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20 Best Mexican Restaurant Chains in the US

Mexican food is one of the world’s most flavorful and culturally rich cuisines. Mexican food, as we know it in the US, was born in the first few decades of the 20th century and has quickly become a beloved staple.

We’ve rounded up the best Mexican chain restaurants in the US. Each restaurant is the product of over 100 years of culinary commingling between Mexican and American cuisines.

Whether you’re looking to grab Mexican fast food on the go or prefer a more traditional dining experience, the Mexican chain restaurants on our list will satisfy your craving for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more.

20. Taco Bell

Taco Bell is the largest Mexican fast-food chain, well-known for its low prices, late-night hours, and extravagant take on classics like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.

There are over 7,000 Taco Bell locations in the US, so there’s a good chance that you’re close to a Taco Bell no matter where you are.

Taco Bell was founded in 1962 by Glen Bell.

Before he opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, California, Bell ran another Mexican fast-food restaurant, Bell’s Drive-In and Taco Tia, in San Bernardino, California.

Bell’s Drive-In is where he perfected his recipe for the Crunchy Taco, the hard-shelled treat that has become a staple of the Taco Bell menu.

Over the decades, Taco Bell has become famous for the creative liberties it takes with Mexican cuisine.

The Taco Bell menu contains many variations on classic Mexican food, including the Doritos Locos Taco, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, the Mexican Pizza, and the Crunchwrap Supreme.

19. Chipotle

Chipotle is another of the largest and most popular Mexican fast-food chains, famous for its customizable tacos, Mission-style burritos, and burrito bowls.

There are nearly 3,000 Chipotle locations in 48 states, plus Washington DC, making Chipotle one of the most accessible Mexican fast-food restaurants.

Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells, whose guiding principle was all-natural ingredients from the beginning.

Chipotle uses no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Additionally, all of Chipotle’s meat is responsibly raised and adheres to some of the highest animal welfare standards.  

Chipotle’s menu is customizable, allowing you to build your own taco, burrito, burrito bowl, or quesadillas to your liking.

You can choose from various meats and proteins, including chicken, steak, carnitas, barbacoa, and sofritas made of tofu.

You’ll also be able to add a variety of toppings, including beans, different kinds of salsa, fajita veggies, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and guacamole, which famously costs extra.

18. Taco John’s

Taco John’s is a Midwest-based Mexican fast-food chain specializing in “West-Mex” food.

There are almost 400 Taco John’s locations in the US, mainly in the Midwestern and Mountain states.

The first Taco John’s was a small taco stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which opened in 1968.

Taco John’s was the first restaurant to use the phrase “Taco Tuesday,” and they even trademarked the term!

The Taco John’s menu offers different kinds of tacos, burritos, breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and bowls.

Their signature items include Crispy Tacos, a hard shell filled with beef, lettuce, cheese, and mild salsa; Potato Olés, which are like tater tots; and the Meat and Potato Burrito.

17. Taco Cabana

Taco Cabana is a Texas-based Mexican fast-food chain specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine.

There are almost 150 Taco Cabana locations in the US, most of which are in Texas.

Many of these locations are recognizable by their hot pink color scheme.

The first Taco Cabana was opened by Felix and Mike Stehling in San Antonio, Texas.

Taco Cabana restaurants have become well-known for their convenient drive-throughs, open-display cooking, open-air patios, and a vast array of Tex-Mex classics.

The Taco Cabana menu contains different kinds of burritos, bowls, chalupas, enchiladas, flautas, nachos, tacos, and quesadillas.

Taco Cabana also offers various frozen margaritas flavors, including lime, strawberry, and mango.

16. Baja Fresh

Baja Fresh is another Mexican fast-food chain specializing in farm-fresh, hand-made Tex-Mex cuisine.

There are over 150 Baja Fresh locations in states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Baja Fresh was founded in 1990. From the beginning, they were dedicated to using fresh, unprocessed ingredients.

This dedication to freshness is so strong that Baja Fresh restaurants do not contain freezers, microwaves, or can openers.

The Baja Fresh menu contains classic Tex-Mex dishes, including various tacos, burritos, and salads.

Each Baja Fresh location also has a self-serve salsa bar, allowing you to customize the flavor and spiciness of your food.

