The approach of Cinco de Mayo is an annual excuse for us to head out to our favorite Mexican restaurant. Not that we need an excuse, mind you. We’re always up for tequila and tacos, whether at a fancy restaurant or a neighborhood joint. But this year we wondered: if we want to level up our Mexican dining experiences, where are the best places to go? Herewith, our roundup of the best luxury fine dining restaurants in the world serving Mexican cuisine, some with a Michelin star or two, including Pujol, Californios and Empellón. You’ll find eateries here with James Beard Awards, a place on the World’s Top 50 list and more. Let’s go!
what are the best fine dining restaurants serving Mexican cuisine?
Once upon a time, back in the bad old days, people considered food that was “ethnic” to be a novelty. It had to be inexpensive and filling, otherwise why venture into a new world of flavors and foods? Whether we’re talking Chinese, Mexican, soul food or Indian, for too long eateries specializing in the cuisine of these countries and cultures was relegated to the second (or third) tier when it came to fine dining.
enter the michelin stars, James Beard awards and more
Happily, those dark days are largely behind us, with more and more Michelin stars, James Beard awards and “best of” lists recognizing the masterful cooking and luxurious atmospheres at the best of these formerly overlooked fine dining establishments.
For instance, Austin Mexican restaurant Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop, opened in 1962, was named one of the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classic restaurants this year for the Texas region.
which Mexican restaurants are in the upper echelon of fine dining?
In this post, however, we assess the landscape of fine dining restaurants featuring Mexican cuisine. Of course there will be times when all you want is a casual place with seriously good food. But sometimes, something fancier is required, and that’s what this list is for. A business meal, a special date, a birthday celebration. Anytime you’re up for a more refined ambiance, and more sophisticated and original takes on some of the classics.
In no particular order, here are the eateries that have been consistently rated and awarded for their quality and ambiance. And should a meal at one of them inspire you to build your own skills further, consider taking the Masterclass taught by renowned chef Gabriela Camara, the force behind the beloved San Francisco eatery Cala and Mexico City’s Contramar.
the 19 best fine dining restaurants in the world serving Mexican cuisine
1. Los Félix, Miami.
Sporting one Michelin star, Los Felix was established in Coconut Grove in 2021. Interestingly, it’s ethos is an homage to strong women. “With the name Los Félix, we nod to the grandmothers who carried the fire of ancestral wisdom, the mothers who preserved ceremony, and the female trailblazers who embodied the fierce and the tender, by way of iconic muse Maria Felix.” Expect “natural wines, cutting-edge cocktails, and tacos, quesadillas, tamales and such made with heirloom corn varieties ground daily in-house — plus a DJ-curated soundtrack on vinyl.”
2. COME by Paco Méndez, Barcelona, Spain.
Awarded one Michelin star in the 2023 edition, COME is stunning and the presentation of each dish is superb. The Guide notes “Chef Paco Méndez has taken over the reins with his wife (and head pastry chef) Erinna, showcasing the coming together of Mexican culture and cooking, Mediterranean ingredients and the legacy of El Bulli “. Think tacos, moles and more, and opt for either à la carte or a tasting menu, accompanied by an inventive cocktail menu featuring tequila and mezcal.
3. Restaurant Oxte, Paris.
Restaurant Oxte is located right in the heart of Paris, just a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe. It promises “inventive and artfully presented Mexican-influenced French cuisine in a contemporary space.” The eatery has earned one Michelin star. Reviewers note “the personal touch of the chef, who makes a point to approach each table and explain the dishes and their inspiration.” Outdoor seating is available, and the overall vibe is charming and romantic.
4. Kol, London.
“Championing wild food and seasonality,” KOL is located in Marylebone. There, Chef Patron Santiago Lastra runs both a more formal restaurant as well as a standalone downstairs bar, KOL Mezcaleria. The bar menu “focuses on cocktails and antojitos.” KOL has one Michelin star – the only restaurant in London serving Mexican food with this distinction.
5. Quetzal, Toronto.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday, Quetzal was one of the first Toronto restaurants to earn a Michelin star. The restaurant specializes in Mexican cuisine prepared over an open wood fire, and is known for its craft cocktails inspired by the flavors of Mexico.
6. Californios, San Francisco.
Californios has the distinction of being the only Mexican restaurant in the world with 2 Michelin stars. The family owned and operated eatery is praised for Chef Val M. Cantu’s outstanding tasting menus, accompanied by a deep selection of small-batch wines. There’s a new enclosed patio for those who love outdoor dining, as well as a “cozy and luxe” main dining room.
7. Taco María, Costa Mesa.
Serving a la carte taco selections and prix-fixe four-course dinners, Orange County’s Taco María has been awarded one Michelin star. When Chef Carlos Salgado first opened the eatery in 2013, he did so to honor his family’s culture. Today, the restaurant is lauded for its “emphasis on using heirloom corn, nixtamalizing masa in house, and highlighting the best local ingredients available. ”
8. Casa Enrique, Long Island City, New York
Opened in 2012, Casa Enrique made history in 2014 when it became the first Mexican Restaurant in New York City to be awarded a Michelin star. Run by chef Cosme Aguilar in a charming space with concrete floors, the menu features dishes from his hometown of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. RESY says “The raw materials are impeccable, the flavors are bright and true, the tacos are classic, and the mole de Piaxtla is essential.”
