The Best (and Worst) Mexican Food in Berlin
I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again. I miss Mexican (or Tex-Mex to be completely accurate) and Germans aren’t so good at making Mexican food. But Berlin kicks Freiburg’s ass at making Mexican food. During our short time in the city, I went hunting for the best Mexican food in Berlin.
I still haven’t found anything to rival my beloved Nuevo Laredo Cantina in Atlanta, but the places I tried in Berlin are so far ahead of the pathetic offerings in Freiburg, I’m not sure how I’ll deal with returning home. (Update: This is how.) In order from my least favorite to most favorite, here are the Mexican restaurants I tried during our three months in Berlin. At each one I ordered a chicken quesadilla because it’s my favorite dish, and I thought it would be good to judge them all based on the same meal.
Worst and Best Mexican Food in Berlin
6- Treinta y seis
This is the only one on the list I wouldn’t return to. Despite all the signs outside listing the many Mexican dishes they had, when we got our menus, we had to flip through at least three pages of burgers, pasta, and German dishes before we even saw the Mexican food.
My chicken quesadilla was decent but nothing exciting. I couldn’t find chips on the menu (except in the form of nachos) and I was charged 1.70€ for a little cup of salsa. The high prices were not worth the mediocre food, and I prefer a Mexican restaurant to focus on the Mexican food.
Update: This place has moved locations and luckily they no longer have any Mexican food on their menu.Located at Falckensteinstraße 42, 10997 Berlin
5- Que Pasa
The atmosphere in this one made it seem as though it might be a chain restaurant, but it isn’t. (Update: Yes, it’s totally a chain.) I’ve been told their drinks aren’t so great, but we didn’t order any alcohol, so I can’t vouch for that.
My quesadilla was pretty tasty, the chips were good, and the salsa had at least a little kick to it. The chips came with salsa, guacamole, and something else that tasted like fancy sour cream, like there was some other ingredient in it. Overall, I liked this place.
Update: Not sure what we were thinking. This is not a good restaurant. The food is rather mediocre, possibly my opinion was skewed by having eaten at Treinta y Seis so recently. On a return visit, I asked for more salsa, and they accidentally brought me sweet and sour sauce. Why did they even have sweet and sour sauce at a Mexican restaurant? Seriously, just skip this place.Located at Skalitzer Straße 107, 10997 Berlin
4- Ta’ Cabrón Taqueria
Our friend Adam took us here just a few days after we arrived in Berlin. I liked the hole in the wall atmosphere, though there weren’t a lot of seats.
My quesadilla was good but it didn’t blow me away. It also came with a side of beans, which I thought was a little odd. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but chips and salsa would’ve been a nicer touch. I’d go back here if I was with someone else who really wanted to go.Located at Skalitzer Straße 60, 10997 Berlin
This one felt a little like a fast food place, but not quite, and it was supposedly California style Mexican. Choose the meal you want (tacos, quesadilla, burrito, burrito in a bowl, etc.) and then the type of meat (or tofu for vegetarians) plus toppings and extras, like guacamole, onions, chips. Sort of like “pick from column A, B and C” type of situation.
Of the two different kinds of chicken, the chipotle is supposed to be the spicy one, but in my opinion it just has more flavor than the other one. The homemade tortilla chips were delicious, my favorite of any I’ve had in Berlin, though the small bowl we ordered was rather tiny. I thought the guacamole was really yummy, and the salsa was tasty but not as hot as I had hoped. We’ve been here a few times, and it grows on me more and more each time.Located at Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 7, 10178 Berlin and Bayreuther Straße 36 10789 berlin
2- Maria Bonita
I stumbled across the twitter account for this restaurant a month or so before we even knew for sure we would be in Berlin, so it was nice to finally be able to eat there. It’s a small place, and it looks like they might do a little more take-out business then eat-in, but they do have bar counters and enough stools to seat about 15-20 people. Because of the small set-up, we could watch our food being cooked by the one chef there.
I loved my quesadilla and its crispy (but not too crispy) tortilla and the little piles of onions and pico de gallo that came with it. They had a tray of tiny cups of salsa, but it wasn’t quite my taste. Their quesadilla slightly beats the one at Dolores, but unfortunately I didn’t try their chips. I didn’t like sitting on a bar stool, but other than that I would definitely go back to Maria Bonita.Located at Danziger Straße 33, 10435 Berlin
1- Santa Maria
I had heard from other people that this was the best. Before we went, I wondered if it would live up to the hype. But luckily Santa Maria didn’t let us down. With only about 10 tables in the restaurant, the place is almost always packed with several people waiting for a table.