15. Qdoba

Qdoba is another popular Mexican fast-food chain specializing in flavorful, clean, and sustainably-sourced Mexican food.

There are over 750 Qdoba locations in 44 states, plus Washington DC.

The first Qdoba was opened in 1995 in Denver, Colorado, under Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill.

Zuma Fresh was renamed Z-Teca in 1997 and didn’t start going by Qdoba until 1999.

Qdoba’s menu features a variety of popular Mexican foods, including burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and tacos.

However, Qdoba also offers many customizable options, so you can make your own burrito, bowl, loaded quesadilla, nachos, salad, or taco plate.

There are a ton of different proteins available at Qdoba, from classic ground beef or pulled pork to Impossible Meat and Cholula Hot and Sweet Chicken.

You’ll also get to choose from various queso, salsas, and other toppings.

14. Del Taco

Del Taco is a Mexican fast-food chain that sells Mexican food in addition to traditional American fast food items, like burgers and fries.

There are almost 600 Del Taco locations in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington.

The first Del Taco was opened in Yermo, California, in 1964 by Ed Hackbarth and David Jameson.

At the time, Del Taco sold fries, tacos, and tostadas for only $0.19 and cheeseburgers for only $0.24.

Nowadays, Del Taco still has a 20 Under $2 menu, which has 20 different menu items each cost less than $2, including chicken tacos, bean and cheese burritos, snack queso quesadillas, and mini cinnamon churros.

The rest of Del Taco’s menu consists of a variety of tacos, burritos, guacamole, quesadillas, nachos, salads, burgers and fries, and Crunchtadas, which are Del Taco’s take on a tostada.

13. El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco is a fast-food chain that specializes in Mexican-style grilled chicken.

There are over 480 El Pollo Loco locations in the US, most of which are in the Southwestern states.

The first El Pollo Loco was opened in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1975 by Pancho Ochoa, a former shoe store owner.

Over the next few years, El Pollo Loco became extremely popular in Guasave.

In 1980, the restaurant expanded to the United States, opening its first American location in Los Angeles, California.

“El Pollo Loco” means “the crazy chicken” in Spanish. Fittingly, El Pollo Loco’s specialty is Mexican-style fire-grilled chicken.

You can order El Pollo Loco’s signature chicken as part of a chicken meal, where you’ll enjoy chicken breast, thigh, wing, or leg served alongside a tortilla, beans, and rice.

You can also get El Pollo Loco’s chicken as part of a burrito, bowl, nachos, or taco.

12. Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s Tacos is a Mexican fast-food chain specializing in tacos, queso, hot sauce, and margaritas.

There are over 90 Torchy’s Tacos locations in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Torchy’s Tacos was founded in Austin, Texas, by a taco enthusiast named Mike Rypka.

In the beginning, Rypka pulled a food trailer full of tacos around town on his red Vespa.

Eventually, his tacos became so popular that he was able to open over 90 Torchy’s Tacos storefronts!

The cornerstone of Torchy’s menu is tacos.

Torchy’s offers over a dozen unique taco flavors, with fillings like blackened salmon, smoked beef brisket, jalapeno cheddar sausage, fried avocados, and even Beyond Beef.

Torchy’s also has a rotating Taco of the Month, where they experiment with new flavor profiles and fusions of cuisine.

In addition to tacos, Torchy’s also offers salads, burritos, chips and queso, as well as a variety of different flavored margaritas and other cocktails.

11. Moe’s Southwest Grill

Moe’s Southwest Grill is a Mexican fast-food chain that combines southwestern food with amazing music.

There are nearly 700 Moe’s Southwest Grill locations in 39 states, plus Washington DC.

The first Moe’s opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2000. Moe’s is an acronym for “Musicians, Outlaws, and Entertainers.”

Each Moe’s Southwestern Grill has a hand-selected playlist full of unforgettable songs from artists who changed the musical game.

Moe’s menu offers a variety of Mexican fast-food classics, like burritos, bowls, quesadillas, tacos, nachos, salads, and stacks, which are like a cross between a quesadilla and a hard shell taco.

Most of Moe’s menu items are customizable, so you can build your own burrito, bowl, quesadilla, taco, nachos, or salad.

