5 destination-worthy Mexican restaurants in Richmond, San Jose, Oakland and beyond
From humble to elevated, these are all great Mexican places to try in 2023.
Here are five Mexican restaurants – from the humble to the elevated, plus one kitchen that does throwback-recipe Wednesdays – that are totally worth the journey. [source: Mercury news].
Please tell us below if you’ve tried any of these spots!
Acopio, San Jose
Taqueria Lorena held down an East San Jose corner for decades, until a fire shuttered the family business founded by Jose and Carmen Vidrios. That’s when daughter Lorena, the namesake, started putting a second-generation plan into motion with brother Carlos: They would open a modern, evolutionary Mexican restaurant, the sort of place that Lorena said San Jose hadn’t seen before. The plan by the siblings, both chefs, came to fruition earlier this year with Acopio – the name means a reunion or gathering – on the East Side.
With executive chef Marshall Reid, they’ve created a contemporary menu with Old World touches. The soft, supple tortillas, for example, are handmade from blue corn nixtamalized onsite. A Lebanese-spiced grilled pork taco pays homage to the Arabic influence that led to Mexico’s famous spit-roasted al pastor.
The mole de pato, a chile adobo confit-duck leg served with pistachio mole and spiced masa cake and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, quickly became Acopio’s signature dish. It’s a stunner, beautifully cooked and composed, texturally interesting and Instagram-gorgeous.
Don’t miss: Start with the tortillas de casa appetizer, served with whole runner beans, queso fresco and seasonal housemade salsas, or the spicy corn ribs, costillas de elote, before tucking into the duck entree or the carne de res with sweet potato and smoked-mushroom escabeche.
Details: 399 S. 24th St., San Jose; acopiosj.com
Located inside an old firehouse in Oakland’s Dimond district, Dominica Rice’s Mexican restaurant is an epicenter for Chicana culture and thoughtful, gourmet Mexican food made by grandmas in an open kitchen. A hearth drives much of the stellar menu, from garlic-and-lime marinated roast chicken to grilled filet mignon with crispy Oaxacan cheese.
House-dried and ground masa is transformed into the corn tortillas for shrimp tacos with chipotle crema, and house-smoked trout becomes the topper for the most precious little tostadas we can’t stop thinking about. Even corn on the cob (when they have it) is elevated without being fussy, its gleaming kernels glossy from lime, chile and whipped pumpkin and sesame seed butter.
Whether you’re attending a Chicanx art show, masa-centric pop-up or just sipping a watermelon margarita from your leather-backed perch at the bar, you can’t help but get swept away in the party vibes – think paper fan streamers – of this bright, light-filled warehouse and garden patio.
Don’t miss: Spicy carrots with toasted almond misantla are a must. Also wonderful: the smoked trout tostadas, duck carnitas mole verde and, of course, seasonal margaritas.
Details: 3459 Champion St., Oakland; bomberaoakland.com
Luna Mexican Kitchen, Campbell and San Jose
Ahhhhh, the aroma emanating from diners’ tables on The Alameda in San Jose and the Pruneyard in Campbell.
Walk right past the sizzling grills and head to the hostess stand, where you’ll probably need to put your name on the waiting list – because there is almost always a wait at Jo Lerma-Lopez and John Lopez’s Luna Mexican Kitchens. The entrepreneurial couple hit upon a winning concept when they first decided to turn a vintage spot into a restaurant with a healthful, organic approach. It’s the concept of no: “No additives, no preservatives, no cans, no microwaves, no exceptions,” their website declares.
Tortillas are pressed by hand daily from organic, non-GMO corn, and entrees are made with antibiotic-free meats, sustainable seafood, free-range chicken and local produce. The scratch kitchen makes all sauces and salsas fresh daily.
The over-the-top mixed grill, with Niman Ranch carnitas and St. Louis rib, Mary’s free-range chicken, all-natural hormone-free steak fajita, wild shrimp wrapped in bacon, jumbo wild shrimp in garlic butter and chicken jalapeño sausage, is wildly popular for good reason. Also fantastic is the cochinita pibil, the 24-hour achiote/citrus-marinated pork.
Don’t miss: The expanded breakfast menu features choices like New York steak or housemade chorizo con huevos; horchata french toast with piloncillo syrup and organic berries; and a cucumber-nopal smoothie.
Details: 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell, and 1495 The Alameda, San Jose; lunamexicankitchen.com
Asa North, Los Altos, and Asa South, Los Gatos
Andrew Welch’s two popular Asa restaurants, the original in Los Altos and the newer one in Los Gatos, are paying tribute to yet another restaurant and its signature cuisine.
That would be Casa de Cobre, the Mexican restaurant specializing in Michoacan fare that Welch operated in Saratoga for some years with executive chef Marcelino Hernandez. Customers were clamoring for a taste of Casa, so the pair brought back the recipes in 2020 for what they called Wayback Wednesday – and the tradition continues.
Treasured family recipes dominate. In the past they’ve included pork pozole and Hernandez’s abuela’s recipe for spiced, braised beef-shoulder entomatados. An old Casa favorite, cochinita pibil, slow-cooked pork shoulder, makes frequent appearances. The pork is cooked in layers of banana leaves with ancho chile and white wine, then served with guajillo salsa and pickled local vegetables.
And then there are the traditional best bets on Asa’s pan-Mediterranean menu: the decadent “Exotic Mushroom Pasta” and the warming “Bowl of Soul,” a seafood standout. When in season the fabulous Dungeness-crab pasta, with tomato, cream, garlic, a touch of spice and an anisette flambe, is a must for crustacean lovers.
Don’t miss: The moist carrot cake, studded with golden raisins and walnuts, topped with a whiskey-cream cheese frosting and then gilded with a little caramel sauce, is the way to end the meal.
Details: 242 State St., Los Altos, and 57 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road, Los Gatos; asalosaltos.com