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Berlin’s best Mexican food: Cactus strips to quesadillas

Mexican food in Berlin just seriously upped its game. We round up the city's most mouth-watering offerings, from food trucks to taquerias.

Taqueria el Oso. Photo: Clemens Niedenthal

Berlin’s Mexican food scene has a couple of exciting new additions, as well as a few trusted old favourites who’ve been catering to our taco cravings for over ten years. Our food experts have done the rounds and found the best places making Mexican food across town.

A new cantina enters the arena: Pancho Villa

Photo: @pancho.villa.berlin

Juicy, slow-cooked pulled pork, a sturdy corn tortilla, a splash of salsa from one of three plastic bottles on your table, a squeeze of lime… what more could you need? Chicharrones, that’s what. The crispy, deep-fried pork rinds are ubiquitous at Mexico City taquerias, as are cueritos (bits of that same pig skin confited ‘till they’re soft and unctuous). Order the ‘Especial’ and you’ll get all three cuts in a demure-looking bite that packs a decadently porky punch.

  • Pancho-Villa Cantina, Reichenberger Str. 120, Kreuzberg, details.

The reigning champ: Taqueria el Oso

Photo: @taqueria_el_oso_berlin

There’s no hotter place to eat Mexican food than Markthalle Pfefferberg, the culinary trend magnet co-run by German taco aficionado Michael Heiden. Taqueria El Oso, the stand he founded along with the owners of Sabor a Mí and Cintli Tortilleria, specialises in real-deal al pastor, achiote-marinated pork carved off a pineapple-topped rotating spit. Served on corn tortillas with coriander, onions, lime and your choice of six salsas, the smoky-spicy-sweet bites are worth queuing for – come right at opening or between lunch and dinner for the shortest wait times. Other possible fillings include suadero (beef brisket), nopales (cactus strips), vegan or meaty chorizo and, on Sundays, Tijuana-style birria, juicy stewed beef with a side of consommé for dipping.

  • Taqueria el Oso, Markthalle Pfefferberg, Prenzlauer Berg, details.

Israeli-Mexican fusion: Amigo Cohen

Pulpo Spicy Tomato Cream at Amigo Cohen. Photo: Sonni Frej

Definitely not your standard taco joint, there’s just something perfect about the union of shawarma meat and salsa. Amigo Cohen offers Israeli-Mexican fusion, a concept that requires clear focus to pull off. The restaurant’s chef Shimon Peretz manages to skillfully stitch together components of the two cuisines into an array of pretty darn tasty dishes that don’t lean on gimmicks.

  • Amigo Cohen, Invalidenstr. 53A, Mitte, details.

The classic truck: Sabor a mí

Photo: Facebook / Sabor a mí

Overshadowed by its cousin El Oso, this family-owned mobile stand is nonetheless worth tracking down for its tacos, topped with a smear of refried beans, pickled onions and fillings like cochinita pibil (stewed marinated pork) or lengua (beef tongue). Vegetarians can go for hibiscus flowers or a poblano-cheese mix; keep an eye out for specials like pozole. Find them at Markthalle IX’s Street Food Thursdays or miscellaneous special events all over town. They also now have a bricks and mortar spot in Friedrichshain, just off Boxhagener Platz.

  • Sabor a mí, Grünberger Str. 83, Friedrichshain, details.

The original: Maria Bonita

Photo: Maria Bonita

In Prenzlauer Berg since 2009, one of the first ‘real’ Mexican restaurants in Berlin is still one of the best – certainly better than the tequila-sozzled Santa Maria in Kreuzberg, its last surviving spinoff. Try the tacos alambres with flank steak and bacon, the buche (slow-cooked pork stomach), or the hangover-vanquishing breakfast burrito.

  • Maria Bonita, Danziger Str. 33, Prenzlauer Berg, details.

The hot mess: Ultima Tacos

Photo: Ultima Tacos

Maria Bonita co-founder Julian Boyce may have turned his attention to chicken sandwiches with Neukölln “dive bar diner” Piri’s, but he still holds a place in his heart for Mexican food. As Ultima, he pops up from within his own shop, serving meaty and mushroom birria tacos that are so juicy they’re practically slurped instead of eaten. Also on the menu, depending on the week and whim: fried chicken, beer-battered fish or banana blossoms, carnitas, New Zealand venison… if it goes well with salsa verde and a slushy frozen marg, it’ll probably make an appearance at some point. Check their Instagram for pop-up dates.

  • Ultima Tacos @ Piri’s, Boddinstr. 61, Neukölln, details.

The old fave: Ta’Cabron

Photo: Facebook / Ta’Cabrón Taquería

Where does Berlin’s actual Mexican community go out to eat? For many, the answer is Paco Franco and Joaquín Robredo’s 13-year-old restaurant, run by an all-Spanish-speaking staff, serving up decent bites like enchiladas, cochinita pibil tacos or crunchy corn flautas filled with shredded chicken. In winter, warm up with a comforting bowl of pozole or sopa azteca (tortilla soup).

  • Ta’Cabrón Taquería, Skalitzer Str. 60, Kreuzberg, details.

The new friends: El Amigo

Photo: Taqueria El Amigo

You might’ve come across these guys in the middle of the Sony Center, where their truck was an odd but welcome sight – what were these very credible quesabirria, carne asada, al pastor and vegan chorizo tacos doing under all that garish lighting? After moving out last year, they’ve been popping up all over town, from the Brazilian smoothie bar Tropix to new cocktail joint Patesô, with the same great food and habit of calling all their customers “amigo”. They also have a permanent spot three days a week in Mitte.

  • El Amigo Tacos, Veteranenstr. 21, Mitte, details.

The unconventionalist: Burro Unchained

Photo: Luka Godec

What does Mexican-Neukölln fusion taste like? Pastrami on a tostada, maybe, or roast cauliflower with mole verde. At this riotously colourful venture from the German-Iranian owner of Schillerkiez fixture Club der Burro, authenticity takes a backseat to experimentation, resulting in dishes that sound weird on paper (burrata al ajillo?) but go down as easily as the mezcal margaritas. If it’s just tacos, burritos or quesadillas you want – optionally with kimchi – there’s always the original Burro down the street.

  • Burro Unchained, Allerstr. 11, Neukölln, details.

The masa master: Tortilleria Mexa

Photo: Tortilleria Mexa

At Tortilleria Mexa in Friedrichshain, organic white and blue corn tortillas are rolled out and griddled before your eyes, before being transformed into tacos, crispy tostadas or quesadillas. We’re partial to the vegetarian ones with refried beans and nopales (cactus strips). Browse the deli’s selection of Mexican groceries to continue the party at home.

  • Tortilleria Mexa, Boxhagener Str. 50, Friedrichshain, details.

Chilaquiles queens: Oh La Queca

Photo: Oh La Queca

Neukölln’s Oh La Queca started out as a pop-up called Madre Tortilla and continues to produce fine examples of the form. Thick and flavourful, they’re fried into chips and smothered in salsa for chilaquiles, topped with eggs for huevos rancheros, wrapped around potato or chicken for flautas, served alongside shredded chicken swimming in a rich mole sauce… There are tacos, of course, but quesadillas will give you the most bang for your buck. Don’t miss the “Jamaica Garten” with hibiscus flowers, beetroot, green and refried beans, with or without melty cheese.

  • Oh la Queca Reuterstr. 36, Neukölln, details.

Still hungry? Here’s our guide to the best Mexican groceries in Berlin