From burritos and tamales to ceviche and everything in between, Knoxville’s Mexican cuisine is not to be missed.
When an ethnic food becomes a staple of American cuisine, we all benefit from the world’s flavors and cultures. East Tennessee is home to as many Mexican restaurants as any place you’ll visit between here and Ciudad Juarez. Join me as we feature flautas, spotlight salsa, and taste tacos from hearty traditional to trendy new recipes.
Wait? They made a restaurant with two of my favorite things? Soccer and Tacos! I’ve watched hours of international futbol and eaten scads of Mexican favorites at the many Soccer Tacos around Knoxville. Many of my Saturday mornings have included Huevos Al Gusto, wait for it, Con Chorizo! Surprised? Don’t be! And yes, they have Lengua (tongue) Street tacos on the menu for the adventurous. We got a sneak preview of the extensive summer drink menu that’s going to rock your world highlighting rum, vodka, gin, and tequila libations. Possibly the most progressive and unique Mexican menu in town makes Soccer Taco a weekly tradition.
Bearden, Market Square, & Northshore | soccertaco.com
Casa Don Gallo
Casa Don Gallo has a sign above the door and on the wall that says: Love, Tacos and Margaritas. You drop that comma and you have my mantra. I love tacos and margaritas. So of course I ordered the Arroz con Pollo and the CDG version of the Mexican pizza. I treat myself to one Mexican Coca-Cola per year to flash me back to before the New Coke fast one was pulled on us all. It was the perfect compliment to the Ceviche Vallarta consisting of shrimp, avocado, lime juice, onions and cilantro. All types of tacos pervade the Casa Don Gallo menu and the center-standing bar can start AND finish your evening with a panoply of margaritas.
Rocky Hill | casadongallomex.com
Mezclar La Carne. Article over. Thanks for stopping by. Chorizo mention number 2. And, oh, what a mention it is. I kick myself for not entering this wonderful restaurant previous to this visit, but I’ll be back. The art director of this magazine wanted photographs of two entrees per restaurant so I guess I just had to order the amazing Tamale platter. When a tamale has to be smothered into submission with all sorts of chili and cheese, you know they’re hiding something. SoKnoTaco serves tamales just as God intended, plain and perfect, and the cornmeal was straight outta Jalisco. Don’t be me, waste “Kno” time getting to SoKnoTaco.
South Knoxville | soknota.co
Porton Mexican Kitchen
I love when a restaurant you have driven past a hundred times reaches out and grabs you by the taste buds. Nondescript, store-front and not in a high traffic area is where you will find Porton Mexican Kitchen in west Knoxville on Middlebrook Pike. You’re going to see chorizo mentioned several times in these reviews of Mexican restaurants because that’s my jam. On this open faced street taco, mounds of spicy Mexican pork served on a double corn tortilla was perfectly seasoned and swarmed with onion and cilantro and was an absolute delight. And because I’m eating for two (always), the Enchiladas Rancheros were a carnitas lover’s dream. Enter the porton at Porton!
West Knoxville | portonmexicankitchen.net
Habaneros Mexican Grill
If you just want to eat Mexican food served straight up, hot and tasty with no frills, Habaneros is your place. Hearty and bountiful traditional meats wrapped in warm and fresh tortillas with south-of-the-border style side dishes are for the pure traditional Mexican food lover. I could eat refried beans and Mexican rice until the beef chimichanga came home and my plate was flooded with them. This style of Mexican cooking begs for the perfect cerveza and my Modela Especial wasn’t far from my plate. With nightly specials and a fully stocked bar, Habaneros needs to be in your Mexican restaurant rotation.
East Knoxville, Fountain City & Clinton | (865) 253-7754
And Don’t Forget to Visit…
If a tourist shows up in Knoxville and they ask a long time resident where to get some Mexican food, the answer will invariably be Chez Guevara. If there is a Knoxville Mexican restaurant that benefits from word of mouth more than CG, then let me know. It’s not well lit, it’s not known for it’s decor and some might even call it a “hole in the wall” and yet, try to get a table there on a weekend night—or any night for that matter—as they are barely open 30 hours a week. Originally named La Paz, Chez Gee has staff members who have been there for more than 30 years and that has to speak for something in a restaurant that has spoken for itself for so long.
West Knoxville | facebook.com/chez.guevara.knoxville
You don’t often hear the word eclectic linked to a Mexican restaurant, but when you come across tacos that involve octopus, lamb, braised pork collar, duck eggs and several other ingredients I had to look up, all I knew was that I better dive in teeth first. What an awesome experience and my taste buds danced like they’d strapped on a poncho and a sombrero. Tako Taco elevates the concept of elevated Mexican fare to a whole new elevation. And yes, those are octopus tentacles decorating the menu giving you a clue that you are going to experience Mexican like you have never before.
Old City | takotacoknox.com