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Berlin’s best Mexican food: Cactus strips to quesadillas

Mexican food in Berlin got good. We round up the city's most authentic offerings, from food trucks to taquerias.

Taqueria el Oso. Photo: Clemens Niedenthal

The reigning champs: Taqueria el Oso and La Ola

There’s no hotter place to eat Mexican food right now 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.

El Oso is no longer the brightest star in its own food court, though. That honour belongs to La Ola, the new seafood stand where chef Francisco Hernandez – last seen working his oceanic magic at this summer’s much-praised Fish Klub pop-up – has recently been given free rein, not to mention access to fresh hauls from Frisch Gefischt. The grill hasn’t even been turned on yet, and he’s already attracted an army of faithful eaters for his aguachile, made with sweet raw shrimp in a simple chilli-lime marinade; his tostadas, topped with avocado and fresh tuna or lightly smoked octopus; and a majestic Instagram-bait creation known simply as “The Tower”. 

  • Taqueria el Oso Markthalle Pfefferberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sun 12-22 | La Ola Markthalle Pfefferberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Thu 17-22, Fri-Sun 12-22

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.

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 Straße 33, Prenzlauer Berg, Sun-Thu 12-21.30, Fri-Sat 12-22

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 every Tuesday, 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.

  • Ultima Tacos @ Piri’s, Boddinstraße 61, Neukölln, Tuesdays 17-21

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 12-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).

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 earlier this 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”. Give them an Instagram follow to find out where they’ll be next.

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 new 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, Allerstraße 11, Neukölln, Tue-Thu 18-23, Fri + Sat 18-midnight

The cool kids: Victoria Tacos

Photo: Victoria Tacos

Run by a laid-back, multinational crew, this white-tiled taco counter began life as an art gallery pop-up before landing on Maybachufer in the middle of summer 2021. Their specialty: the ever-trendy quesabirria, except this time it’s jackfruit, that pulpy tropical meat substitute, that’s simmered in a mix of chillis and spices before being stuffed into a tortilla with gouda. It’s decent, although you’ll need an extra side of salsa verde to make it truly sing, and a few more tacos – filled with marinated mushrooms, beans and beetroot, or pork carnitas – to sate your hunger. We’re still waiting on frozen margaritas; in the meantime, supplement your order with a bottled Paloma cocktail (grapefruit juice, tequila and lime with ginger-chilli-pomegranate syrup).

  • Victoria Tacos, Pannierstraße 32, Neukölln, Thu-Fri 12-22, Sat+Sun 14-22

The masa masters: Tortilla Mexa and Oh La Queca

Photo: Oh La Queca

Say goodbye to the cardboardy pre-frozen discs of yore. The fine art of nixtamalisation, that alkaline treatment process that separates earthy, fragrant masa (tortilla dough) from plain old cornmeal, has made it to Germany. Most taquerias worth mentioning now use artisanal tortillas from producers like Hamburg’s Komali, Leipzig’s Mais & Co. and Berlin’s own Cintli – except for the few that have jumped on the masa bandwagon themselves. At Tortilleria Mexa in Friedrichshain, for example, organic white and blue corn discs 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, or cactus strips. Browse the deli’s selection of Mexican groceries to continue the party at home.

Meanwhile, 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.

  • Tortilleria Mexa, Boxhagener Straße 50, Friedrichshain, Sun 12.30-20, Tue–Sat 13-22 | Oh la Queca Reuterstraße 36, Neukölln, Mon + Wed 17-21.30, Thu 12-21.30, Fr 12–22, Sa 13-22, Sun 13-21.30

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