But the food…the food was delicious. My quesadilla was perfect, and I loved the extra onions they put on top. (I promise, my picture doesn’t do it justice.) Two kinds of salsa were brought to our table, and if you ask they will also bring you some habanero salsa which starts out sweet and quickly hits you with a strong spicy heat. On Tuesdays they have select tacos for 1€ starting at 4pm. It’s really no wonder the place is always crowded.
If you only have time for one Mexican restaurant in Berlin, make it Santa Maria.
Update: Still my favorite Mexican place in Berlin. (We live there now.) But now we go to Santa Maria Eastside, their other location in Friedrichshain, because it’s closer to where we live.Located at Oranienstraße 170, 10999 Berlin
Berlin’s Mexican food continues to evolve
Mexican food in Berlin was a pleasant surprise. It might be that in a big city like Berlin, there are just so many people from other countries, that the international food has to be closer to the real deal. Even if Mexican food as I know it is really Tex-Mex and not the same as the food from Mexico.
I still miss the automatic and unlimited chips and salsa that 99.9% of restaurants in the US provide, but that’s really my only complaint about what I’ve found here. I will miss this variety of good Mexican food when we have to leave Berlin on January 1st, but I’m glad to know it’s here.
Update: We live in Berlin now, and we keep finding more places. So far none have beaten out Maria Eastside, but it’s nice to know I have lots of options!
You might also enjoy:
- Berlin International Restaurant Project: Greece, Spain, Mexico, Nepal
- Berlin International Restaurant Project: Thailand
- Berlin International Restaurant Project: Germany, USA, Italy
- On Living a Non-Traditional Life
- Berlin Christmas Market Round-Up
January 2, 2014 @ 9:29 AM
Well, at least you found some tasty Mexican options! I’ve found in general that you can’t find decent Mexican food in Europe, and I don’t really understand why! In Turkey, the dishes were always “Turkified” as we called it so I was better off making my own quesadillas or enchiladas at home. At one place, our margaritas were made with lemon juice and not lime! Yuck! Now, in Warsaw, we’ve found one place, El Popo, that makes a decent chicken mole dish as well as tacos, but the salsa is never hot enough for us either. 🙂
January 2, 2014 @ 4:49 PM
A friend of ours who lives in Amsterdam took us to an excellent Mexican restaurant there. The best ones on my list for Berlin really were pretty close. But yes, in general Europe is just not a good place for Mexican food. I think they just don’t understand how to really make that kind of food. In the US there are so many people from Mexico running and working in Mexican restaurants, so even though a lot of it is really Tex-Mex, it’s still influenced by people who know what the real thing is like. Then there’s the whole spice issue. Germans don’t really like spicy food, and I imagine it’s the same in a lot of other northern European cultures. So even when I’ve ordered the spiciest salsa a restaurant has, it tastes pretty weak to me. The bigger cities are probably better for finding decent food of any ethnicity. I’ll be on the look-out for the restaurant you liked if we ever make it to Warsaw!
January 2, 2014 @ 5:00 PM
mmmmm mexican food nom nom nom
January 3, 2014 @ 6:09 PM
January 2, 2014 @ 5:43 PM
Happy you found some good Mexican choices in Berlin! I know that it’s something you always crave 🙂 Now I want a quesadilla.
January 3, 2014 @ 6:10 PM
Thanks Val! It’s only been a few days and I miss it already.
Henry | @fotoeins
January 2, 2014 @ 9:18 PM
I’m glad you both found some great Mexican-style food in Berlin. Years ago, the buzz had already been present in the Hauptstadt, and friends too me to a place in Prenzlauer Berg. Unfort, I don’t remember the name of the place or its location. I finally tried Dolores (across from Wittenbergplatz in Schöneberg) and I got a big kick from (a) seeing the very familiar map of San Francisco and the Mission Dolores area in SF, and (b) the food, which was pretty darn good.
January 3, 2014 @ 6:12 PM
Thanks Henry! Andy thinks the one you went to in Prenzlauer Berg was probably Maria Bonita. Was it a small place with just a handful of bar stool seats? We ate at both of the Dolores locations, and the food seemed pretty equal at both. LOVED their chips! I miss those already.
January 2, 2014 @ 9:26 PM
Santa Maria has killer carnitas! YUM!
January 3, 2014 @ 6:13 PM
I fell in love with the quesadilla so I never tried those, but maybe on a future visit! 3 months was not enough to take in all Berlin has to offer.
