In the mood for some Mexican food, but not keen on travelling to Cancún to get it? Look no further. It’s no secret that Cape Town’s restaurants boast a diverse offering of food from around the world – Mexico included. So if celebrating Cinco de Mayo left you with an insatiable craving for an upsized taco or two, Benn van der Westhuizen has rounded up some of the best Mexican-inspired food spots in Cape Town.
Launched as a Mexican street-food stand at weekend food markets in June 2015, Tacos Locos’ success soon saw it branching out into the food truck scene before opening the doors to its first permanent store in the heart of Observatory. Tacos Locos’ style is that of urban street food, paired with a modern take on presentation, design and shop decor – which means no clichéd Mexican sombreros or tex-mex colours.
Indeed, this is no average Mexican-style establishment. At Tacos Locos – as the name implies – they are innovative in serving food with “crazy” and unique flavours. Although they serve all sorts of Mexican-inspired cuisine, they are best known for their tacos, which range from traditional flavours (such as the Classic Chicken taco with guacamole and sour cream) to more experimental ones (such as the New York Philly Cheese Steak taco).
Other favourites at Tacos Locos include a mean burrito (available in oyster mushroom, chicken and beef), as well as cheesy nachos, crispy chilli poppers and saucy chicken wings.
Address: 61 Station Rd, Observatory, Cape Town
Operating hours: Mon – Thurs 12 noon to 9pm | Fri 12 noon to 9.30pm | Sat 3pm to 9.30pm
Sample Cost: R75 for a Classic Chicken Taco
When it comes to flavourful food, there’s no better value for money than El Mariachi. This hot-spot has slowly garnered a reputation as one of Sea Point’s hottest and most reliable cuisine spots. On a menu bursting with tasty Mexican favourites, classics such as tacos, chilli poppers, burritos, fajitas, nachos and churros stand out. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also serve some of the best tasting Mexican-inspired cocktails Cape Town has to offer, such as the Mexican Bulldog.
Set in a casual, comfortable and cosy environment, and accompanied by a range of authentic contemporary Mexican music, El Mariachi offers great weekly promotions, including a Nachos and Mexican Bulldog promotion every Saturday; Taco Thursdays (a taco with any filling, plus a shot of tequila for only R90), and a Friday special on Tex-Mex burgers: buy one and get 50% off the next. An added bonus is customers get free entrance into the buzzing Deco Dance Night Club (across the street) with any main meal ordered.
Address: 118 Main Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town
Operating hours: Sun – Wed 12 noon to 9pm | Thurs – Sat 12 noon to 11pm
Sample Cost: R75 for a Mexican burger
EL BARRIO TACOS & TEQUILA JOINT
Launched in 2017, El Barrio is a vibrant multicultural mosaic of Modern Mexico – full of flavourful street food, handcrafted tequilas, street art and murals, all set in a modern, urban decor and fiesta-like vibe. Open daily for lunch and dinner, it has a regular clientele dropping in for tacos, Antojito, taco bowls, postres, margaritas and, of course, tequila.
Naturally, at El Barrio tacos are always a winner, not least due to the variety on offer, including the option of trendy new ‘taco bowls’. And what would any Mexican-themed restaurant be without alcohol? The double tequila shots and delicious margaritas are a must-try.
Address: Shop 57, Eden On The Bay, cnr Otto du Plessis & Sir David Baird Dr, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town
Operating hours: Mon – Sun 9am to 11pm
Sample Cost: R99 for a Carnitas taco bowl
Cantina Tequila has been a Cape Town stalwart since 1 December 1995, providing an easy-going, fun place to enjoy a night out with friends. With an offering of great food, delicious drinks and live entertainment, the emphasis here is on guests having a good time.
Favourites at Cantina Tequila are their nachos – 12 large chips with their own portion of toppings rather than a big pile of small chips of which only the top layer is covered – and traditional Cantina-style chicken wings dusted with a Cantina spice developed specifically for Cantina Tequila. Other dishes fast gaining popularity are the popcorn chicken, the poncho pocket, tacos (also available as lettuce cup tacos), and the chilli and lime calamari.
If you’re stuck on what to eat for lunch, Cantina Tequila offers a daily lunch promotion between 12 noon and 3pm, with meals being offered at special prices – satisfying your bank account as well as your stomach.
Address: Shop 13, Tyger Manor, Durbanville Rd, Durbanville, Cape Town
Operating hours: Mon – Sat 11am to 2am
Sample Cost: R97 for Cantina Main Wings (400g)
TORTILLA MODERN MEXICAN
With nothing but a love for Mexican food, a shoestring budget and a goal to change the way South African’s think about fast food, Tortilla Modern Mexican was founded in September 2012. Frustrated by the lack of quality fast-food options available, the founders set about experimenting with some of their own family’s Mexican recipes in order to create the secret “Tortilla Family Recipes”. Six years on, and Tortilla Modern Mexican can rest assured that it has fulfilled its aim to serve quality, slow-cooked food at fast-food speeds.
Setting Tortilla apart from other Mexican-themed food in Cape Town is its Secret Salsa, which brings every meal to life. They also allow each meal to be tailored to the individual’s preference, whether mild salsa verde or hot habanero.
Of course, the burrito is Tortilla’s speciality, but the flexibility of the system allows for a wide range of tastes to be catered for, from vegans to carb-conscious health nuts to ‘hunger-busting’ upsize burrito lovers. They even serve a breakfast burrito for those who feel the need to get their Mexican foodie fix in early.
Address: Ground floor of Icon Building, cnr Lower Long St & Hans Strijdom Ave, CBD, Cape Town and at the Mojo Market, 30 Regent Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town
Operating hours: Mon – Fri 7am to 7pm | Mojo Market 8am to 11pm
Sample Cost: R63 for a regular-size burrito
Tel: 021 418 4599 | Facebook: TortillaModernMexican