Cinco De Mayo may conjure images of college students engaging in acts of cultural appropriation while scarfing bland tacos and swilling cheap cerveza. But don’t let those gringos ruin the party. Silicon Valley’s many Mexican kitchens have far more to offer than carne and Corona.

From fresh seafood, to earthy sauces that can include more than 30 individual spices, Mexican food is as diverse as the sprawling country’s various geographic regions. Here in the South Bay we are very lucky to have literally hundreds of restaurants that serve up delicious Mexican fare.

Compiling this list came down to one word: variety. I tried to touch base with all that Mexico has to offer us, from the neighborhood taco joint to the white tablecloth gourmet Mexi eats.  So, grab a bottle of Tapatío and bring an appetite because it’s time to get taco loco. ¡Arriba!

Angelou’s Mexican Grill
21 N Second St, San Jose
This downtown favorite is known for delivering tasty Mexican chow at reasonable prices. Try their new Mo-Co Loco Burrito ($7.75). It includes rice, egg, cheese, sour cream and carne asada all in one tidy package. Angelou’s also serves up a mean Mexi breakfast, and their house special, huevos rancheros ($6.75), are also a fan favorite.

Araujo’s Mexican Grill/El Paisa Taqueria
Multiple locations
Easily one of the best taqueria’s in the South Bay, this one-two punch of flavor started out as a taco truck in an empty parking lot. Today it has two brick and mortar locations. House-made tortillas, wood-fire grilled carne asada and giant slabs of al pastor rotating on the spit—it doesn’t get much better than that. If that isn’t enough, they also feature one of the most complete salsa bars around, and their aguas frescas are fresh to death.

Bravo! House of Enchiladas
1075 Tully Rd, San Jose
As the name suggests, enchiladas are the specialty here—and they certainly bring their A-game. Their Michoacanas cheese enchiladas with fried chicken y papas ($11.99) deliver a home run of flavor with its three-cheese enchilada, fried chicken leg and crispy potato wedges.

Churros El Guero
2217 Quimby Rd, San Jose
This churro cart is located not too far from Eastridge Mall and serves up piping-hot, deep-fried cinnamon churros. While they have plain (aka boring) churros, I highly recommend getting one of the churros flavored with caramel, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry filling.

Día de Pesca
55 N Bascom Ave, San Jose
Seafood and Mexican spices go together like peas and carrots—and nowhere is that more evident than at Día de Pesca. The lunch special of three fish tacos and a lobster bisque ($9.99) is a fantastic value in itself, but the delightfully flaky fish and creamy, rich soup make this a must-get. Also, their camarones al Cucuy ($14.50) brings the heat, but also the flavor.

El Burro
1875 S Bascom Ave, Campbell
This one is a bit bittersweet. After nearly 50 years in business, El Burro will be closing their doors soon. This will be diners’ last chance to get a hold of their signature chile verde ($12) and enchiladas Suizas ($13). The silver lining in this is that Luna Mexican Kitchen plans to transform the space into their second location. So say “adios” and “bienvenido” with El Burro’s signature Cadillac margarita.

Multiple locations
The home of the whopping 5-pound, 18-inch Burritozilla challenge ($24) has seen a lot of success lately, as they’ve grown from a single downtown location to four locations throughout the South Bay. Known outside of San Jose for their segment on Man vs Food, locals will be familiar with their selection of terrific Mexi eats, and their unique take on orange sauce, which is hotter and thicker than La Vic’s.

El Tule
5440 Thornwood Dr, San Jose
This eatery, located across from Oakridge mall, specializes in Oaxacan cuisine—specifically, mole. While most diners are familiar with the chocolaty black rendition of this traditional Mexican sauce, El Tule has a mole for every color of the rainbow, including red, green and yellow. For a truly authentic treat, get the chapulines ($7.99) appetizer, which features clay-griddle-toasted grasshoppers sprinkled with El Tule’s signature seasoning to make for an unforgettable salty, sour and crunchy delicacy.

