Sydney’s Mexican scene still has a way to go. The right ingredients can be hard to get, and the Mexican expat population is slim compared to say, the Thai and Italian populations. Then there's Tex-Mex, which has its place, but tends to be conflated with genuine south-of-the-border cuisine.

These restaurants are leading the pack. A few do fusion in a respectful way, but for the most part they work with traditional recipes and ingredients such as ancho, guajillo and poblano chillies; 100 per cent agave tequilas and mezcals; and perhaps most importantly of all, nixtamalised white-corn tortillas.

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Rosa Cienfuegos Tamaleria

Restaurant

An authentic Mexican deli serving cult tamales. Try the handmade parcels in-store or take home the ingredients to make them yourself. There are few places in town making these dishes, and this one's the best.

463 Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill

Itacate

Restaurant

Rosa Cienfuegos makes some of Sydney's best Mexican food. At this colourful and casual all-day Mexican eatery and deli, she's serving home-style dishes: huevos divorciados, tacos, garnachas and more. Plus, there are hard-to-find Mexican pantry goods to buy.

129-133 Redfern Street, Redfern

Don Pedros

Restaurant

Down this historic backstreet venue, you'll find a SoCal take on Mexican cuisine. Enter for soft shell crab tacos, and slow-cooked pork ribs. And a pre- and post-dinner shot of tequila is heavily encouraged by the team.

1 Victoria Street, Paddington
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Casa Merida

Restaurant

Visit for mezcal imported from Indigenous communities in Mexico and dishes from the Yucatan Peninsula – including cricket-laced guacamole, potato gratin with guajillo chillies, and octopus tacos.

1 5 Kellett Street, Potts Point

Carbon Mexican Wood Fire

Restaurant

This spot offers a hint of the flavours you might find on Mexico's Caribbean coast. It's all about boutique tequila and DIY tacos: you select all of the fillings you want and assemble the taco yourself. It's so simple – but so fun and practical. We wish it was more commonplace around town.

288 Bondi Road, Bondi
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Mejico

Restaurant

A crisp share menu and hundreds of tequila options. And the guacamole gets made right at your table.

105 Pitt Street, Sydney

Maiz Mexican Street Food

Cafe

A Mexican street food cafe in Newtown serving not-so-traditional sopes: thick round tortillas loaded with toppings such as vegan hibiscus al pastor and spanner crab tinga. The homely little courtyard feels like a slice of Mexico on King Street.

415 King Street, Newtown

Tequila Daisy

Restaurant

A bright Barangaroo taqueria doing mezcal and tequila cocktails, plus stellar tacos and share plates marrying Mexican flavours and cooking techniques with Australian produce.

11 33 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney

Bad Hombres

Restaurant

This Mexican diner's menu is entirely plant-based, and it's all the better for it. If you're a veg-lover and a fan of Mexican flavours, this is the spot for you. When your tortilla's loaded with pastor-style mushrooms, pico de gallo and pineapple; you won't even notice the meat's gone.

40 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

Chula

Restaurant

At this Mexican restaurant (from the former owners of Barrio Chino), there's a particular emphasis on seafood. Pink scallop tostadas, raw prawns sliced like sashimi and de-boned snapper have all starred in the past.

Shop 7 33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

Chica Bonita

Restaurant

This rustic little bolthole, hidden in a Manly back alley, is one of the seaside suburb's most popular and enduring eateries. We can see why. The laid-back atmosphere belies just how seriously this team take their food.

Shop 9 A/B 9 The Corso, Manly

Esteban

Restaurant

A moody Mexican laneway diner in an old CBD printing shop. The upstairs restaurant serves tacos al pastor, a one-kilogram Wagyu rib eye and a sweet potato dessert. Downstairs there's a bar with more than 200 mezcals and tequilas.

1 Temperance Lane, Sydney

Barrio Cellar

Restaurant

Late-night Mexican and beats from Barrio Chino. Come here for tacos, tequila and lots of dancing.

58 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

SoCal Neutral Bay

Restaurant

Souther California-style Mexican is its own unique beast, separate to authentic Mexican, Tex-Mex, and even San Francisco-style. It's all about light flavours, a bit of borrowing from Asian cultures and a little bit of American fast-food knowhow. SoCal nails it.

1 Young Street, Neutral Bay

Sonora

Restaurant

You won't find any sugar skulls or sombreros here. This eatery and mezcal bar is inspired by the coastal state of the same name and the executive chef's heritage, flour tortillas are preferred – and they're used to make Wagyu burritos.

37 Bayswater Road, Potts Point

El Loco

Restaurant

This Merivale bar is home to the tacos secreto – a sort of lucky dip for tacos, where the filling is a surprise until it reaches to your table. Secreto or not, each taco is around $7. We recommend the DIY platters, which are better value for money (and more fun). Try fillings such as baked eggplant and soy-chilli bean sauce or sirloin steak and chimichurri.

64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

Calaveras

Restaurant

Traditional Mexican food and not-so-traditional Margaritas. (Ingredients in the one-litre Margarita jugs, for example, include Blue Curaçao, apple sour and melon).

Level 1 324A King Street, Newtown

Flying Fajita Sistas

Restaurant

A bright and cheerful Mexican eatery serving creative takes on the classics.

65 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

El Topo Cantina

Restaurant

Looking at it, El Topo seems more like a sit-down affair where the food takes focus. But with over forty different tequilas – expertly deployed across an array of great cocktails – you can’t judge this book by its cover. It’s utterly unique, and delicious. Good times await.

6 Homepride Avenue, Warwick Farm

Ricos Tacos

Restaurant

A food truck and Chippendale taqueria by taco devotee Toby Wilson. No matter where you find him, Wilson serves a pared-back menu of the kinds of handheld tacos you'd find on the side of the road in Mexico, including the king of them all: tacos al pastor.

58 Mentmore Avenue, Rosebery

Cantina Bar

Bar

At this colourful Mexican cantina, kitsch and fun reign supreme. Cantina won't be winning any awards for authenticity, but the food tastes great and the vibe is always good.

350 Darling Street, Balmain
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Sinaloa

Restaurant

Mexico’s vibrant coastline informs every part of this colourful, multi-part bar and eatery. Dishes – such as Vegemite-glazed cauliflower al pastor – harness native Australian and Asian flavours, while cocktails put a Mexican twist on the classics.

37 Bay Street, Double Bay

Checho’s

Restaurant

It’s tequila, tacos and ceviche at this pretty pink Mexican diner. The bar mixes until midnight, with more than 20 types of tequila and a stellar Margarita on the menu – a win for Penrith’s nightlife scene.

Shop 1 396 High Street, Penrith
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