Nashville's Top Mexican Restaurants
A look at some of Nashville’s new and old favorites
Written By: Chris Chamberlain
Photographers: Ron Manville, The Tennessean & Various
Alegria Mexican Restaurant and Tequila BarAlegria is a relative newcomer to the Green Hills dining scene, tucked a block down Richard Jones Road from the bustling traffic of Hillsboro. Thanks to the spacious and festively decorated dining room, the ambiance at Alegria is lively and quite attractive. A private room is also available for parties or meetings.
The menu focuses on inventive takes on Mexican classics like fajitas and tacos as well as regional specialties like Skirt Steak with Chimichurri sauce and Sautéed Red Snapper Veracruzano. Lunch features several huge salads and spicy soups. Don’t fill up before you try some ChocoFlan or Tres Leches for dessert.
The owners are tequila collectors and offer a voluminous list of over 100 of the agave spirits for your drinking pleasure. If you’ve been turned off in the past by overly sweet frozen margaritas in the past, try one of Alegria’s Swirls of margarita and sangria and perhaps you’ll change your mind. For a quick lunch or a long luxurious dining experience, Alegria is a welcome addition to the neighborhood!
2002 Richard Jones Rd., Nashville, TN 37215
615-750-5119 • AlegriaNashville.com
Baja BurritoThe granddaddy of Nashville Mission-style burrito joints, Baja Burrito introduced many locals to the concept of overstuffed handheld Mexican meals. The Thompson Lane location is easy to find thanks to the patriotic VW Bug parked outside, but both the parking lot and the dining room are a little cramped. Once diners find a place to park and a seat, the process of getting fed goes very smoothly. A simple menu of burritos and tacos leads customers through their options as they proceed down the ordering line. Choose your size and type of tortilla, your fillings from chicken, steak, veggies or a mix of rice and beans called “Maximum R & B” and toppings like sour cream, cheese and a variety of salsas, and your meal will be waiting for you before you reach the end of the queue.
Fish tacos are naturally a specialty of an establishment that is named after the Baja peninsula of Mexico, and these are well worth their vaunted reputation. Fried crispy with a squirt of lime and perhaps a topping of Baja Burrito’s pineapple salsa, the fish tacos are a perfect size for a meal that won’t leave you feeling too full. The same can’t be said for the burritos, which are definitely big enough to leave you pleasantly stuffed, or if you can possibly show some self-restraint, enough for another meal tomorrow.
722 Thompson Ln., Nashville, TN 37204
615-383-2252 • BajaBurrito.com
Cantina LaredoKnown for an active bar scene and their tableside guacamole preparation, Cantina Laredo has become a regular haunt to for the residents of Nashville’s hip and hot Gulch district. But the guacamole show is only part of the entertainment; the rest of the menu showcases many other stars. The Carnitas are slow-cooked shanks of pork braised until they fall apart and are then covered with a delicious chipotle-wine sauce.
Any of the seafood dishes are also a good call with shrimp appearing with quail, pork, beef and chicken in the Fiesta de la Parrilla and stuffed into a chicken breast with sautéed spinach as part of the Camarones Escondidos. The Fish of the Day special is usually top-notch, especially if your server tells you that the have sea bass. You might want to call ahead to check on that one. If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, the long bar is specially configured for excellent people watching. Avail yourself of the valet parking to avoid the traffic hassles of the Gulch and see the scene and be seen at one of Nashville’s hottest spots.
592 12th Ave S., Nashville, TN 37203
615-259-9282 • CantinaLaredo.com
Chago's CantinaTucked between PM and Cha Chah on Belmont Boulevard, Chago’s Cantina didn’t take long to become a popular hangout in the Belmont/Hillsboro area. Their extensive menu of Mexican, Caribbean and Central American specials combined with strong drinks and friendly service have made them a favorite place for neighbors to enjoy great food and camaraderie. A generous happy hour from 3-7 p.m. M-F brings them in and the food keeps them there.
