I’ve always had a soft spot for Mexican culture and food after spending my childhood in Arizona. Paris wasn’t always the best place to find decent burritos and authentic tacos, but in the past decade so much has changed! Not only are there excellent Mexican restaurants and authentic taquerias, there’s also a vibrant community celebrating Mexican culture and specialized shops to bring Mexico into your home.
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Mexican Cultural Events
Today Mexico celebrates the 110th anniversary of their independence from Spain. The celebrations usually start on September 15th with the Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores”, which was a rousing sermon by the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla of Dolores (in Guanajuato state) on September 16, 1810 to incite the people of his parish to arm themselves and revolt. He was eventually captured and executed, but it became the cry of independence. To commemorate the event, each year the Mexican president declares “el Grito” on the eve of Mexican Independence Day from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City: “Viva México! Viva la Independencia! Vivan los héroes!”
Almost all of the Mexican-owned establishments in Paris hold celebrations September 15-16, much like the French celebrate Bastille Day, with music and feasts.
Another Mexican celebration that has become popular worldwide is the Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead Festival, on November 1st. France celebrates their dead on the same day for Toussaint (or All Saints’ Day) in their own solemn, Catholic way, by visiting the tombs of their loved ones.
The Mexican festival is a much more exuberant celebration honoring the lives of those who have passed by praying for their spiritual passage into the afterlife. Deceased ancestors come back to life on the Día de Muertos to join in the celebration, which is why you see the stylish and colorfully-dressed skeletons, also know as calaveras. Alters are built to give offerings, usually favorite foods of the deceased.
In Paris there are often celebrations with music, dancing, and colorful traditional costumes. My personal favorite is the annual Jour des Morts event at the Gallery of the Association pour l’Estampe et l’Art Populaire (49bis Rue des Cascades, 20th), celebrated annually with artworks, offerings, and a Mexican food feast lasting several days.
Useful Links for Mexican Cultural Events in Paris
El Grito en Paris (September 15th)
Fête des Morts à Paris (November 1st)
Festival ¡Qué Gusto! (September 26-27, November 7-8 and December 12-13)
Just For Fun
Lucha Libre (10 Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, 5th) is a Latin Quarter bar with a Mexican Catch (wrestling) ring in the basement. Before Covid, there were regular show matches by pros, but at the moment it’s reserved for groups of friends or colleagues interested in getting in the ring against each other (you get a padded suit that makes you look more like a Sumo wrestler). Not sure the drunken bachelor party guests understand the cultural significance of lucha libre in Mexico, but I’ll leave that to the experts to decide.
Mexican Shops in Paris
Mexicoeur (40 rue du Caire, 2nd) is a Mexican boutique and food shop opened last October in the Sentier district. Here you can find authentic Mexican home décor, clothing, accessories, ex votos, Catch masks, toys, snack foods and candy, as well as tortillas, beans, corn flour, nopales (cactus), refried beans, salsas and sauces. In the fridge there are fresh tomatillos, peppers (Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano, Habanero), tamales, and fresh taco kits from the Mexican restaurant Itacate so you can make them at home.
The owner Marimar tells me the most popular product is tortillas, but that in Mexico it’s almost scandalous to serve anything but fresh, homemade ones. She also informs me that it’s actually impossible to import any dairy, egg or meat products from Mexico into Europe because they don’t have the same tracking standards. So, for example, if you ever wondered why your quesadilla didn’t taste quite the way you remembered it from Mexico, it’s because they have to use cheeses available in France.
Mexicoeur is a great shop to stop by if you want to find authentic Mexican décor, gifts and foods, but also if you want to discuss recipes with Marimar, who got me so hungry talking about mole poblano I ended up buying a jars of mole base and a bag of fresh peppers.
La Esquinita (21, rue Notre Dame de Recouvrance, 2nd) is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican food importer hidden on a tiny road in the Sentier district near the Grands Boulevards. One of the owners is Pepe Zicatela, of the Zicatela restaurants in Paris (see below). They sell sweets, sauces, nopales, beans, moles, snacks, chilis, tortillas, Mexican drinks including beers, and prepared dishes from Itacate restaurant. You can order on their website to pick up at their shop or have it delivered to you.
