You love to try new foods. You live to travel, and you travel to eat. But there’s a cuisine that goes beyond the taco truck, and for years now, it’s been creating a buzz. That’s Mexican food. Yes, Mexico has some of the world’s most loved dishes. Mexican cuisine is so much more than a good old guacamole, and these restaurants prove it like no one else. This is your list of the top Mexican restaurants in the world.
The Restaurant: Sazón
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
There are some meals that are so extraordinary, they remain in your mind for years. And you may not remember everything you ate, but you do remember how certain restaurants made you feel. For this reason, Sazón may just be the top Mexican restaurant in the U.S. Your experience at Sazón is genuine from the moment you walk in the door. You feel that indescribable energy that Santa Fe, Sazón’s hometown, is known for.
Art + Food that’s Art
At Sazón, the staff hits all the notes right. First, there’s a warm and welcoming dining room that’s like an art gallery. Actually, it is an art gallery, because most of the art, by top Mexican artists, is for sale. But let’s talk about the food, which is clearly the star of the show, alongside excellent atmosphere and exemplary service. The moment you walk into Sazón, you feel the warmth and passion for the craft of creating exquisite food. Chef Fernando Olea is usually at the helm in the kitchen, and his dedication expresses itself in the food that arrives at your table. Every meal starts with a gift of mole, and if you thought you weren’t ever going to lick a plate, this place will at least tempt you. You can go à la carte with a savory corn truffle over mini tortillas, or a crudo that is spiced so perfectly that nirvana practically ensues. Our suggestion is to just go for the full $150 tasting menu to get the full Sazón experience.
Note: It’s always been a tough table to get, but now Sazón is a James Beard Award Nominee for 2022, so making a reservation just got even harder. Remember that the restaurant is thankfully selling its mole again, so you can bring part of Sazón home.
The Restaurant: Topolobampo
Location: Chicago, Illinois
We’re going old school here, because sometimes you have to pay #respect when you come up with a list of top Mexican restaurants in the world. Rick Bayless was one of the first chefs in the U.S. to make Mexican cuisine haute (and hawt!) with the opening of Topolobampo. Keep in mind, this was at a time, late 80s, when Mexican food meant about taco joints and Taco Bell. So to create a fine dining Mexican experience back then was a gutsy move.
Still Pushing Limits
Chicago is the dark horse in the U.S., not often acknowledged for having some of the best restaurants in the country. The Windy City also has one of the largest Mexican communities in the U.S. outside of California. You combine the two, and you get Topolobampo. The place continues to push limits, with dishes like venison carpaccio cured in jalapeño. There’s also the classic tamale, filled with duck egg, beans and amaranth. Just when you think that Topolobampo is going out to pasture after more than 30 years, they let you know they’re here to stay.
The Restaurant: Restaurant Sanchez
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Yes, you read the location correctly. One of the top Mexican restaurants in the world is in Denmark. It shouldn’t be too surprising though, because Copenhagen is one of the top foodie capitals. Restaurant Sanchez is dedicated to its craft and the authenticity of their Mexican cuisine. The most critical ingredients, like corn and regional spices, are brought in from Mexico.
From Chicago to Copenhagen
You know the food is taken to the next level when Rosio Sanchez is in charge. Chicago-born chef Sanchez formerly worked at Noma, which has made the Best Restaurants in the World list many a time. Famed chef and Noma star René Redzepi, a Dane, is her mentor, and when she opened her first casual-taco concept, he was on hand to run orders. So sometimes, the student becomes the teacher, even with the top chef in the world.
The Restaurant: Contramar
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
If you love seafood, Contramar is the place for you. Contramar, like Restaurant Sanchez, is where you go to have inventive Mexican cuisine in a laid-back, casual atmosphere. There are no hushed tones or great formality; here, friends and family share as many dishes as their bellies can take. Chef Gabriela Cámara started Contramar over 20 years ago, right about when famed Pujol opened its doors. There was clearly enough sun for all, but then, the takes on Mexican cuisine could not be more divergent. Where Pujol is fine dining, Contramar is about robust seafood, where both the dishes and the unique execution shine.
Imitation is a Form of Flattery
One of Contramar’s specialties, and one of its most-copied dishes, is the signature Red + Green Grilled Snapper, otherwise known as the “Divorced Fish”. One side has a red chile sauce, and the other side, a green one. Other standouts include anything with soft-shell crab, and the classic fish tacos.
The Restaurant: Pujol
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
When you have a list of top Mexican restaurants in the world, at least a couple of them should actually be in Mexico. That’s one reason why Pujol rounds out the list. Chef Enrique Olvera helped put Mexico City on the map as a foodie destination in 2000, Pujol’s first year. With Omakase and tasting menus, the meal experience at Pujol is fine-dining theater. Your food will visually entertain you with courses of molecular-inspired cuisine, and then there’s the taste portion of the experience. Pujol has been around for more than 20 years and is has remained one of the top Mexican restaurants in the world for a reason.
Looking for great Mexican food nearby? Check out these spots; they’re some of our neighborhood favorites.