Many of the menu items don’t appear at most of the other Mexican restaurants in Nashville, like the Puerto Rican Mofongo, a dish made from sweet plantains and shrimp criolla or the Salvadoran pupusas. Other dishes are completely unique like the Fajita de Piña which is a grilled pineapple stuffed with peppers, tomatoes and onions and your choice of chicken, steak, pork or shrimp. Vegetarian options abound including burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, a chile relleno and two excellent tacos, the Uno and the Dos. Number One is traditional with beans, rice, guacamole, lettuce and tomato, but the Number Two is really inventive with fried chickpeas, mushrooms and spinach topped with a poblano cream sauce.
2015 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212
615-386-0106 • ChagosCantina.com
Chile Burrito Co.For workers in Brentwood or downtown Nashville, the Chile Burrito Co. has been a solid, dependable choice for great burritos served fast and fresh. Mainly a lunch destination, Chile Burrito knows that their customers need to get in and out with a full belly in a time that won’t make them have to work late.
Using fresh ingredients to make all their dips from scratch, the guacamole is a particular stand-out with in all of its garlic and cilantro goodness. Unlike the normal chicken tortilla soup, Chile Burrito sells a Baja Chicken Enchilada version. Folks also swear by the fruit tea at The Chile Burrito Co., and cervezas are also available in case lunch might be the last meal of your workday. You can order a regular burrito in a small, medium or large tortilla or have your burrito served in a bowl for a slightly less messy dining experience. Traditional ingredients like Carne Asada, Pollo Asado, Pulled Chicken, Pork Carnitas and Chiorizo are available in several configurations and are also available in taco or quesadilla form or in large Mexican sandwiches called tortas. No matter which way you order your meal, you’re sure to get a square deal at The Chile Burrito Co.
165 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219
615) 248-0025 • TheChileBurrito.com
Additional location at 330 Franklin Road, Brentwood
Chuy'sWhen Chuy’s opened their first Middle Tennessee outpost in Cool Springs, Texas ex-patriots began buzzing about what a welcome addition to the Nashville restaurant community it would be. True to their word, old and new fans kept the parking lot and waiting room full for months as they flocked to enjoy Chuy’s brand of Tex-Mex food and the colorful kitschy décor, complete with a shrine to Elvis in every location. In the past year, Chuy’s has opened up two new locations in Midtown and in the newly-remodeled Opry Mills.
With one of the best happy hours in town, the bar stays packed with patrons enjoying discounted margaritas and the free nacho bar served out of the converted trunk of a sawed-off classic automobile. For folks seeking a more substantial meal, there's a voluminous menu of house specialties including the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken that is breaded with potato chips and smothered in green sauce and cheddar cheese. Other favorites include the Chile Rellenos and a Chuychanga. Most dishes are accented with one of their signature sauces, but once you order the off-the-menu creamy jalapeño sauce, you may never go back to the old standards.
1901 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 321-2489 • Chuys.com
El Palenque Mexican RestaurantTucked into a corner of the parking lot of the Green Hills Mall, the restaurant is easy to overlook. In fact, if you try to approach it from the mall side, you may find yourself scaling a three-foot wall to reach the entrance upstairs. (Hint: it shares a parking lot with F. Scott’s, so come from the Crestmoor side.)
Once you do find your way inside, you’ll encounter a very colorful interior décor and lively Spanish soundtrack to your meal. A full bar serves cocktails, wine, an impressive beer list and some very respectable margaritas. Appetizers are highlighted by three different incarnations of nachos: Grilled, Nachos Locos or Nachos Palenque. While all three are good, the Nachos Palenque served on top of a bed of rice are a meal in themselves.
In addition to typical lunch specials and combination dinners, the specialty platters at El Palenque are notable and great bargains. The Burrito Ranchero is stuffed with spicy chicken and smothered in a rich mole sauce that contributes multiple layers of flavor to the proceedings. Fried pork tips set apart the Carnitas Dinner by adding a little crunch to the dish, and seafood lovers will enjoy the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo with its garlicky shrimp and savory sauce.
