Mexican food is one of the most popular global cuisines in America, and there’s no mystery as to why. Mexican cuisine is the full package: flavorsome, filling and exciting without being overly complicated.
Because Mexican food is so beloved throughout the United States, there are many chain restaurants that either specialize in or exclusively serve Mexican food.
In many cases, these restaurants serve a variation of Tex-Mex (Americanized Mexican cuisine) but it’s also possible to find authentic Mexican food at several of these chains.
Without further ado, we’re going to be listing the 16 best Mexican chain restaurants in America, describing the style of the menu for each one (see also ‘America’s Best Buffet Restaurants‘).
By the end of this article, you should know of a few new Mexican chain restaurants to try (see also ‘23 Most Popular Chain Restaurants In The United States‘)!
Mexican Chain Restaurants In America
Any American fan of Mexican food will be familiar with Chipotle.
It’s one of the biggest Mexican food chains worldwide, but it’s especially well-loved in the U.S., where more than 3,000 Chipotle restaurants have opened in total since 1993.
Chipotle specializes in Mexican food favorites such as burritos, but it has an extensive menu ranging from burrito bowls to tacos and fajitas.
If you like to be sure that the ingredients in your food are all-natural and that any meat is raised responsibly in accordance with animal welfare standards, Chipotle is one of the best fast food restaurants you can go to.
So, if you’re an ethically-conscious fan of Mexican cuisine, you should definitely check out Chipotle if you haven’t already!
2. Del Taco
Another extremely popular Mexican restaurant chain in America is Del Taco. If you love tacos as much as we do, this is one Mexican restaurant experience you won’t want to miss out on!
Del Taco was founded in 1964, in California. Serving both Mexican and classic American fast-food, Del Taco offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for great-value Tex-Mex (see also ‘17 Most Popular Chili’s Menu Items’) or your standard burger and fries, you won’t be disappointed by a trip to this restaurant.
At the over 500 Del Taco restaurants across 16 U.S. states, you can order more adventurous Tex-Mex food like fish and cheese tacos, or stick to the classics with a meat-based tortilla.
The menu at Del Taco goes to show that Mexican chain restaurants in the U.S. are capable of delivering both authentic Mexican food as well as American variations.
3. Taco Bueno
Many Tex-Mex lovers will tell you that Taco Bueno is the best place to go for American-style Mexican food.
It might not be as wildly popular as restaurants like Chipotle and Taco Bell (see below), but it still has a reputation for excellent Tex-Mex fast food.
Taco Bueno has been established since 1967, and like all good Tex-Mex restaurants, it originated in the state of Texas itself – in Abilene, to be exact.
Any classic Mexican fast food you can think of, you can order at Taco Bueno. Whether your usual order consists of nachos, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or even a Mexican-style salad – you name it, it’s on the menu.
Taco Bueno combines Mexican cuisine with American fast food culture with its meal combos.
There are 6 types of combo meals at Taco Bueno that allow you to pair your favorite Tex-Mex foods with your choice of beverage.
4. Baja Fresh
If you’re looking for Mexican food that tastes fresh and that you can tell has been homemade from scratch, you need to check out Baja Fresh.
Baja Fresh has been around since 1990, and it’s yet another Mexican restaurant chain to emerge from California.
What sets Baja Fresh apart from the Mexican fast food chains dotted around the U,S. is the restaurant’s focus on fresh, non-processed ingredients.
Not only do Baja Fresh’s dishes taste – well, fresh – they’re also packed with all the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine.
From their salsas, which range from classic salsa verde to the sweet and delicious mango salsa, to their delicious tacos, quesadillas and fajitas, a lack of flavor is never a problem at Baja Fresh.
There aren’t as many Baja Fresh locations as there are for other Mexican fast food chains, so be sure to look up the nearest Baja Fresh and try it out when you can!
5. Taco Cabana
Another Tex-Mex chain Taco Cabana has close to 200 locations throughout the United States, but most of them are in the restaurant’s town of origin, which is, of course, Texas!
One of the reasons Taco Cabana is so popular is that it offers 24-hour service, so when college starts in the fall, you can expect to see a lot of students here in the early hours of the morning!
Taco Cabana is known for its tortilla machine, which allows customers to enjoy steaming hot tacos just a couple of minutes after they place their order.
Another famous item on the Taco Cabana menu is the queso, which many lovers of Tex-Mex have labeled the best queso at any of America’s Mexican fast food restaurants.