Happy Hooligans
1711 Branham Ln, San Jose
While not a traditional Mexican restaurant, Happy Hooligans has a nice selection of vegan Mexican comfort food. Their young jackfruit carnitas can either be served in a burrito ($12.50), enchilada ($13), flautas ($13) or on taco plate ($12.50). Their nachos grandes ($12.50) are also a solid choice and come topped with their house vegan cheese sauce. Diners can even add the jackfruit carnitas ($3) to make it a well-balanced meal.

La Birrieria
1480 S White Rd, San Jose
It’s hard to have a list of Mexican eateries without mentioning at least one birria spot—and this one is the granddaddy of them all, serving the Eastside since 1986. While they do serve up some other Mexi favorites, their birria ($10) is the reason to come here. This Jalisco specialty dish consists of fork-tender goat, cooked slowly in a spicy chili pepper-infused broth and comes served with their house-made corn tortillas. Served mostly at special occasions (weddings, baptisms, etc.), it’s also renowned as a hangover remedy.

La Chingada Taqueria serves up some bleeping great Mexican fare. Photo by John Dyke

La Chingada Taqueria serves up some bleeping great Mexican fare. Photo by John Dyke

La Chingada Taqueria
3281 Sierra Rd, San Jose
While the name of La Chingada Taqueria (roughly translated: The Fucking Taqueria) might catch one’s attention, it’s their fantastic Mexican food that is really turning heads in San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood. Their Piña Loca ($17) is a must try here. It consists of a cored-out pineapple shell filled to the brim with shrimp, octopus and pineapple, cooked in a devilishly hot diabla sauce and topped with a thick blanket of Jack cheese.

La Costa
Multiple locations
This 2013 and 2014 Michelin recommended mariscos joint has been an Alum Rock favorite for years. They are quickly expanding throughout the city—their newest location on South First Street opened up not too long ago. Their gigantic “super” shrimp cocktails ($16) are my personal favorite, but a few of my cohorts swear by their fresh oysters ($22/dozen) served on the half-shell.

La Original Paleteria y Neveria
273 Willow St, San Jose
This family-owned Mexican ice cream shop has more than 20 custom-made flavors from a plant in Livermore. While they host all the usual Mexi ice cream flavors—like strawberry, mango, pineapple, guava and café—they also have more exotic ones, such as elote, membrillo, zapote, nanche and even queso! The latter tastes like a rich, creamy cheesecake. Mmmm… cheesecake.

La Victoria
Multiple locations
Maybe the best-known taqueria in San Jose, La Vic now boasts six locations including expansions to the East Bay and Peninsula. Their much-ballyhooed orange sauce is one of the few things that actually lives up to the hype. I always have a bottle ($7) in my fridge, because it goes well with just about anything (e.g., pizza, rice, eggs, barbecue, etc.). Their breakfast burritos ($5) are still a great value and have been a staple in my diet for more than 20 years now.

Linda’s Restaurant
1179 E Santa Clara St, San Jose
This family-friendly diner has been serving up hearty, homemade Mexican favorites for nearly 30 years now. Their pozole ($12)—a hearty stew of slow-cooked pork shoulder, spicy broth and hominy—might be the GOAT… besides abuelita’s, of course.

Lucy’s Mexican Grill
615 Blossom Hill Rd, San Jose
This new South Bay hotspot is manned by the former head chef of El Paisa, Ruben Reyes. Featuring homemade tortillas and a top-notch salsa bar, this tiny hole-in-the-wall is serving up sit-down-quality eats at taqueria prices. Try the giant San Jose burrito ($9) that comes with one’s choice of meat, guac, sour cream and french fries.

Mavericks Mexican Grill
1111 Meridian Ave, San Jose
Mavericks specializes in the mariscos side of the Mexican food spectrum. Their breaded halibut tacos ($4.35 each) are a house specialty. My favorite here is the chimichanga del mar ($12) that comes packed with one’s choice of seafood in a deep-fried burrito shell and topped with loads of guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. I’m usually stuffed halfway through but unable to stop.