10. Chuy’s

Chuy’s is a Mexican chain restaurant specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine.

There are almost 100 Chuy’s locations in Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

The first Chuy’s was founded by Mike Young and John Zapp in Austin, Texas, in 1982.

Young and Zapp dreamed of a fun, casual, unpretentious restaurant that served fresh, delicious recipes inspired by the cuisines of the American Southwest.

Chuy’s food draws from various geographic regions, including New Mexico, the US-Mexico border, the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, and Austin.

Freshness is one of the key tenets of Chuy’s philosophy.

Their tortillas are made from scratch and hand-rolled each morning, their produce is always fresh and never frozen, and their ten signature sauces are also made from scratch daily.

The Chuy’s menu is full of delicious dishes, like tacos, burritos, flautas, enchiladas, and fajitas.

9. Pappasito’s Cantina

Pappasito’s Cantina is a family-owned Mexican chain restaurant specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine.

There are 25 Pappasito’s Cantina locations in Georgia and Texas.

Pappasito’s Cantina is part of a family of Pappas family-owned restaurants, including Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappas Bros Steakhouse, Pappas Seafood House, Pappas Bar-B-Q, and Pappas Burger.

The first Pappas restaurant was founded by Chris and Harris Pappas, whose grandfather, H.D. Pappas, was a Greek immigrant who ran a successful chain of restaurants after coming to the US.

Fresh meat, seafood, and produce is flown to each Pappasito’s Cantina daily, so you can rest assured that you’ll enjoy the highest quality ingredients.

Pappasito’s tortillas are also made fresh every hour, and their guacamole is made fresh right at your table.

The Pappasito’s Cantina menu contains a vast array of Tex-Mex foods, including nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, slow-smoked ribs, and grilled seafood dishes.

8. Wahoo’s Fish Tacos

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos is a chain restaurant specializing in a unique fusion of Mexican, Brazilian, and Asian cuisines.

There are 46 Wahoo’s locations in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas.

The first Wahoo’s was founded in 1988 by three brothers named Mingo, Wing, and Ed Lee in Costa Mesa, California.

The Lee brothers were descended from Chinese immigrants, raised in Brazil, and spent a lot of time traveling through Mexico and Southern California to surf and skate.

The food at Wahoo’s reflects the Lee brothers’ multinational influences.

On the Wahoo’s menu, you can choose from a variety of proteins.

Some of them are Mexican food classics, like chicken, carnitas, and carne asada.

Others stem from different parts of the world, like wild-caught salmon, shrimp, tofu, and banzai vegetables.

The dishes at Wahoo’s include burritos, tacos, enchiladas, bowls, salads, nachos, taquitos, quesadillas, and even ceviche.

7. El Torito

El Torito is a California-based Mexican chain restaurant opened in 1954 by Larry Cano.

El Torito claims it was the first restaurant to popularize the frozen margarita, the sizzling fajita platter, and tableside guacamole in the United States.

The El Torito menu contains many Mexican restaurant classics, including flame-grilled fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, and burritos.

You can also Create Your Own Combo at El Torito, building a plate that combines some of the most popular items like chicken tamales, beef barbacoa enchiladas, and mahi-mahi fish tacos.

Since El Torito claims to have popularized the frozen margarita, you’ll want to try one out!

El Torito serves many different flavors and variations of margarita, including watermelon, mango mezcal, jalapeno cucumber, and cilantro cucumber.

6. On the Border

On the Border is a casual dining chain restaurant specializing in generous portions of Tex-Mex food.

There are nearly 120 On the Border locations in 29 states.

The first On the Border was founded in 1982 in Dallas, Texas.

The restaurant is named after the border of Texas and Mexico, between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers.

That area is full of mesquite trees, which inspired the mesquite-wood grills that On the Border uses to prepare many of its signature dishes.

The mesquite grill dishes on On the Border’s menu include their Mexican Surf and Turf, Spicy Chorizo Quesadillas, Monterey Ranch Chicken Tortas, and Fajita Quesadillas.

On the Border also offers many other Tex-Mex dishes, including Dos XX Fish Tacos, Border Queso Beef Enchiladas, Tacos Al Pastor, and Birria Quesa Tacos.