Tienda Esquipulas (20 rue Houdon, 18th) is a small, ethical and fair-trade boutique in Montmartre selling mostly hand-made home décor from Mexico and Guatemala: jewelry, ex votos, picture frames, Catch masks, Day of the Dead dioramas and statues, stationery and greeting cards, candles, Christmas ornaments, children’s books and oilcloth sold by the meter to make waxed tablecloths.
The owner Ana maintains a close relationship with the manufacturers and artisans to guarantee the quality and originality of the items in the shop. “Around a quarter of the items offered at Tienda Esquipulas are exclusively created on designs that I created myself. Today, I work regularly with nearly 50 artisans from Guatemala and Mexico.”
La Piñata (25 rue des Vinaigriers, 10th) is a small boutique in Paris specializing in hand-made and made-to-order piñatas, the paper mache forms filled with candies and prizes that you (or usually kids) get to beat open on special days like birthdays, but in Mexico specifically for the Christmas “posadas” starting December 16th.
The owner Elena moved to Paris from Columbia in 1978 and opened her boutique in 2002 near the Canal St-Martin. Because it was so popular, in 2006 she embarked on a community project to work with prisoners by setting up a manufacturing workshop in a French prison. “Every time a piñata breaks, another is made in prison.” Some of the piñatas are traditional, but there’s also room for creativity, such as the coronavirus-shaped piñatas for anyone in need of a cathartic “beating Covid” experience.
Mexican Restaurants in Paris
There are over two dozen Mexican eateries in Paris, from trendy restaurants and authentic taquerias to street food holes-in-the-wall and (rather questionable) Mexican-themed fast food chains. In fact, Mexican food seems to be so popular at the moment, it’s hard to keep up with all of the openings (and inevitable closings). As usual, call ahead or check the Facebook pages for the most recent opening hours during these crazy Covid times.
My Own Favorites
Itacate Cocina Mexicana
94 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st
This casual taqueria right in the center of Paris is probably the closest thing to the Mexican restaurants in Arizona that I loved growing up. All of the traditional favorites – tacos, tamales, moles, sopa de Tortillo, enchiladas, and excellent tortas – are all made from scratch each day by the owner Chef Lydia Gonzalez and her team. The prices are also surprisingly affordable for the center of Paris, with three tacos or a torta sandwich under €10. Seating inside or at the handful of outdoor tables. You can also purchase prepared tamale dishes to go.
52 rue de Saintonge, 3rd
I first visited this casual but trendy taco joint with a pile of foodie friends back when it opened in 2011. We crammed into the one large table by the entrance to enjoy our cocktails and tacos while the majority of the clients crammed up against the counter or headed directly through the door to the low-lit “clandestine” bar in the back (which has been the worst kept secret in Paris since it was written up in great detail all over the press and social media).
But we all enjoyed the food and I’d go back anytime I could pop in when there was a seat available (eating a taco without wearing it is hard enough without also having to stand while eating). Since it’s in the North Marais, it remains a popular spot for Mexican food in Paris. Tacos €3.50 each, Mexican beers €7, guacamole and chips €6.50.
30 rue des Bernardins, 5th
Anahuacalli is the most “formal” Mexican restaurant on my list, with its white tablecloths and a gourmet menu of traditional Mexican specialties such as their famous mole poblano.. There is usually live music and a nice atmosphere for family dinners or special occasions (or when it’s not your turn to pick up the tab). It’s located on a quiet street in the Latin Quarter, so you’ll find the ancient wooden ceiling beams typical of the historic district. They serve every kind of Mexican cocktail, tequila, and beer you could want, as well as a good selection of wines from Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Open daily for dinner, and Sunday for lunch. Expect to pay approximately €40 per persona not including drinks. Take-out is also available since Covid.
127, rue Mouffetard, 5th
Other locations: Réamur, Marais, Odéon, Oberkampf, Bastille, and Faubourg Saint-Denis.