2210 Crestmoor Rd., Nashville, TN 37215
615-383-6142 • ElPalenqueNashville.com
FidoMost Nashvillians know Fido in Hillsboro Village as a beloved coffee shop. Those in the know are aware of how Chef John Stephenson has really upped the game in the kitchen and added a menu of really inventive and delicious food. However, few folks know about his secret weapon, Karla Ruiz. Ruiz grew up in the small Mexican town of Zamora between Guadalajara and Mexico City. She learned to cook at the elbows of her mother and grandfather and gained an appreciation of fresh local ingredients that she still contributes to Fido’s kitchen.
She worked with Nashville chef Martha Stamps for years before joining Chef Stephenson in the kitchen at Fido where she adds her Mexican cooking talents and sensibilities to the eclectic menu. Ruiz also occasionally teaches very popular Mexican cooking classes at Fido and for University School of Nashville’s Evening Classes.
1812 21st Ave S., Nashville, TN 37212
615-777-3436 • BongoJava/com/Fido
Honduras RestaurantThat name isn’t a typo. It’s not “Honduran Restaurant,” but no matter what they call it they serve some really tasty food. Located in a strip mall at the corner of Murfreesboro Rd. and Thompson Lane, Honduras can be somewhat intimidating to non-Spanish speakers, but be brave and you’ll be rewarded. First off, the fresh-squeezed fruit juices are as good as anything you’ll find in a fancy juice bar but at a fraction of the price. Unusual flavors like passion fruit and tamarind are definitely worth giving a try.
The most popular dish at Honduras is their Tamale de Elote, a sweet corn tamale topped with a delicious cream sauce over the top. The menu features several excellent fish and seafood dishes, and newcomers might just order a few appetizers to share. If you discover yourself having language barrier issues, just ask for the special which will usually be some sort of fried or baked chicken dish that will be unusual and well-executed. For entertainment, you can enjoy a hilariously dramatic Spanish soap opera on the television during lunchtime. Even if you don’t understand a word of the show (or the menu), it’s easy to have a good time and a great meal.
1057 Murfreesboro Pk., Nashville, TN 37217
615-365-2522 • Get directions to Honduras Restaurant
La Hacienda Taqueria When many Nashvillians have a craving for Mexican food, they immediately point their car toward Nolensville Rd, and La Hacienda is the king the road. They didn’t become El Rey by accident especially with the easy to reach location just between Thompson Lane and I-440. “La Ha,” as it’s known to regulars, serves authentic Mexican cuisine in huge portions at affordable prices all day, seven days a week. In fact, you can get a Mexican breakfast any time they are open, so you never have to be without Huevos Rancheros or Chorizo con Papas, which is a hangover-curing dish of Mexican sausage, potatoes, rice and beans.
Challenging dishes containing Lengua (beef tongue), Tripa (tripe) or Chiva (goat) will reward intrepid diners with depths of flavors that you just can’t find in your typical chicken burrito. Seafood dishes are also excellent at La Hacienda, with their fish tacos ranking among some of the best in town. Do yourself a favor and stop by the attached bakery for some excellent traditional Mexican pastries to take home.
2615 Nolensville Rd., Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 256-6142 • LaHaciendainc.com
La TerrazaSituated a bit farther down Nolensville Rd. than most Nashvillians usually travel, La Terraza is worth the trip to the strip mall at the corner of Old Hickory Blvd. Whether you eat in the main dining room or in the lively back bar where you’re liable to be entertained by a mariachi band or an enthusiastic bunch of soccer fans, the food at La Terraza rarely disappoints.
Specialties of the house revolve around items that are prepared a la parilla, or off the grill. The Parillada Especial is available for one or for two, but even the smaller version is plenty big enough for sharing. This platter features a combination of tender sliced steak, chicken breast, pork chops, Mexican chorizo sausage and quesadillas prepared in a special marinade, then charcoal-grilled and served with tomatoes and avocado slices. Previous editions of the menu explicitly described this marinade as “bacon sauce,” so let that sink in for a minute. On Sundays only, La Terraza offers the bold savory stew known as menudo. In the interest of fair disclosure, menudo is made from the stomach of a cow, but don’t let that stop you from ordering this incredibly flavorful Mexican specialty dish. It will definitely cure whatever ails you.