Unlike some other fast food restaurants, where you get served your chosen condiments along with your order, at Taco Cabana, you get to go and take your pick from the condiment bar and help yourself to whatever you like!
Personally, we can’t get enough of the incredible Tex-Mex menu items at On the Border, and we think you should visit one of the 120 On the Border restaurants in the U.S. if you haven’t already.
Not only does On The Border deliver excellent value for money due to its impressive portion sizes, but many of the signature dishes on the menu at this restaurant are cooked on mesquite wooden grills, which enhances the flavor and makes the Mexican food at On The Border some of the best in America.
If you were wondering where this restaurant gets its name from, it’s called On The Border because it’s named after the border between Mexico and Texas.
The first On the Border location was in Dallas, so the choice of name goes beyond the style of cuisine served at this restaurant.
Chuy’s may not have as many locations as other Mexican chain restaurants (there are fewer than 100 of these restaurants across 17 states) but when it comes to amazing Tex-Mex, it’s one of the top contenders in America.
This restaurant chain has been in existence since 1982, and the first location was based in Austin, Texas.
Founders John Zapp and Mike Young opened the first Chuy’s restaurant because they wanted to create a relaxed, casual dining restaurant specializing in food from the American Southwest – and that’s exactly what they did!
Not only does Chuy’s serve some examples of classic Mexican food, but you’ll also find menu items inspired by Southern Texan cuisine and the Rio Grande Valley.
Chuy’s sets itself apart from much of the competition in the Mexican restaurant industry by rolling their tortillas by hand and serving only fresh ingredients.
8. Taco John’s
You’ve heard plenty about Tex-Mex throughout this article so far, but have you ever heard of West-Mex?
West-Mex is Midwest-based Mexican cuisine, and that’s exactly what you can find on the menu at Taco John’s.
The first Taco John’s was in Wyoming, and it opened way back in 1968.
Since then, nearly 400 other Taco John’s venues have opened in the Midwest as well as in some of the Mountain states, so it’s clear that the combination of Midwest and Mexican cuisine has been a hit.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘Taco Tuesday’, this was actually coined by Taco John’s, and what many people don’t know is that the phrase has actually been trademarked by the restaurant!
So, not only do we owe Taco John’s our gratitude for one of the best cuisine combinations ever, but also for contributing to our vocabulary!
Translating to ‘the crazy chicken’ in Spanish, El Pollo Loco is one of the most famous Mexican-style chain restaurants in the United States, and definitely the winner of the funniest name contest!
El Pollo Loco first opened in 1975. Unlike many of the Mexican fast food chains in America, this one actually originated from Mexico, in Sinaloa.
It opened its first U.S. venue in Los Angeles in 1980, and since then, nearly 500 El Pollo Loco restaurants have been established. Most of them are in the Southwest, though, with few locations in North America.
El Pollo Loco is famous for its Mexican-style chicken dishes – specifically, grilled chicken.
The most talked-about item on the menu is the fire-grilled chicken, which you can get incorporated into various dishes at the restaurant, from tacos to burritos.
10. Torchy’s Tacos
If you’ve never been to Torchy’s Tacos, we suggest you do so as soon as possible, especially if you enjoy spicy tacos and margaritas.
Torchy’s Tacos isn’t as widespread as some of the other Mexican restaurant chains in the U.S., with less than 100 locations spread across just 13 states.
However, if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the states that has Torchy’s Tacos, or if you happen to be passing through, you should make a point to order from this incredible menu.
As you might expect from the name, Torchy’s Tacos specializes in tacos and offers exciting and adventurous taco fillings such as fried avocado or blackened salmon.
There are even vegan options like the Beyond Beef taco! If you’re looking for something fresh and new, you can also choose to order the Taco of the Month, which never fails to impress.
Moe’s Southwest Grill isn’t just famous for its classic Mexican food (which is incredible) but also for the carefully-chosen music that’s always playing at this chain restaurant.
We love that Moe’s Southwest Grill strives to provide an entertaining and unique Mexican dining experience by combining traditional Mexican fast food with a playlist of game-changing musical artists.
In fact, Moe’s is actually an acronym that stands for ‘Musicians, Outlaws, and Entertainers’.
Not only can you order classic Mexican food items like quesadillas, burritos, nachos, and tacos from Moe’s Southwest Grill, but you get the opportunity to customize your own dishes, adding your choice of ingredients to your burrito, burrito bowl, taco, quesadillas, or nachos.
