I took a trip around town to visit a few popular Mexican food restaurants and decided to rank them. This ranking was formulated on a one to 10 scale, one being the least satisfactory and 10 being the most. The ratings are based on my evaluation of what I believe are the most important characteristics to consider when eating at a Mexican food restaurant: menu diversity, portion size, salsas and drinks and taste. I’d like to note that I’m from Mexico City — perhaps you may think this offers me more credibility, and perhaps you may not. I’d like to think it does.
Take a look, and don’t miss out on the excellent choices that Berkeley offers so you can get your fix of tacos and carne asada between classes.
5. Chipotle Mexican Grill – Score: 4.5/10
2311 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA
Menu diversity: 3/10
Basically what Chipotle offers are four different types of dishes: tacos, burritos, bowls or salads — that’s it. Yes, you can certainly put different types of ingredients in your meals, but your options are limited.
Portions at Chipotle vary a lot depending on the time you go. If you go there during lunchtime when it is absolutely packed, servers will be stingy with the portions and will commonly give you less. Of course, you can always ask for more, but in general, portion sizes tend to be inconsistent. Plus, they charge an extra $2 for guacamole.
Salsas and drinks: 5/10
Chipotle offers three different options for salsas: green, pico de gallo and red salsa. All of them are very good and have different levels of spice! They do not, however, offer any type of traditional Mexican drinks.
Comparatively, we’d say Chipotle’s taste is “meh.” It is not really bad, but it is not amazing. It is a fast-food option that provides a very limited taste of what real Mexican food is!
4. Gordo Taqueria – 6.8/10
2404 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA.
Menu diversity: 6/10
The menu options at this restaurant include tacos, quesadillas, burritos and super burritos. Each have a few options for ingredients: beans, rice and beef or chicken. Their vegetarian and healthy options are extremely limited … but then again, the restaurant is called Gordo!
Portions are very generous, especially with their burritos and super burritos. Their workers are not stingy with the ingredients, and they are usually very chill when you ask for a little bit more than what you are given — they don’t charge you extra.
Salsas and drinks: 6/10
Gordo recently introduced agua fresca to their menu, and they now offer three different and delicious types: Jamaica, horchata and watermelon. Other than that, they serve very basic drink options: reguar Coke, bottled water, Mexican soda and orange juice. The downside of this restaurant is that there is no salsa bar. The only options for salsa are pico de gallo and green sauce.
This place is basically a better version of Chipotle. The concept is very similar, but the ingredients are fresher and the dishes are more carefully made. Gordo provides what a homemade version of Chipotle would taste like, but it is definitely not the best Mexican food you will ever taste.
3. La Burrita – 7.8/10
2530 Durant Ave., Berkeley, CA and 1832 Euclid Ave., Berkeley, CA
Menu diversity: 9/10
This place has a wide assortment of options, from the traditional burrito to tostadas and even enchiladas. It does not, however, offer as many options for vegetarian costumers, because many of the dishes served already include some type of meat. Their Baja salads are delicious nonetheless, and their tamales are excellent as well.
If you’re picky about portion size, La Burrita is the place for you. The nice thing about this restaurant is that it offers different sizes for their burritos and tacos. But be careful, because sometimes the smaller options can be too small if you are really hungry!
Salsas and drinks: 6/10
La Burrita offers seven different types of agua fresca, from watermelon to spinach, and obviously the traditional horchata. Their salsas, however, aren’t original. Nor do they provide costumers with a lot of salsa options: La Burrita has pico de gallo and green salsa only. Although the salsas taste very good, a little variety would certainly add more taste to their dishes.
La Burrita’s dishes are not bad at all, but they aren’t amazing either (maybe that’s just my authentic-Mexican-food preference talking). Their ingredients are not very fresh, and sometimes their food can taste very bland. The majority of their dishes are missing the strong and delicious taste that characterizes Mexican food.
2. Celia’s Mexican Restaurant – 9/10
1841 Euclid Ave., Berkeley CA.
Menu diversity: 10/10
Celia’s offers almost every single dish you can imagine. They serve traditional tacos and burritos, and they have great seafood for ceviches and tostadas. Their nachos are delicious, and their carne asada is remarkably tasty. They even have a kids’ menu if you want to bring your little cousins or siblings to this place! One of the most unique things about Celia’s is that it gives customers the options to get combos. One of our favorites is the enchilada and chile relleno: this plate offers two of the tastiest dishes Mexican food offers. Other combos include a mix of eggs with tacos or tostadas, or seafood and burritos. Usually, the servers at Celia’s are extremely friendly, so they let you create your own combo if you don’t feel like choosing the ones they suggest on the menu.
Portions are very generous at Celia’s. This is the place to get your money’s worth!
Salsas and drinks: 9/10
Celia’s does not offer a salsa bar, so you certainly need to clarify with your server if you have a preference for a specific salsa. But there are not many options other than the traditional green, red and pico de gallo. Nonetheless, Celia’s offers happy hour during weekdays with free appetizers for pitchers and amazing options for individual drink orders! The drink menu offers a great variety of options from margaritas to beer to their famous Sangria.
Here’s the thing: Celia’s offers delicious food, their ingredients are great and their portions are large and satisfying. But some of their plates lose their Mexican authenticity, because they mix several different elements in just one plate. Think of it as almost a “fusion” of dishes. A great example of this would be their “California burrito,” which has a mix of traditional Mexican elements (carne asada, rice, beans and pico de gallo) with ingredients, such as french fries, from other traditional cuisines.
1. Cancun Sabor Mexicano — 9.8/10
2134 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA.
Menu diversity: 10/10
This place accommodates almost every single taste with a lot of variety. If you are pescetarian, vegetarian or just a simple carnivore, this the place for you! The menu offers a wide variety of grilled seafood options, such as fish tacos and ceviche. Additionally, their specials are amazing because they serve multiple dishes with traditional Mexican mole, a dense sauce usually put on tortillas, which is delicious. If you are looking for a simple burrito or quesadilla, or you want to be healthy and eat a salad, Cancun offers about 25 different variations of these dishes!
They can be a little stingy on the chips. Their portions, however, are more than enough for the price.
Salsas and drinks: 10/10
This place is heaven for salsa enthusiasts and agua fresca lovers! Cancun offers about 17 different types of salsas to choose from, varying from the traditional pico de gallo and green sauce to exotic and interesting mixes of strawberry, avocado and pineapple. Additionally, there are multiple options for drinks, from simple sodas to a sophisticated wine selection to about five different types of agua frescas, all of which are natural and homemade!
All the ingredients are fresh, well cooked, and extremely crispy. If you are looking for a place that serves traditional, authentic Mexican food, this restaurant is definitely your best bet.
Whatever your taste may be, make sure to visit these places. They are all great in their own ways! Let us know about your own rankings of Mexican restaurants in Berkeley.