This Mexican fast-food restaurant has been my go-to stop on the crêperie-kebab-heavy Rue Mouffetard since it first opened about eight years ago (especially to refuel after marathon training runs!) Service is at the counter, where you choose your ingredients for tacos, quesadillas, or burritos (my fave).
It’s not that different in style from Chipotle, except that the people making the food are actually Mexican…at least at the Mouffetard location! Now that they’ve expanded to several locations around Paris, I haven’t verified that all of the employees are from Mexico, but the important things is that they still make everything fresh from scratch each day. The portions are huge, and the prices have hardly changed since they opened: €9.50 to €11.50 depending on how many ingredients you choose. Mexican drinks €3.50-€6. There is also a small épicerie in each location to purchase sauces, tortillas and locally-made beers.
5 rue Duperré, 9th and 3 rue Eugene Varlin, 10th
I had my first torta (Mexican sandwich) here in 2010 when this little family-run taqueria opened just off the Canal St-Martin. The salsa was in a tiny container on the side, which should have been my warning that it was the real deal: hot! Balancing everything on my lap as we sat along the curb overlooking the Canal, I poured the entire thing on my sandwich and took a bite.
Taste buds really do go soft, and mine were nowhere as seasoned as they had been as a child eating hot sauce like ketchup in Arizona! But aside from making my eyes water like mad, it was an unforgettable torta (I also love the frijoles with refried beans). There’s nowhere to sit at the Canal St-Martin location, but the Place Pigalle location has a bit more space to cram in (and a “Covid sidewalk terrace” at least until next summer). Burrons and tortas €10, tacos €9 for three, guacamole €5, frijoles €4.
26 Rue Duméril, 13th
This pretty little Mexican-Californian eatery opened up the street from me in late 2019, close to the Hospital Pitié Salpêtrière. I visited last month with an American neighbor who was also craving something healthy and maybe a little spicy. The décor inside is a pastel-kitsch take on Mexican décor that would feel a bit Instagrammy if the food by La Paz native Ibeth wasn’t so good.
There is a selection of burritos, quesadillas, and bowls you mix and match ingredients. “Fast Good Mexicain Californien” because the focus is on healthy Mexican cuisine from the northern Baja Californian peninsula. You order at the counter and the food is brought to your table. At the moment it’s only open weekdays for lunch. Count on €12-€18 for a full menu.
136 boulevard Vincent Auriol, 13th
Last, but hardly least, is La Catrina, an authentic Mexican taqueria hidden in plain sight on a large boulevard near the Place d’Italie. Although nondescript on the outside, inside you step tight into a cozy and colorful Mexican tribute to the Day of the Dead.
La Catrina is the icon of Mexico’s Día de Muertos, the pretty skeleton (or calavera) with the flowered crow, we see in all of the decorations and parade costumes (ironically, the original image of La Catrina in her 20th-century European hat was meant as a satirical portrait of Mexicans accused of denying their heritage). They serve traditional burritos (including vegetarian options), nopales and tortilla chips, tacos, and pitchers of frozen margaritas. Burritos €8, tacos €3.50. Nachos €5. There are about a dozen tables inside and three on the sidewalk outside, which fill up fast by 8pm.
Other Mexican Restaurants in Paris
7 rue Sauval, 1st
This is apparently the oldest Mexican restaurant in Paris, located on one of the historic side streets near Les Halles. I haven’t eaten here yet but friends fro Arizona thought it was great. Online reviews are mixed (with the biggest complaints being small portions and high prices).
23 rue du Pont-au-Chou, 3rd and 10 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin, 10th
Clearly targeting the Parisian Bobos with stylish settings and “edgy” menu items like “Fuckin Money Man” pork torta and Cave à Mezcal. The cheesecake and Moelleux au chocolat desserts make me think it’s actually Mexicanish more than the real deal, but they have just won the “Authentic Cuisine and Mexican Fusion” certification from La Chambre Economique du México, so maybe it’s time to check out the Franco-Mexican fusion dishes.