There are also salads on Moe’s menu if you’re in the mood for something light and healthy which, in addition to the customizability of the menu, means that Moe’s is the perfect Mexican restaurant for everyone regardless of tastes or preferences.
12. Taco Bell
Taco Bell is probably one of the first Mexican chain restaurants that come to mind when you think about Mexican fast food, which is hardly surprising since there are more than 7,000 Taco Bell Restaurants across the United States.
Unlike some other Mexican restaurant chains, Taco Bell restaurants are not confined to a small selection of states, and most states in the U.S. have at least one if not many more Taco Bell restaurants.
Taco Bell was established in 1962, and since then the restaurant has become famous for its incredible Crunchy Taco recipe, which continues to be one of the most popular items on the menu.
With that being said, Taco Bell’s menu has expanded and evolved a lot in recent years, including some exciting and creative options such as the Mexican Pizza and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.
So, if you’re in the mood for some Mexican flavors with an American twist at a reasonable price and an accessible location, Taco Bell is an excellent choice!
13. El Torito
El Torito is one of the longest-standing Mexican chain restaurants in America, dating all the way back to 1954!
This Mexican restaurant is the original home of the frozen margarita, tableside guacamole, and the fajita platter, so other Mexican chain restaurants owe a lot to this establishment.
Not only is El Torito’s extensive menu filled with Mexican favorites like beef enchiladas, flame-grilled fajitas and traditional burritos, but you also get the option of building your own plate made up of the restaurant’s most popular menu items.
Don’t forget to try one of El Torito’s frozen margaritas while you have the chance!
There’s a huge range of flavors, ranging from the cooling cilantro cucumber and watermelon options to the fiery jalapeno cucumber margarita.
There are close to 800 Qdoba locations in the U.S., and 44 out of 50 U.S. states have at least one Qdoba restaurant.
Qdoba first opened under the name Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill in 1995, which then changed to Z-Teca and became Qdoba in 1999.
While Qdoba mainly sticks to traditional Mexican menu items and flavor combinations for the sake of authenticity, you can still pick from a variety of customizable menu options that allow you to exercise creative freedom and bring your own preferences to the table.
For example, you can build your own loaded quesadilla or add your favorite toppings to a plate of nachos.
Qdoba Mexican Eats is a solid example of a great Mexican chain restaurant, and we highly recommend it next time you’re in the mood for Mexican food!
Pappasito’s Cantina is undoubtedly one of the best Tex-Mex chain restaurants in America.
It might not be very widespread, but this family-owned restaurant’s 25 locations across Texas and Georgia never fail to keep customers coming back for more.
This restaurant is part of a larger family of restaurants known as the Pappas family-owned restaurants.
This family includes Pappas Burger, Pappas Bar-B-Q and Pappas Bros Steakhouse to name just a few (see also ‘The Best Menu Items At LongHorn Steakhouse‘). However, Pappasito’s Cantina really stands out for a few reasons.
First of all, the tortillas at Pappasito’s Cantina are made fresh, from scratch, every hour, and you get the satisfaction of watching your guacamole be prepared in front of you at the table, so you never have to worry about stale ingredients spoiling your meal.
Just some of the delicious Tex-Mex options on the menu at this restaurant include slow-smoked ribs, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, and tacos.
16. Uncle Julio’s
Finally, if you’re looking for really high-quality, rustic-inspired Tex-Mex, there’s nowhere better than Uncle Julio’s.
Uncle Julio’s restaurants can be found in Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Mayland, Missouri, New Jersey, Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee. There are 34 locations in total.
We highly recommend trying some of the signature items on Uncle Julio’s menu, like the chocolate pinata, alongside some of the classics such as enchiladas and quesadillas.
We promise this Tex-Mex chain restaurant will quickly become a family favorite!
We hope that this guide to the best Mexican restaurant chains in America (see also ‘Ranking The Top 18 Pizza Chains In America‘) has shown you that there are plenty more Mexican food options than Chipotle and Taco Bell – although these two have more than earned their popularity!
From authentic Mexican food to Mexican-American fusions like Tex-Mex and West-Mex, there’s so much variety in these top 16 restaurants.
Next time you have a craving for Mexican food or Tex-Mex, we challenge you to try out a new Mexican chain restaurant with friends or family (see also ‘17 American BBQ Chain Restaurants You Need To Visit‘). Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favorite!