Mexico Bakery
Multiple locations
The undisputed kings of the Mexican sandwich, aka the torta, do big things for a pequeño price. Their popular Milanese ($7.50) torta is gigantic and can easily feed two hungry hombres. Its breaded steak filet, thick-cut queso, avocados and produce make this one an extremely filling sammy. They also serve up burritos, tacos and sweet Mexican confections.

Sancho’s Taqueria
491 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto
Another legit Mexican spot located in a high-priced Palo Alto neighborhood that actually has “normal” prices. Despite its humble exterior, the venture capitalist types in their Ferraris can be seen queuing up in the long afternoon lunch lines with the rest of us schlubs. The things to get here are their lightly-breaded fish tacos ($4.45 each). They practically melt in your mouth and are served with a delectable chipotle remoulade. Ordering anything with their fork-tender carne asada is also a good idea.

Santa Fe Taqueria
Multiple locations
This popular Eastside chain, which sports two taquerias and a grocery store, has been a longtime favorite of mine for their amazing carne asada fries ($9). They come out fully loaded with fresh crema, pico de gallo, guacamole and tons of grilled carne. The salsa bar is also quite good, and their horchata ($3) is one of the best in the city.

300 Santana Row, San Jose
This purveyor of “fancy” boutique tacos strives to be more like an upscale Mexico City eatery than its humble beginnings as a taco stand in S.F.’s Ferry Building. Boasting an impressive array of over 120 different tequilas, they will definitely have the proper lubrication needed to get through the massive 10-taco platter ($40).

Tacos El Rancherito
1729 McKee Rd, San Jose
This neighborhood taco joint has been one of my favorites for years. Once renowned for their $1 tacos—now $1.50—El Rancherito is the place to be for cheap, delicious but authentic street eats. They have all the usual favorites, but also feature my holy trinity of exotic Mexi meats: tripas (tripe), lengua (tongue) and cabeza (head).

Taqueria Los Pericos
1581 W Campbell Ave, Campbell
With the usual spread of Mexi meats and a kick-ass salsa bar, this Campbell taqueria is super legit. Their house orange sauce can easily compete with any of the big boys, and their al pastor is one of the better pork preparations around.

Taqueria Tlaquepaque
Multiple locations
These self-professed “masters of the Mexican munchies” are probably better known as being the place with the hard to pronounce name (T-la-keh-pah-keh). Their chow is as authentic as it comes, short of flying to Jalisco. They’ve been serving Willow Glen for well over 20 years now in multiple locations. Their super chavelas ($9) are the thing to get here. And to help soak up all that booze, the steak Tlaquepaque ($14) with the potted beans is a meal fit for an Aztec king.

Trine’s Café
Multiple locations
One of San Jose’s original family-owned chains, Trine’s Café s have been around for over 40 years now; they used to be seven-restaurants strong, but they recently downsized to just three. Trine’s was the first place I tried the classic Mexican hangover soup menudo ($10), and they are still my gold standard. This is definitely the place to be hit up after a long night of tequila shots.

Tu Mero Mole
Multiple locations
As the name suggests, mole is the specialty of the house here; the mole de puebla ($14) features a chicken breast topped with their house-made mole—a mix of six different chili peppers, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pine-nuts, pecans, raisins, sesame seeds and chocolate. It’s served with their fluffy handmade corn tortillas, rice and beans for a little slice of Mexi heaven.

United Paleteria y Neveria
Multiple locations
This popular spot for exotic Mexican treats and ice cream is known for their mangonada ($5). This concoction features slices of fresh mango, mango ice cream, chamoy, chili powder and is finished with a tamarind-covered straw. The taste combination hits every corner of diner’s taste buds with its addictively sweet, spicy and sour flavors.