ave

Foodie Favorite:
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Danny Perez

“…it’s good to recognize that there are a lot of really cool, different styles of cooking Mexican food…at Mariscos Chihuahua, the cooking is different — you get a little bit of a coastal feel.”

Among the many seafood dishes and cocktails offered, Mariscos Chihuahua offers octopus, shrimp, marlin, oysters, scallops, sea snails, and calamari. By far, the fan favorites is the shrimp or fish culichi — sautéed shrimp or fish served in a creamy green sauce.

Mariscos Chihuahua has deemed the culichi “the dish that made us famous.”

President's Plate at Mi Nidito (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Mi Nidito Restaurant

Every Tucsonan worth their salt knows this spot: Mi Nidito — Spanish for my little nest — has been serving Mexican food since 1952. Started by Sonoran couple Ernesto and Alicia Lopez, Mi Nidito is now into its third generation of being family-owned.

Former President Bill Clinton visited the restaurant in 1999. His order is now named the President’s Plate, which includes a bean tostada, birria taco, chicken enchilada, beef tamale, and chile relleno.

Heads-up: there may be a wait, but we promise it’s worth it.

Photo Courtesy of Micha's Restaurant

Micha’s Restaurant

A South Tucson landmark beloved by locals and travelers alike, Micha’s offers a buffet and a range of Mexican delicacies. Just about everything they serve comes highly recommended, but most notable are the calabacitas, albondigas [meatball] soup, and the Sonoran-style burro.

Tucson Weekly once announced Micha’s for Best Menudo, and they’ve been nominated for Best Southside Restaurant more than once.

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(Photo courtesy of Perfecto's Mexican Restaurant)

Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant

Perfecto’s was opened by Perfecto Leon, once known as The Tamale Man. Leon began selling tamales in front of a Tucson Safeway over 20 years ago, and in 2009, Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant was born.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it may be easy to miss – tucked in a small strip mall across from El Merendero – the food is hard to beat. How can you pass up a hearty tamale from The Tamale Man himself?

Birria Ramen at Rollies Mexican Patio (Photo by Jackie Tran)

Rollies Mexican Patio

Rollie’s Mexican Patio isn’t just a restaurant; it’s an experience. With award-winning Birria Tacos leading the charge, it’s a must-visit spot for Mexican cuisine enthusiasts.

Check out their Birria Ramen, Chicken Rollies, and Nana’s Tacos while you savor the patio for which it’s named (weather permitting, of course). Wash it all down with beer, wine, or even ice cream – you deserve it.

Tacos Apson (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Tacos Apson – S. 12th Ave

Another of the hidden gems of Tucson, Tacos Apson, located on South 12th Avenue, was named after Mexican rock band Los Apson and is renowned for its authentic and reasonably-priced Sonoran street food. Take a seat at the front counter of Apson and watch the cooks prepare your order, or better yet, catch a whiff of the delicious costillas [ribs] cooking on the open grill.

Tacos are served straight up, but there’s a salsa bar filled with pickled carrots, onion, jalapeños, and several different salsas for building your own taco experience. If you aren’t in the mood for tacos, the taqueria-style restaurant also serves burros, tortas, and Sonoran hot dogs.

Fish Tacos from Taqueria Pico de Gallo (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

Foodie Favorite:
a man wearing glasses
Dan Gibson

“Taqueria Pico de Gallo was my first love down there. I’d eat there every day if I could.”

A great choice for anyone craving a real taste of Mexico, Taqueria Pico de Gallo’s menu is dotted with classics. That said, the fish tacos, which once won Tucson Weekly’s reader’s pick for Best Fish Tacos, are a must.

Alternately, their Spiced Fruit Salad harkens back to the restaurant’s roots as an outdoor pushcart.

Pico De Gallo serves tacos under $2 and burros and tortas starting at $6. If the price doesn’t draw you in, the freshly made corn tortillas will.

Taqueria Porfis

Open bright and early for those hungry morning people, Taqueria Porfis is home of the potato taco.

Although potato tacos are common in Mexico City and Guadalajara, it’s unclear where the potato taco actually originated. Regardless, Porfis is one of only a few places in Tucson that offers them. Stuffed with potatoes, carne seca, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream, the tacos are inexpensive and delicious. Taqueria Porfis also offers potato chimichangas, served with the same filling as the tacos.

For crunchy tacos, order the tacos dorados. For a traditional soft taco, or in this case, a steamed taco, order the Tacos Al Vapor.

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