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From casual taquerias to romantic white-tablecloth spots, the North Shore has Mexican food for every mood. Here are some of our top picks for cuisine that takes its cues from south of the border.

Agave Mexican Bistro, Newburyport

At this mainstay, fresh hand-cut tortilla chips, local fish, and marinated meats are always on the menu, alongside more than 125 tequilas to explore neat or in a specialty margarita. The creative drinks list is updated seasonally, and might include anything from a Texas twist on an Aperol Spritz amped up with grapefruit-infused vodka to local craft beers. Pair your libations with an extensive menu that runs through all the classics, from ceviche made of local halibut to burritos, tacos, mole poblano, and chef’s specials like a Caribbean-style seafood plate with a honey-lime glaze. The cozy multi-level interior includes a bar that is popular with locals and visitors alike.

50 State St., Newburyport, 978-499-0428,

Agave Mexican Bistro | Photograph by Rachel Kloss

Barrio Tacos + Tequila + Whiskey, Salem

Barrio offers thousands of tacos – and that’s no exaggeration. Perhaps you’d like a hard corn tortilla with tofu, smoked cheddar, Barrio Slaw and cilantro pesto? Or maybe you’d like slow-cooked braised short rib on a “Bombshell,” which sandwiches queso and crumbled bacon between a hard corn shell and a soft flour tortilla. Don’t worry – an order pad at every table lists all the options and helps keep everyone’s choices straight. Most of the menu is gluten-free, from the crispy sweet potatoes to the super spicy Barrio Secret Sauce, and vegans and vegetarians will find a wealth of choices too. Barrio makes mulling the variations pleasant, with free house-made chips and salsa, and a cocktail list that includes libations made with 100 percent agave tequila, of course, alongside a deep selection of whiskey drinks.

41 Lafayette St., Salem, 978-594-8854,


It’s all scratch-made at this Mex-Cali restaurant swimming in L.A. vibes, featuring the cuisine of chef Franco Lozano III, who grew up on the West Coast and learned to cook from his mom and abuelita. Explore the menu for tasty treats like Mexican street corn, a burger blended with beef and chorizo, empanadas, and, of course, nachos. Or get a tray of tacos and burritos – we’re big fans of the fish tacos –grab them with two hands because they’re loaded with battered cod, cabbage, pico de gallo, and secret house-made Baja sauce. Vegetarians will be pleased to find several choices, including a carb-delight stuffed with tater tots. Most entrees come with bottomless rice and beans to make it a meal, and, not surprisingly, the cocktail menu does amazing things with tequila – but they also have Mexican Coke for the teetotalers.

93 Main St. (interior courtyard), Andover, 978-409-2119,

Howling Wolf Taqueria

Marking more than a decade of fiesta-all-the-time, Howling Wolf keeps the party going with gentle prices, scratch-made food, and delicious margaritas. Vegetarians (and avocado-lovers) are well-served with the avocado fries, which are also available as a taco filling, while indecisive omnivores should try the Tres Amigos platter, stacked with grilled chicken in salsa verde lime sauce, carne asada with grilled scallions, and grilled shrimp with mango chile sauce, served with guacamole and rice and beans.  The tequila-focused cocktail list is always on point – combine that with late-night half-price appetizers, and the good times never have to stop.

76 Lafayette St., Salem, 978-744-WOLF (9653),

La Victoria Taqueria

Stop by this tiny storefront for freshly prepared Mexican street food, one of three locations by Veracruz, Mexico-native Alex Barrientos. The service is fast and efficient, prices are gentle and the results are delicious. Tortas – Mexican sandwiches made on Telera bread and topped with bean puree, queso Oaxaca, and chipotle mayo – are the specialty, with fillings including smoked ham and pork carnitas, beef barbacoa, and chicken cutlet. Burritos, quesadillas, and tacos are also on offer – be adventurous and try the beef tongue. No booze here, but it’s more than made up for by the tasty selection of Mexican sodas and horchata.

6 Wallis St., Beverly, 978-969-2228,

Metzy’s | Photograph by Mark Manne

Metzy’s Cantina

Executive Chef Spencer Thomas sees connections between techniques and flavors he’s used throughout his career, using them to create a menu of elevated options, like the house-cured salmon entrée, paired with a fresh pickled Fresno pepper/tomatillo salsa and a parsnip salsa verde. The classics are similarly on point, with subtle changes that brighten and sharpen the flavors – beans are cooked in umami-laden dashi, refried beans are enlivened with a hint of soy sauce and yuzu. Tortilla chips are hand cut and fried in house, yielding a sturdy platform for a platter of nachos topped with barbacoa. Regular live entertainment and a menu of cocktails that eschew premade mixers draw a friendly crowd to this rail station hot spot.

5 Boston Way, Newburyport, 978.255.7347,

Port Vida

Newburyport’s newest restaurant, in the former Brick and Ash space, takes a seaside spin with a menu of Mexican seafood dishes alongside more traditional offerings. Order a tuna appetizer, fill a taco with lobster, octopus, or fried haddock, or try Zarandeado, a traditional Mexican coastal dish featuring a choice of grilled octopus, salmon, red snapper, or shrimp smothered in adobo. Of course, landlubbers have a full slate of choices as well, from braised pork and guajillo-rubbed grilled T-bone steak to Birria, a Jalisco-style beef stew. Flights of tequila or margaritas allow imbibers to explore the vast drinks menu, while zero-proof options include beer and agua fresca. Two cozy floors indoors with exposed brick and chic booths, and a summertime outdoor patio invite lingering.

10 Center St, Newburyport, 978-225-7773,

Sin-A-Loa | Photograph by Anthony Tieuli

Sin-a-loa Tacos + Tequila

Nearly the entire menu at this spot devoted to scratch-made Mexican street food is meant to be consumed with your hands, from the street corn dripping with crema and cheese to the overstuffed burritos. Drawing inspiration from Austin, Texas – a hotbed of south-of-the-border cuisine – the menu of tacos, quesadillas, and burritos may look familiar, but the flavors offer a fresh burst of culinary prowess. The open airy space itself is built for fun, with a front row seat to the newly rejuvenated Salisbury Beach Visitor Center and forthcoming carousel. Margaritas and mojitos are available by the glass or the pitcher, beer is available by the bucket, and the churros are made fresh to order.

3 Broadway, Salisbury, 978-961-7310,

Sunset Club

The team behind Newburyport’s beloved Paddle Inn and a trio of Boston-area favorites keeps things easy-breezy with a tight menu of creative cocktails and Cali-Mex food at this spot housed in a former auto repair shop. A vast outdoor space features marsh views, a firepit and heaters, 14 picnic tables, two bocce courts, cornhole, Jenga, and a sandbox and play area for the kids. Even the indoor space is full of fresh air and views – the large bar is positioned perfectly to look at the sunset, and garage doors let the ocean breeze in. In an impressive feat for kitchen built in a shipping container, nearly every part of every dish is made from scratch.

4 Old Point Rd, Newbury, 978-255-1016,