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Oakland's Top 10 Most Popular Independent Mexican Restaurants

Food + Beverage

Oakland, California, has  long boasted some of the best Mexican restaurants in Northern California.  Here is a quick guide to the most popular Mexican eateries on the Sunny Side of the Bay. 

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Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana makes some of the best Margaritas in Oakland.
Long before Oakland emerged from the twin shadows of San Francisco and Berkeley as a foodie mecca in its own right, the city on the Sunny Side of the Bay was known by insiders as the best spot in the Bay Area for Mexican food.

One of the Town's oldest eateries in continuous operation is Mexicali Rose, which is located at 7th and Clay streets halfway between Frank Ogawa Plaza and Jack London  Square. 

Despite the arrival of numerous new Mexican restaurants in recent years, the Rose still has a loyal following.

A 20-block stretch of East 14th Street - NOBODY with any street cred in the Town ever calls it International Boulevard -  has been dotted with taquerias, cantinas, and taco trucks for decades.

There is  hardly a neighborhood in the Town - from Montclair to College Avenue to Laurel to Grand Lake - that doesn't have its own Mexican eatery.

What has changed in recent years is the arrival of upscale Mexican restaurants, which are pushing the culinary  boundaries, redefining what Mexican food is all about.

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Crew preparing pollo asado at Nido Kitchen and Bar in Oakland's Jack London Square district.

Here are the 10 most popular Mexican restauarnts according to readers of TripAdvisor. National chain restaurants and restaurants without websites are not included in this list.

  1. Cholita Linda Street Eats – 4023 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland. Telephone: (510) 594-7610. Social Media: FacebookTwitter - Instagram 
    The fish tacos are bomb period point blank. The fish seems to be fried but with a lite batter. The cabbage is hard and not soggy which is the perfect consistency for the fish accompaniment. The sauce they give you is tangy and a little spicy but so delicious. The guac is very fresh and the chips are crispy and delish as well. – Nicole F., Oakland, California.
  2. Calavera – 2337 Broadway, Oakland, California.  Telephone: (510) 444-7171. Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram 
    Wow. This place is amazing. From the decor to the service to the drinks to the food...amazing. Our waitress was simply outstanding and guided us thru a great night of food and drinks. The Pacifico Michelada was awesome with sessionability and a hint or cumin and coriander, outstanding. We split some of the great apps, side dishes and the fish dish. Everything was spot on and I already can't wait to go back. This CHEF is amazing and totally on point! – TruckeeTroutTraveler, Truckee, California.
  3. Cosecha – 907 Washington Street, Oakland, California.  Telephone: (510) 452-5900. Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram
    Stopped by for lunch at this Mexican restaurant in Swan Market. Had the mole verde, the daily special. The ingredients are super fresh and the mole was rich and textured. The tortillas are amazing as was the horchata. – Comandante-of-Fun, Brooklyn, New York.
  4. Dona Tomas – 5004 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California.  Telephone: (510) 450-0522. Social Media: Facebook Twitter  
    We had an outstanding meal on a warm Oakland evening, dining al fresco on the patio. The orders for 4 of us are as follows: Chiles Rellenos; Fish tacos; Carne asada; Enchiladas con Mole Rojo. All dishes were superb (we tasted a bite from each plate), the waitstaff was wonderfully attentive without hovering, and the ambience was fabulous.Good selection of Mexican beers, great Margaritas and nice desserts. We will be back soon. -byoungthird, San Leandro, California.
  5. Belly Uptown – 1901 San Pablo, Oakland, California.  Telephone: (510) 839-0000. Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram 
    This place satisfied my palates with its taste! This place is located uptown of Oakland and finding parking is a little bit of a challenge. Food is a little pricey. Service is excellent. The place is small; just a few tables inside and outside. Lines could be long; the best time to dine is during non peak hours. Overall, it was a great experience and I would love to come back. -  Teaniezn, San Francisco, California.
  6. Nido Kitchen and Bar – 444 Oak Street, Oakland, California.  Telephone: (510) 444-6436.Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram 
    Nido is not your typical Mexican restaurant but it has excellent food if you are looking to try something new/different. Most of their menu options are tapas style - meant to be shared. There were four of us (including my toddler) and we ordered 5 tapas plates and then the pork carnitas, which was plenty. I like how the plates are unique and beautifully presented. They don't have a separate kid's menu but they offer a cheese quesadilla with rice and beans as their kid's option and my son enjoyed it. The service was great and I love the ambiance here. Give it a try! – thefirstnoelle2010, San Francisco, Califonria.
  7. Cactus Taqueria -  5642 College Avenue, Oakland, California. Telephone: (510) 658-6180. Social Media: Facebook 
    I have been eating here for many years and love the crispy steak tacos. The salsa's are from mild to hot. Tamales and burritos are delicious. You can not go wrong eating at Cactus. It is across the street from Market Hall and the Rockridge BART station. – ConnieP, Walnut Creek, California.
  8. Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana – 468 – 8th Street, Oakland, California. Telephone: (510) 444-1944.Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram 
    At the recommendation of a friend I decided to check out this place. I was pleasantly surprised. The decor is clean and modern with a nod to familiar Mexican staples. The food was pretty good too. I had the Albondigas (meatball) and Mulita appetizers. It was refreshing that the food was light and fresh and not huge portions smothered with cheese, oil and sauces. SGarde, Simi Valley, California.
  9. Bar Cesar – 4039 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, California. Telephone: (510) 985-1200. Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagram
    I stopped into have a snack and wound up with a large meal served by a very accommodating server. Dining at Bar Cesar reminds me of bistros in Spain. They have an excellent selection of Latin themed dishes, most notably fish tacos. I was enjoying a carnitas hash brunch item when I mentioned the salsa was a bit hot for my taste. Gustavo, ever the gentleman, quickly insisted I have a new meal with a lighter salsa. I was almost done, so ended up taking home the new meal. I found this above the normal waiter service. – maxbialy, Oakland, California.
  10. Agave Uptown – 2135 Franklin Street, Oakland California. Telephone:L (510) 288-3668. Social Media: Facebook – Twitter - Instgram 
    This is a great place to experience another dimension in Mexican cuisine. Whatever you do, experience the traditional mole sauce here. Even if you just put it on your rice get a little bowl as a side, just to make sure you have enough. Among the three of us we had the pizza - not at all your usual pizza - as an appetizer, tacos, ceviche and the molcajete. All of it was great. We look forward to another exploration of the menu soon. ktgOakland, Oakland, California.

Recommended Dishes

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Ahi tostaditas (little tuna tostadas) at Nido Kitchen and Bar in Oakland's Jack London Square district.

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Carnitas tacos at Calavera in Oakland's Uptown district.
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Tamales de costilla en salsa milpera y verdolagas in Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana in Oakland's Old Oakland district.

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