One of the certainties when spending time in Berlin is that eventually you will have a conversation about where to find the best Mexican food. Expats loudly proclaim to know the most authenticate restaurant and that the old standby you've been going to is just a poor tex-mex imitation.
While you can tackle making a meal yourself (with the help of these specialty shops), some days you just want the best tortilla chips in the city or you really can't go another moment without the heat of habanero.
These eight Mexican restaurants in Berlin will revive your faith in the city's international cuisine. While I declare these to be the best, it is inevitable that other city experts will have their own favorites to add to the mix. Agree or disagree, enjoy taste testing my favorites.
Hours: 12:00 - late
Prepare for this popular - and tiny - restaurant to be at capacity during all hours. Its convenient location on Oranienstraße allows Mexican-food virgins to wander in and find the taste of Mexico City deep in Kreuzberg. Devotees travel from near and far for its street food classics from Mexican chef Ramses Manneck.
Stepping off the street into the bar and small dining area, you are absorbed in the colorful decor of Día de Muertos skeletons and cheerfully chipped plates. It is easy to forget you are still in Germany...especially considering this has become something of an Americaner mecca and English is spoken as comfortably as German.
Expected offerings of tacos and burritos are joined by chilaquiles and tortas. Ask for their tangy habanero salsa and add a margarita to your order for the full experience, or fight your way for a seat on 1 euro Taco Tuesday. And if you don't manage to secure a seat, a second location just opened near Warschauer.
Another option from chef Manneck is Maria Bonita. Similarly rustic dining ware and lucha libre decor surround an even smaller space than its bigger, younger sister. This is a place to order at the counter, pick-up the available hot sauces, devour and get out. Not only is seating limited, the lack of a bathroom is a good reason to move on after a couple of cervezas.
Service here is quick and dirty - in a good way. A small open kitchen reveals the inner workings of the cuisine of Northern Mexico. The best feature of the small menu is the tacos, encased in hand-made corn tortillas and accompanied by limes and pico de gallo.
Hours: 11:30 - 22:00
Some people will argue that this is just a Chiptole rip-off or that it's distinctly Mission-style (as in San Francisco) food is not authentically Mexican. What can be said is that this order-your-own-burrito joint has recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary and continues to spawn new outlets around the city. Haters be damned. Dolores is here to stay.
The space is bright and friendly, if inevitably packed. Orders are sent out quickly and turnover is high so if you keep an eye out for tables while you ponder the possibilities and you should be seated as soon as your number arrives on the board. Sit outside on the rickety picnic benches for a great peek-a-boo view of the Fernsehturm. For even greater ease, you can call in orders ahead - ideal for this busy lunchtime area just off Alexanderplatz (with a second location now open in Schöneberg).
Look for much missed ingredients like Monterrey jack cheese and the house-made tortilla chips. There are hands down the best chips in Berlin. Then get inventive with the menu. Burrito (giant sized), quesadilla or burrito bowl? Black beans or green rice? Smoky peanut sauce or chipotle mayo?
Authentic? Maybe not. Tasty? Absolutely.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 12:00 - 22:00; Friday & Saturday 12:00 - 23:00; Sunday 12:00 - 21:00
This eatery follows the theme of quirky decoration, small interior (which expands to several outside tables in decent weather) and counter-service. Several items are offered on special, but the choosy can order the meal bit-by-bit like Dolores.
There are three homemade hot sauces (salsa verde, chipoltle and habanero) to cover the succulent meats, Nopales (cactus) and several vegan choices. This is no-frills, totally delicious Mexican food. From Monday through Friday early diners are rewarded with two for five margaritas, but sadly - no bathroom.
If you want to up your homemade game, buy some corn tortillas and habanero salsa to take home.
Hours: 12:00 - 23:00
This playful burrito joint prides itself on everything being fresh and organic. To-go Mexican offerings will be familiar to most Americans, or try something different like an Indian curry or tofu burrito. Play the German game of Schnick, Schnak, Schnook (rock, paper, scissors) on certain days to pay half off.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 13:00 - 23:00; Friday & Saturday 12:00 - late
Now firmly ensconced as one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in Berlin, it took some time for Ta'Cabrón to find its clientele. It started with Joaqín Robredo and his determination to re-vamp Berlin's pitiful Mexican food scene. From the droves of devoted followers, it appears this has been a success.
The menu is in Spanish (with counter service in German, English or Spanish) and channels Herr Robredo's home-style cooking from Culiacán in Mexico’s northwest corner. Look for camarón (shrimp) in addition to the carnitas and pollo.
Once the lone beacon of Mexican authenticity in Berlin, La Tortilla Atomica was only available by special order and delivery. Luckily for us, they now have a booth at Markthalle Neun's Street Food Thursdays. They are easy to identify by the long lines and people walking away, greedily eyeing their just-purchased tacos.