Cape Town may be many miles from Mexico, but that hasn’t stopped chefs and enterprising restauranteurs setting up Mexican restaurants across the city.
Options in the city range from forgettable to truly excellent, and from haphazard Tex-Mex to authentically Mexican. If you’re looking for a decent Mexican dishes and a lively atmosphere in Cape Town, this is where you should start.
Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
El Burro | Courtesy El Burro
El Burro was one of the original straight-up Mexican restaurants in Cape Town, and several years later it’s still among the best. The owners have been in the industry for some time, and they know a thing or two about quality food, interior design and efficient service. They proudly steer clear of the Tex-Mex combinations common at other Mexican spots around town, have a diverse range of vegetarian dishes, and serve up a range of local and imported tequilas. They have recently opened up a new branch in Newlands, but the original in Green Point is still going strong.
Fat Cactus in Mowbray has been a Cape Town institution for many years. Their mix of Tex-Mex style dishes and pitchers of frozen margarita have made this one of the most popular Mexican spots in the city. They have since added two branches, in the City Bowl and Woodstock, but the Mowbray venue still takes the top spot for authenticity and atmosphere. Regardless of the branch, their nachos are great, frozen margaritas sweet and strong, and service always on point.
Though technically part of the El Burro family, this quirky eatery on popular Kloof Neck road is worthy of a spot of its own. It may just be the trendiest Mexican eatery in town, with clientele spilling over to and from the nearby bars to tuck into their tried and tested favourites. Like the bigger sister restaurants there are several plated dishes to choose from, or you can build your own tortilla with pork, fish, chicken or vegetables.
Much like other Mexican restaurants in the city, VIVA has gone from humble beginnings to a widespread roll out of several branches. There are now three venues throughout the Cape, in Durbanville, Harfield Village and Stellenbosch. They produce a range of Tex-Mex style dishes that cater for a wide range of tastes, and their food, service and value is.
Zapata is located in a quaint old building, with an open courtyard, in the heart of vibrant Harfield Village. They serve popular chilli poppers that you can wash down with jugs of frozen margaritas, but they also make all the traditional Tex-Mex style dishes you would expect. If you’re feeling adventurous, go all in with their Remembrance Platter, which will give you a taste of most items on the menu.
If you find yourself out in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town and craving a Mexican meal, make a turn at Tacoways Mexican Cafe. It’s a no-frills Mexican takeaway restaurant that’s garnered a loyal following from nearby residents. They use fresh ingredients, a range of fillings for your burritos, and very competitive prices. It’s primarily a takeaway joint, but if you don’t feel like taking your meal home there are also a few tables inside and out.
This neighbourhood Mexican restaurant is cosy and welcoming. They’ve been in the bohemian suburb of Observatory for what feels like decades, and they are still putting out high quality Tex-Mex meals. If you’re not feeling particularly hungry they offer the choice of smaller portion sizes, or you could just sit back and relax with a margarita and small but delicious bowl of nachos.
Remex Mexican Cantina is a hidden gem in the Cape Town suburb of Parklands. The no-frills venue may look simple from the outside, but they offer a wide range of Mexican-inspired dishes. They’re particularly well-known for their chilli poppers and wings. They also serve top-notch tequila and have regular specials throughout the week, including 2 for 1 wings and poppers.
Cantina Tequila is another popular Mexican eatery in the Northern Suburbs. It’s a charming restaurant in Durbanville with a lively atmosphere. They’ve been around for more than 20 years in various iterations, and this, along with reliably good food, has generated the restaurant a loyal following. The food is a mix Mexican-inspired dishes, and they offer combo meals and a variety of epic platters perfect for big groups looking to sample everything on offer.
Mexican options at the V&A Waterfront are limited, but Mex It Up is a new kid on the block looking to fill that gap. They’re located at the V&A Food Market, and are the perfect option for quick, authentic Mexican cuisine. They offer a wide range of vegetarian options, as well as the usual meat-filled burritos and tacos.