5751 Nolensville Pk., Nashville, TN 37211
615-835-0106 • LaTerrazaMexicanRestaurant.com
Las Americas For a great inexpensive lunch or dinner, you’d be hard pressed to beat Las Americas on Nolensville Rd. Difficult to see from the road at the top of a small hill, once you locate the building, you still have to find the restaurant. Attached to a grocery store, Las Americas has a small dining room that looks straight into the open kitchen from where their delicious Central American dishes emerge.
The specialty of the house is the pupusa, a traditional Salvadoran dish made by folding meat that has been ground into a paste into a thick corn tortilla. More substantial than a taco, pupusas are generally served with a lightly fermented cabbage slaw know as curtido. At Las Americas, they do it right. Many Nashvillians have discovered the joy of a happy hour at Las Americas where their cheap beers, excellent margaritas and delicious ceviche make for a great way to blow off steam after a hard day at work.
4715-A Nolensville Pk., Nashville, TN 37246
615-315-8888 • Las Americas online
Las Palmas Mexican RestauranteFor years, Las Palmas has been a reliable choice for Nashvillians looking for a solid, if not especially remarkable plate of Mexican food. Sure, their menu looks like a series of combinations and permutations of the basic Mexican food ingredients of beef, chicken, cheese, rice and beans, but ask a Las Palmas regular if he’d rather have a #13 instead of his usual #11 and you might find yourself with a scuffle on your hands.
Margaritas come in three sizes: small, jumbo and Monster, completely skipping “medium” and “large,” much to the delight of the happy hour crowd. A large mug of Dos Equis which really requires two hands to lift will set you back less than five dollars at Las Palmas, reminding one of a Mexicano version of the Gerst Haus’ fishbowls. The rest of the menu features old standards like fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, flautas and burritos available in various combinations with chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian. Trust me, go with the #11.
1905 Hayes St., Nashville, TN 37203
615-322-9588 • Find the closest Las Palmas near you
Local TacoWhile you can certainly get a great traditional dish of Chicken Tinga, Tequila Lime Chicken or Adobo-spiced Pork Carnitas, Local Taco was one of the first restaurants in town to go international with offerings. Their menu options include dishes like the Southern Fried Tacos and Smoked Brisket Enchilada. The former is made with buttermilk fried chicken strips flavored with honey-lime mayo while the brisket is smoked Texas-style for hours and then topped with pickled red onions and your choice of sauce. For a small upcharge, you can fire up your meal with Local Taco’s “Bang-Bang” habanero lime sauce. And you should.
Korean BBQ Tacos made with braised short ribs and Asian slaw are also a highlight that arose from the heritage of one of the original owners of the restaurant. Local Taco also serves a popular weekend brunch at both locations that features local cage-free farm fresh eggs and bacon and ham from Allan Benton’s famous smokehouse in Madisonville, TN. Add a refreshing glass of sangria or a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Margarita served on the spacious deck and you have the perfect way to kick off a Saturday or Sunday morning.
4501 Murphy Rd., Nashville, TN 37209
615-891-3271 • TheLocalTaco.com
Additional location at 146 Pewitt Drive, Brentwood
Los ArcosIf you grew up in Nashville, you might remember the location of Los Arcos on Nolensville Rd. as the previous home of the Florida Seafood Kitchen. Well, seafood is still the specialty of the house, but the location of origin has moved a little bit south. In addition to a huge spread of excellent food on the daily lunch buffet, Los Arcos offers a long menu of Mexican classics particularly focusing on seafood. Not that this should come as a surprise as soon as you spy the restaurant’s décor, which is dominated by nautical themes and anchors and ropes festooning the ornately carved wooden chairs.
Several baked fish dishes rank among the favorites, and shrimp are served just about any way you can imagine. Perhaps tipping their hats to their Nashville locale, Los Arcos features several preparations of catfish, an uncommon ingredient on most Mexican restaurant menus. The Cancun Special combines a grilled catfish fillet served with three plump shrimp over charro beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. Spooned into a steaming tortilla, this combination makes for a meal you should savor.