If you want to try multiple dishes at once, you can order their Pick 2 Combo, which allows you to combine two of their most popular menu items, like Dos XX tacos, beef empanadas, and chicken flautas.

5. Cafe Rio Mexican Grill

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill is a Mexican chain restaurant specializing in authentic Tex-Mex food.

There are over 150 Cafe Rio locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

The first Cafe Rio Mexican Grill was opened in 1997 by Steve and Patricia Stanley in St. George, Utah.

From the start, Cafe Rio’s food paid homage to the regional cuisines of New Mexico, southern Texas, and the Rio Grande region of northern Mexico.

Cafe Rio also dedicates itself to serving only the freshest foods, which means they never use freezers, microwaves, or premade food.

The signature dish on Cafe Rio’s menu is Sweet Pork Barbacoa, which you can enjoy as part of a salad, burrito, taco, enchilada, tostada, quesadilla, taco, or even nachos.

Cafe Rio also serves ten signature sauces, ranging from mild roasted tomatillo sauce to spicy fire-roasted habanero sauce.

4. Uncle Julio’s

Uncle Julio’s is a restaurant chain specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine made from scratch.

There are 34 Uncle Julio’s locations in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

From the start, Uncle Julio’s has committed itself to serve delicious, fresh Tex-Mex recipes in a rustic, Mexican-inspired environment.

Uncle Julio’s menu is full of Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, and bowls.

During your visit to Uncle Julio’s, you’ll want to try some of their signature menu items, like Swirl Margaritas or chocolate pinata.

Every Tuesday, participating Uncle Julio’s locations have Taco Bar Tuesday, where you can build your own taco at a discounted price.

3. Rubio’s

Rubio’s Coastal Grill is a Mexican restaurant chain specializing in “Fresh Mex” cuisine, especially fish tacos.

The first Rubio’s was opened in 1983 by Ralph Rubio in San Diego, California.

As a college student, Rubio developed a passion for fish tacos throughout several trips to Mexico.

All Rubio’s restaurants still serve the Original Fish Taco recipe that originally made Rubio’s famous back in 1983.

Rubio’s menu contains delicious Mexican-inspired seafood dishes, including tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads made with mahi-mahi, shrimp, and Atlantic salmon.

If you’d prefer, Rubio’s also offers steak, chicken, and vegetarian options.

2. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is a Mexican restaurant chain specializing in Bajan-style Mexican food.

There are almost 150 Fuzzy’s Taco Shop locations in 17 states.

The first Fuzzy’s Taco Shop opened in 2003 in Fort Worth, Texas.

From the start, Fuzzy’s two specialties have been Baja tacos and chips and queso.

Fuzzy’s menu contains a wide variety of Baja tacos in delicious flavors like tempura shrimp, shredded brisket, spicy pork, grilled Mahi, and fried avocado.

They also sell three kinds of chips with queso: plain queso, queso with beef, and queso with chorizo.

In addition to their signature tacos, chips, and queso, Fuzzy’s also sells burritos, bowls, nachos, quesadillas, salads, and breakfast.

1. Taco Bueno

Taco Bueno is a Texas-based restaurant chain specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine.

There are about 150 Taco Bueno locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The first Taco Bueno opened in 1967 in Abilene, Texas, over 50 years ago.

Taco Bueno’s menu covers all the Mexican fast-food basics, offering different kinds of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads.

In addition, Taco Bueno sells six different kinds of combo meals, allowing you to combine your favorite menu items with a drink of your choice.

Conclusion

If you’re hungry for Mexican food, you’re in the right place. The Mexican chain restaurants on our list serve a vast array of delicious tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas, fajitas, and more.

In addition, these restaurants have locations across the US, so no matter where you are, you’re sure to find a Mexican restaurant that satisfies your craving.

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Last Updated: July 5, 2022

About the Author

Eril Eti is the founder of Shopfood.com and has over a decade of experience in the consumer goods industry. He launched many products for major brands sold at retailers like Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Target, Kroger, Publix, and more.

Eril loves food and sharing his experience with others. Outside of work, you can find him at a hiking trail in New England or playing soccer with his kids.

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