9. Claro, Brooklyn, New York
Claro, which has one Michelin star, serves Oaxacan-inspired cuisine, with a focus on homemade masa, moles, and tlayudas. The restaurant has an open kitchen, and a beautiful backyard that’s perfection in the summertime. Eater advises diners to “check out the rotating list of moles that blanket duck, sea bass, pork cheek, and other meats. These are perfect for sopping up with a tortilla.”
10. Oxomoco, Brooklyn, New York
Oxomoco made headlines when it earned Greenpoint its first Michelin star. The restaurant offers wood-fired Mexican cuisine, with verdant open-air seating reminiscent of the outdoor Mexican cafes you find in LA. Eater notes that: “tender lamb barbacoa tacos are the signature dish. The more modern Mexican inventions are worth trying, too, including the restaurant’s vegetarian beet “chorizo” and a beef tartare tostada topped with grasshopper mayonnaise.”
11. Topolobampo, Chicago
Guests must walk through the Frontera Grill to reach Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo, which is situated in an intimate, elegant space filled with contemporary art in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. It’s guiding mission is creating elevated cuisine with the flavor profile “Fire, Chiles & Cacao: The Flavors of Tabasco.”
The restaurant currently holds one Michelin star, and has also won accolades including the Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2017 and an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Michelin proclaims that “the menu, boasting a panoply of flavors and textures, spins with the seasons all the while highlighting regional cuisines and holidays.”
12. Cosme, New York City
Cosme is located in the Flatiron District and offers a modern take on Mexican cuisine, with an emphasis on shared plates. It’s been awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide, and it holds the #22 spot on the 2022 World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.
13. Atla, NoHo, New York City
Another one of Chef Enrique Olvera’s ventures, Atla offers a more casual dining experience than Cosme, with a menu that features lighter, more health-conscious Mexican dishes. Like its sister restaurant, Atla has also been awarded a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide, marking it as one to watch.
14. La Calenda, Yountville, California
We didn’t know until we started working on this post that Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame also owns and operates a Mexican restaurant in California’s wine country. The eatery has both indoor and outdoor dining, and if you want to mix it up a bit after days of vineyard tours, you’ll find excellent cocktails here.
The Chef de Cuisine is Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, and he’s been garnering rave reviews. Michelin has awarded the eatery a Bib Gourmand and says: “While his menu highlights such impeccably sourced items as stone-ground tortillas, yellowfin tuna aguachile, and tres leches cake, it is the mole negro—a complex blend of dried fruits, nuts and bittersweet chocolate—that is an absolute showstopper.” .
15. Empellón, New York City
We’ve long been fans of Chef Alex Stupak and his fantastic New York City restaurants. From Empellón Al Pastor in the East Village to Empellón Taqueria in the West Village to the sleek Midtown fine dining establishment Empellón, we’ve never had a bad meal at one of his restaurants. So we were happy – but not surprised – when in 2023, the New York Times ranked Empellón #19 on its list of the top 100 restaurants in the city. It’s a perfect place for a business lunch, an after-work drink or a fun night out with friends. Expect inventive tacos, highly Instagram-able desserts, a chic crowd and an extensive cocktail menu.
And if you want more, grab a copy of Stupak’s James Beard Foundation Award-nominated book Tacos: Recipes and Provocations.
16. Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
Chef Enrique Olvera founded Pujol in 2000 with the vision of showcasing the essential elements of Mexican gastronomy. While it doesn’t have a Michelin star, it was ranked #5 on the latest World’s 50 Best list. The eatery relocated in 2017 to a leafy, suburban neighborhood outside of Mexico City. Since then, diners can opt for a table indoors or on the terrace, making for a magical experience on a balmy night.
17. Fonda, Park Slope, Chelsea, and East Village, New York City
The original Fonda is in Park Slope, Brooklyn and the restaurant also has two locations in Manhattan: Chelsea and the East Village. Collectively, New York Magazine rates the trio of Mexican outposts as among the best Mexican restaurants in the city. Their reviewer recommends the Enchiladas de mole negro Oaxaqueño. Carnitas de Fonda. And queso fundido con chorizo.
18. Quintonil, Mexico City, Mexico
Named after a green herb that features in some of the dishes and drinks, Quintonil was established in 2012 by the husband and wife team Alejandra Flores and Jorge Vallejo. It was ranked #9 on the most recent World’s 50 Best list. Adventurous eaters take note: the World’s 50 Best Restaurants reports that “in 2020, Quintonil underwent a redesign, with a new counter seating area that now serves an exciting menu including insect-based tacos with grasshoppers and chicatana ants.”
19. Don Artemio, Fort Worth, Texas
Don Artemio is one of 10 finalists for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant for 2022 – the winner will be announced in June 2023. So grab a reservation while you can, because the nomination alone has caused them to become a very hot ticket. Imagine if they win? In addition to the food, the restaurant is noteworthy for having 31 Mexican wines available.
best fine dining Mexican restaurants in the world
>Those are the results of our extensive research into where to find the best luxury fine dining restaurants in the world serving Mexican cuisine, some with a Michelin star, including Pujol and Californios. Now it’s over to you, dear reader. Which one are you going to book first?