3798 Nolensville Pk., Nashville, TN 37211
615-837-3800 • ArcosRestaurant.com
Mas Tacos Por Favor Originating as a food truck delivering fresh hot tacos to partiers leaving clubs and concerts before the drive home, Mas Tacos, Por Favor is one of the rare food carts that has evolved into a bricks and mortar location. Not that their tiny location in East Nashville is much bigger than their mobile kitchen, but at least patrons now know exactly where to find their taco fix.
With a limited menu that usually features only a few tacos and a soup or two. But oh, what a soup! If the chicken tortilla is on the specials board, you must give it strong consideration as the lime-flavored broth filled with avocado, charred corn, tomatoes, chicken and redolent of cilantro is one of the finest soups you can find in town. Several national publications have featured this comforting bowl to confirm the opinion of the locals. Grilled corn (elotes) is also featured in the frequent special dish which are slathered in queso fresco and chiles to add a delicious bite to the sweet corn. The tacos are intentionally small to keep prices down and encourage experimentation, so try a few different ones. Or heck, order the whole menu.
732 McFerrin St., Nashville, TN 37206
615-543-6271 • @mastacos
Pupuseria SalvadorenaPlenty of people have discovered this little treasure of a restaurant near the corner of Nolensville Rd. and Harding Place, so there can be a bit of a wait for a table at this very affordable eatery. As you would expect from the name, pupusas are the mainstays of the menu, and they offer some varieties that are less common at other Central American restaurants.
The Pupusa Loroco is a particularly rare find on the menu, made from the flower of an edible vine that offers a unique pungent flavor unlike any taco most Americans have ever experienced. More approachable but still uncommon is the Pupusa Revuelta made with pork chicharrón, creamy refried beans and cheese. Not to be confused with crispy chicarrones, the pork in this pupusa is ground into a paste, but still full of flavor. An interesting drink option is the Horchata, a milky-white drink made from ground morro seeds and flavored with a nice cinnamon kick and cocoa, nutmeg and vanilla. Like most of Nashville’s Central American restaurants, it’s cash-only at Pupuseria Salvadorena, but don’t worry. You won’t need to bring a lot of money to get a lot of great food.
340 Welch Rd., Nashville, TN 37211
615-293-0437 • More about Pupuseria Salvadorena
Rosepepper Mexican GrillIf Rosepepper were closer to an interstate or more easily accessible from the mainland across the Cumberland River, you’d probably never be able to get in the front door. As it is, this East Nashville gem is still quite popular and has earned a solid reputation for its tasty margaritas, creative Mexican-fusion cuisine and healthy portions.
First, about those margaritas. While they offer a few different inventive options, the standard house margarita is quite possibly one of the best in town that doesn’t include the top-shelf upcharge. Made with fresh juices and 100% agave tequila, Rosepepper’s margarita has an effervescent citrus kick that makes it suitable for consumption by the pitcherful.
Main dishes like enchiladas, tacos and burritos also benefit from Rosepepper’s inventive sauces, with the spicy green salsa being a particular fan favorite. Save room for one of their delicious desserts like Flan or a Chocolate Chimichanga and you may just decide it’s not quite that far of a drive from the west side next time.
1907 Eastland Ave.,Nashville, TN 37206
615-227-4777 • Rosepepper.com
The newest member of the M Street empire is celebrating Mexican culture with all manners of margaritas, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, and ceviches. The atmosphere is fun and lively—great for groups—plus there is a massive selection of tequilas (120+) and mezcals (20+)
1120 McGavock St., Nashville, TN 37203
615-736-5301 • mstreetnashville.com
SolarioLocated in the beautiful Garden Conservatory Atrium of Gaylord Opryland Resort, Chef Paulina Suarez has developed an upscale menu of Mexican classics plus a few surprises. Chef Suarez’s signature entree is her Mexican Paella, traditionally a Spanish dish instead. Solario’s paella is served in a sizzling pan filled with tomato broth, mussels, clams, shrimp and house-made chorizo over a crispy soccarat of rice. The depth of flavors in this dish make it obvious why this is such a favorite of resort guests at Gaylord; but Nashvillians can enjoy it and Solario all year long.