January 2, 2014 @ 9:43 PM
So glad you tracked down some good ones. It is a challenge and we usually resort to making our own. Here’s to even more great Mexi food in 2014!
January 3, 2014 @ 6:15 PM
Thanks Ebe! We often make fajitas at home, but they are nothing like what you get in a restaurant. I haven’t looked into what all the right spices are so for now we just use Old El Paso fajita spice packets. We getting into cooking Thai food, so maybe I’ll dive more into making my own Mexican at some point. And I do already make my own salsa.
January 2, 2014 @ 9:55 PM
So is it that their menus are all pretty limited or you just REALLY love quesadillas? 😉
January 3, 2014 @ 6:18 PM
Ha! No, they all had quite extensive menus with all the normal things you’d expect, tacos, burritos, etc. I don’t like beans, so I don’t go for any of the dishes that have beans in them. I really do love quesadillas, and tacos would be my next choice. If I lived in Berlin more permanently and had time to go back to these places all the time, I’d branch out more.
January 3, 2014 @ 7:35 AM
Mexican food is so hard to find! I told Shawn the other night as we sat down for a Mexican-ish meal in Siem Reap (surprisingly good, by the way) that I think I could make a fortune opening a Mexican restaurant basically anywhere in Asia. Maybe Europe, too. 🙂
January 3, 2014 @ 6:21 PM
Hilarious, I was in Siem Reap about 2 years ago and tried that Mexican restaurant, and I was pleasantly surprised as well! It really is hard to find good Mexican food. I can totally understand that different cultures just have different tastes, but it is frustrating as an expat. Let me know when you open that restaurant!
Rebecca A. Watson
January 5, 2014 @ 3:19 PM
Oh man, I know exactly what you mean about the Mexican food. When my hubby and I went back to CA for Christmas the first thing we did was hit up our favorite taquerias. This is a great list … bookmarked for when we go to Berlin!
January 5, 2014 @ 5:47 PM
Thanks Rebecca! Mexican food is a tough one, and I was so happy to find some good places in Berlin. Freiburg just doesn’t know how it’s supposed to be, although there is a new taco truck in town I need to track down and try one of these days.
January 16, 2014 @ 11:29 AM
You’ve tried more Mexican food in a month than I have in a year. It looks like you found some pretty good places though.
January 19, 2014 @ 6:06 AM
Well, 3 months, but yes we had a lot of Mexican food! Freiburg’s offerings are not good, so I went a little crazy. Berlin had lots of good Thai and Vietnamese food too, so we ate lots of that as well.
January 18, 2014 @ 9:02 AM
Wow…this all looks so incredibly delicious that I am salivating. Nearly licked my computer screen. I love Mexican food so very much! But I’ve only had a chance to get a small and real taste in Southern California.
January 19, 2014 @ 6:09 AM
I bet southern CA has great Mexican food! Berlin’s Mexican restaurants were pretty good, almost as good as some places in the US. But it still bugs me that they don’t give you unlimited chips and salsa!
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October 7, 2015 @ 1:01 PM
Thanks for the great tips! My husband and I are moving to Berlin. We’ve had some time to try a few places and our favorite Mexican place of all time there is called Chaparro. If you head back to Berlin, try it! We love love love the quesadillas. 😀 Now I can’t wait to try the places you liked.
October 7, 2015 @ 9:31 PM
Thanks Francesca! I should really update this post. My husband and I loved Berlin so much we ended up moving here at the end of March. My #6 on this list is in a new location and appears to have ditched the Mexican section of their menu (good move really). After going to Que Pasa a couple more times during our first stay in Berlin 2 years ago, we decided it really isn’t good, so I wouldn’t go back there now. I love Dolores more and more. Maria Bonita is really great, but they only have some bar-style seating. Santa Maria is still really great, and they have a location in Friedrichshain now too, which is close to where we live, so we go there a lot. I’ll have to look for Chaparro, sounds familiar. Good luck with the move, it’s a wonderful city!
May 19, 2017 @ 7:01 PM
I loved reading this. I too love Mexican food. I grew up with it, so it’s comfort food to me. You can imagine my surprise when I found the best Mexican restaurant in Prague. If you’re ever there check out Las Adelitas! You won’t be disappointed.
May 20, 2017 @ 3:53 PM
Thanks for the recommendation! I think it’s fun to try Mexican food in other places, so if I ever make it back to Prague, I’ll check it out!