Mexican fast food options are abundant in the US. Unsurprisingly, this much-loved cuisine is such a staple for many people. Mexican food has it all – fresh, savory, spicy, and cheesy.
The perfect plate of nachos can make you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. But one bad burrito can make you wish you’d never been born.
We’ve compiled a list of the best and worst Mexican fast food restaurants so you can enjoy authentic flavors without risking a run-in with food poisoning.
Let’s dig in!
What Is So Great About Mexican Food?
Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the US, and for a good reason. Fresh, healthy ingredients come together to make flavor explosions like no other.
Mexican food can bring the heat if you like a spicy kick. The country is known for its wide variety of peppers. Ranging from mild to five-alarm fire, there’s something for everyone. It also caters to a range of dietary needs. Vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters can all find a delicious meal.
You don’t even have to pack your travel bags to enjoy a plate of authentic enchiladas or a refreshing margarita. You can get the delicious flavors of Mexico on the go right in your hometown.
And to top it all off, the prices are almost always reasonable.
The Best Mexican Fast Food Brands
With so many options out there for Mexican food, you may wonder which places offer the best dishes. While we can’t list every great restaurant, we can tell you about two worth trying.
Moe’s Southwest Grill
As far as freshness goes, Moe’s Southwest Grill can’t be beat. You won’t find microwaves, or even freezers, here. On an average day, Moe’s staff hand chops thirty-four pounds of tomatoes alone.
This restaurant doesn’t cut corners. Grass-fed beef, grain-fed pork, and all-natural adobo chicken offer meat-eaters high-quality protein. For vegans and vegetarians, their organic tofu is top-notch. And they cook their veggies on a separate grill, so you don’t have to worry about a tainted taco.
The chef’s kiss at Moe’s is their massive salsa bar. You can choose what flavors you want to enjoy with your free bag of chips. There’s no charge and no limit on how much you can dish out.
With nearly 700 locations across the country, you’re bound to find a Moe’s during your travels.
Torchy’s Tacos started as a humble food truck in Austin, Texas. Today, over ninety locations are serving up fresh, expertly curated tacos.
Their menu features authentic tacos with barbacoa and green chile pork. But they also have unexpected fillings like fried avocado, jerk chicken, and vegan meat alternatives.
Another thing that sets Torchy’s apart from its competitors is its commitment to sustainability. All their disposables are made with 100% renewable resources, and their used cooking oil is recycled into fuel for cars.
And if all that isn’t enough, most locations have a full bar and offer freshly blended margaritas and frozen sangria to quench your thirst.
Pro Tip: Want a real Mexican treat? Learn more about What Are Empanadas.
The Worst Mexican Fast Food Brands
On the flip side, there are also Mexican joints that leave a lot to be desired. Especially when it comes to nationwide chains, freshness can be a gamble. We recommend staying away from the following eateries, despite their prevalence.
We’ve all heard the rumors about Taco Bell. That their beef isn’t really beef. Well, it actually is, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good.
And that seems to be the case with most of their ingredients. They pass the standard for what technically qualifies as food but in unsavory, often unrecognizable forms. For example, they rehydrate their refried beans from processed pellets. And workers have described their steak as “gooey.”
It isn’t just that these ingredients aren’t appetizing. They’re full of additives, fillers, and antibiotics. It’s clear that the company is more concerned with its bottom line than with quality products.
Let’s not forget that Mexico wholeheartedly rejected this chain after only two years in the country. The country that inspired Taco Bell’s entire menu slammed the door in their faces.
We’re with Mexico on this one.
There’s no doubt about Chipotle’s popularity. With over 2,700 restaurants, they’re slinging more burritos than just about anybody else in the game.
Unfortunately, they’ve also given more customers food poisoning than any of their competitors. Between 2015 and 2018, more than 1,100 people were sickened by E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella from contaminated ingredients at Chipotle.
Food poisoning is reason enough to avoid this spot. But if you’re still on the fence, let us help you out.
Chipotle advertises fresh ingredients, but their menu items have some of the highest calorie counts and fat content around. And to top it off, they’ve started serving smaller portions while continuing to jack up prices.
What Is the Most Popular Type of Mexican Food?
Mexican food is clearly well-loved. But with so many types of dishes available, we wondered what one food was the most popular.
Without a doubt, it’s tacos!
The taco as we know it – ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomato – is only about a hundred years old. But its origins lie deep in Mexico’s history. Before the Spanish arrived, indigenous Mexicans filled soft corn tortillas with fish and organ meats.
In the 1920s, more Mexicans began immigrating to the US. This cultural fusion gave birth to the modern taco we all know and love.
Around the world, tacos are hailed as the reigning king of Mexican food. There are hundreds of toppings to choose from, so you can customize them to your liking.
Whether you opt for sizzling steak, poblano pork, or the Tex-Mex staple of seasoned ground beef, tacos are unbeatable. Whatever is inside that tortilla will keep you coming back for more.
Pro Tip: Pair your Mexican fast food with one of these Best Canned Margaritas.
Something For Every Palate
When you’re craving Mexican food, you have plenty of options to choose from. Restaurants like Moe’s and Torchy’s Tacos offer the best of Mexican flavors with fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients. Just be sure to avoid knockoffs that use cheap ingredients and questionable food-safety practices.
Luckily, when the urge hits, you don’t have to travel all the way to Mexico to indulge in this heavenly cuisine.
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