Tableside guacamole service offers three options for diners, Classic, Pepper’d or Batter’d. Tacos, burritos and enchiladas are elegant versions of the traditional classics, and you can make the Solario Burrito even better by adding a fried egg. As if the braised beef, goat cheese, beans, rice and chile sauce wasn’t rich enough...
2800 Opryland Dr., Nashville, TN 37214
615-889-1000 • GaylordOpryland.com
Sopapilla'sSopapillas is named after the traditional Mexican doughnut-like dessert that is served drizzled with honey at the end of meals at the restaurant. However, the highlight at Sopapillas is actually the Hatch Chile Pepper, an essential ingredient to the cuisine of New Mexico. In fact, owner Steve Dale would not even open up his Moore’s Lane area eatery until he had ensured a steady supply of these incredibly flavorful chiles.
Dale got his start cooking on the road for members of the hot country band Little Big Town. His main gig was as the band’s bass player, but his stints preparing New Mexican specialty dishes in between shows earned him rave reviews and encouraged him to make the leap into a career as a restaurateur. Similar to both Mexican and Tex-Mex, New Mexican cuisine employs the heat of the Hatch in contrast to sweeter ingredients like honey and masa flour to tickle your tongue.
For diners with gluten allergies, a gluten-free menu is also available upon request. A particular menu highlight is the Hatch Asada y Camarones, a grilled steak seasoned with Hatch chiles and topped with bacon-wrapped shrimp filled with jalapeños and goat cheese. It’s really tough to read any further than that on the menu at Sopapilla’s.
1109 Davenport Blvd, Franklin, TN 37064
615-794-9989 • Sopapillas.com
Taco MamacitaTaco Mamacita came to Nashville from Chattanooga to fill an empty shell of a restaurant where another Mexican restaurant had experienced a short life span in the premium space of Edgehill Village at the corner of Villa Place. The transformation between the old and the new certainly made an impression on Nashville diners as Taco Mamacita has been an outrageously popular place to meet and eat ever since.
Taco Mamcacita has a large patio that’s usually full of patrons enjoying El Vez or El Camino margaritas and noshing on Taco Mamacita’s addictive Sloppy Nachos which offer both tortilla chips and Fritos for extra crunch. Also quite popular is the Chicken Tortilla Soup with its spicy broth poured tableside over roasted chicken, diced tomato, fresh avocado, queso fresco, lime and cilantro. That same Peruvian roasted chicken is also available as an entrée in full or half chicken size. The skin is perfectly crisped over juicy meat, and it’s one of the best examples of yard bird in town.
Best known for...well, their tacos and with creative options like the Asian-inspired General Homeboy, the Creole Shrimp Po’ Boy BLT, the California Club Taco or the Vegetarian Jerk, it’s tough to pick just one. Luckily, you have a choice of two tacos and a side dish for just $8.99, making it a little easier to decide and definitely easier on your wallet.
1200 Villa Place, Nashville, TN 37212
615-730-8552 • TacoMamacita.com
Taqueria y Pupuseria LupitaYou know a joint is out of the way when you have to describe the location as being “across the street from the West Dragon Kung Fu Family Martial Arts Center,” but that’s the best way to find Taqueria y Pupseria Lupita in west Nashville. The tiny building only has about five tables, but odds are you’ll have no problem getting a seat at this hidden gem.
Don’t expect chips and salsa to hit your table when you arrive. This place is strictly authentic Central American. You’ll pick your own beverage out of a cooler in the corner , that means bottled water or sweet Jarritos fruit sodas. The tiny staff concentrates their efforts on cooking tacos, sopes, gorditas, mulitas and pupusas available in several varieties, with none of those dishes costing more than $3.00.
Pay special attention to the sopes, which are a specialty from Southwestern Mexico made with beans, meat and cheese stacked high on a masa flour cake that is flavored with lime. Consider these cakes to be like an excellent version of cornbread and you’ll get the picture. The house-made green and red sauces on the table are wonderful additions to any of the dishes and add flavor and fire that will make you wish you’d brought some Tupperware to take some home with you.
5916 Morrow Rd., Nashville, TN 37209
615-853-3865 • Local reviews of Taqueria y Pupeseria Lupita