4 Rue de Brissac, 4th
A taco bar in the no-man’s land between the Quai Henri IV and the Bassin de l’Arsenal promising “saveurs authentiques”, yet there are also burgers on the menu.
Mexi & Co
1 rue Dante, 5th
A small Mexican restaurant and épicerie (food shop) in the heart of the Latin Quarter, not an area particularly known for its quality cuisine, but I have been told by several expat friends that the food is pretty good (granted, they were from the US and Canada, not Mexico…).
15 rue Dauphine, 6th
This is a Secrets of Paris reader favorite, but somehow I still haven’t made it here, even though it’s on the Left Bank. Traditional Mexican dishes like quesadillas, nachos, tacos, burritos, ceviche, and of course fajitas, served in a festive setting.
14 rue Rougemont, 9th
Mamacita opened right before this year’s pandemic in the Grands Boulevards’ theatre district. The three young French owners have solid culinary experience and were smart enough to hire Mexican chef Mariana Becerra Mateos to run things in the kitchen, but it does seem more like a pricey hipster bar than the place to go when you’re craving good Mexican food. I did like the mango and avocado guacamole, but my tacos had browned avocado slices and the smallest teaspoon of frijoles. But they have live DJs after 10:30pm, if that’s your thing.
66 rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, 9th
This casual Mexican restaurant and cocktails bar in the Grand Boulevards district of questionable tourist traps and chains intrigues me mostly because they have live music and stand-up comedy nights (something the French have been slow to embrace).
24 rue Henry-Monnier, 9th
A rather stylish looking Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar in the trendy South Pigalle district serving “revisited Mexican bistro cuisine” by star French chef Alexis Delassaux, who was inspired by his Mexican mother’s cooking. The food certainly looks appetizing (aside from the bizarre prawn bagel).
42 rue Poissonnière, 2nd and 8 rue Geoffroy-Marie, 9th
Two casual Mexican restaurants straddling the Grands Boulevards district, one near the Grand Rex cinema and one near the Folies Pigalle. Run by the Mexican food importer Pepe Zicatela. I hope their food is better than their website!
Black Beans Mexicain
35 rue de Trevise, 9th
A family-run Mexican restaurant in the Grands Boulevards end of the 9th district (there seems to be a lot in this area), with spacious, bright décor and traditional Mexican dishes. Prices are a bit steep, but that could be the price of home-made, hand-made cuisine and table service. This is not a fast food joint.
37 rue Yves-Toudic, 10th
Located just off the Canal St-Martin with a spacious terrace, El Guacamole always seems to be crowded when I pass by. A huge selection of traditional foods: tacos, burritos and kekas on the menu, nothing over €9.
82 rue de la Folie-Méricourt, 11th
“Tacos and craft cocktails with a Mexican touch” by two transplanted Mexicans, Luis and Rodrigo, in East Paris. Their website seems to be down, but the FB page shows some enticing photos, both for the setting and the cuisine.
28 rue Saint Ambroise, 11th
Mexican street food by an all-female team of chefs in a contemporary but cozy setting near the Atelier des Lumières (East Paris). Plenty of sidewalk seating or long wooden tables inside.
El Tequila Mexicana
2 rue Eugène-Carrière, 18th
A rather touristy looking old-fashioned Mexican restaurant near Montmartre cemetery that seems to hold a lot of festive events and sports nights showing French soccer matches. The prices might make it worth checking out if you’re in the area…I’d wait for someone I know to vouch for this one first.
Chipotle: And McDonald’s fries are good, too, but why don’t we try and support locally owned businesses instead of international chains (whose stock price has skyrocketed since Covid).
Fresh Burritos: This is France’s answer to Chipotle, a soulless fast-food burrito chain in shopping malls all over France. Desserts include chocolate muffins and chocolate chip cookies. Sigh.
O’Tacos: Oh man, I actually ate here with my French partner and his kids when it was the only thing open late one Sunday…I think I’ve scared them off “Mexican” food forever! A French chain of halal-certified fast food with chicken nuggets, fries, and strangely shaped paninis they insist on calling tacos. They just aren’t.