Holy Guacamole there are some seriously good Mexican restaurants around town these days! If your idea of a mouth-watering Mexican fiesta involves nothing more than a whole mess of nachos, you're doing it wrong (kind of). Put down the Doritos and step away from the 'medium' intensity salsa, gringo — we're going to do this the right way.
Mexican food is a divisive and delicate subject matter. After all, one person's tor-till-ah may be another's tor-tee-ah. When Mexican food is good, it's really really good. When it's bad… well, it doesn't earn a coveted posi on Brisbane's Best Mexican list. From sit-down affairs to flavour-mobiles on the move, here are some of Brisbane's top picks for dining south-of-the-border.
Where: Spring Hill
New kids on the block Fiesta Ole won me over with their tortilla chips alone. Tucked behind the Woolies at Spring Hill, Fiesta Ole' is fast becoming the new favourite lunch haunt of many inner-city office workers. One outing to Fiesta Ole' is guaranteed to have you returning home and ridding your pantry of all Old El Paso at-home kits. Like most Mexican nooks in Brisbane, Fiesta Ole' loves a party, whether it's in the form of vivacious live Latin music, three litre beer towers, fishbowl-sized cocktails or all-you-can-eat tacos. Come for the tacos, stay for the atmosphere. Arriba!
Where: West End
Arguably one of the city's most authentic and longstanding Mexican restaurants, El Torito comes highly recommended by even the most seasoned of Brisbane foodies. In an age when restaurants open and close within a single season of MasterChef, an 18 year run is no mean feat. Wipe away the layer of grease you might be accustomed to at Mexican chain joints and treat your palate to a refreshing, coriander-embellished feast at this West End stalwart. The eats are made-to-order so settle in with a jug of sangria (do it) and ready yourself to tackle the sizable chimichanga or mole poblano. Bookings essential, amigos.
If there was one dark spot on Brisbane's Mexican scene, it would be the lack of breakfast options. Ever since I learned churros are traditionally consumed as a morning meal, Weet-Bix will never look the same again. Thankfully, Pepe's is leading the charge with its breakfast burritos, a few hearty huevos (egg) options, and a very cruel 'crepas de cajeta' — crepes drenched in oozy caramel sauce with agave-soaked walnuts and cinnamon ice cream. Don't even bother looking at the desserts menu; just order one of everything — margarita cheesecake, chocolate fudge nachos, and peanut butter parfait. Te amo, Pepe. Te amo so hard.
Juan More Taco
Where: All around town
JMT wins points for their pun-tastic name alone. Juan More Taco (that name, seriously) has added their set of wheels to an already well-stocked fleet of Brisbane food trucks. The tacos are soft (see: traditional) and gluten free; the salsas are mild but can be cranked up if you so choose. You want Juan with crispy pork? Juan with braised beef? Juan with marinated chicken? Juan with sautéed zucchini and roasted capsicum? You got it! I'm just realising how awkward this would be for anyone named Juan, but you should be flattered to be associated with such bueno street food.
Bulimba dwellers tell me La Quinta is something of a local institution. La Quinta Mexican Cafe y Bar is perfect for a night of eating y drinking with your closest amigos. If you're a party person who enjoys sipping colourful mixers and has a large ensemble of chilli-loving friends, look to La Quinta's epic banquet options. The beverage menu is as delicious as the three types of wings on offer, featuring plenty of imported beer and a dozen or so cocktails guaranteed to take your night from blah to BAM! You can thank the Chocolate Mexican.
Where: All around town
What's better than one Mexican food truck? TWO Mexican food trucks, obviously! If you like to order your Mexican whilst sounding like an English football hooligan, then Oi! Taco might be for you. Besides their endearing directness, Oi! have accrued a small army of loyals thanks to their vego, vegan, gluten-free, paleo and low carb catering. Word around town is that their chorizo and goats cheese quesadilla is a real crowd-pleaser. When they're not feeding the masses at local markets, Oi! Taco extends their reach as far as Springfield and Wynnum.
Where: Fortitude Valley
Our friends over at Chilliwow definitely know a thing or two about the fiesta vibe and have been keeping Brisbane's cool-kids well fed and watered with a fun Tex-Mex menu, plenty of margaritas (our fave is the signature Chilliwow margarita with a spicy kick), the largest tequila range in Brisbane, bangin' tunes and a damn good time for just under a year now. We are also big fans of Chilliwow's Friday Margarita Madness between 5-7pm to welcome in the weekend!
Beach Burrito Company
Where: Fortitude Valley / West End
Look, there's nothing wrong with a little Tex-Mex or Baja-Cali cuisine if that's where your tastebuds take you. Don't ever let anyone make you second-guess a jalapeno popper. Try the flash-fried taquitos at BBC (mainly because it's really fun to say taquitos), with fillings of chilli con carne, pible pork, chipotle chicken or tofu and roasted vegetable. Burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, chimichangas, nachos, quesadillas, tacos — the gang's all here! Beach Burrito Company is popular for hangs amongst hip young things, especially to cure and/or induce hangovers. Two words: frozen margaritas. Actually, make that five words: frozen margaritas and Sangria Sundays. Ay, caramba! Brisbane's mexican scene just got funner.
Image credit: The Kitchy Kitchen