By FresYes Guest Writer Mike Oz
The news hit Fresno like a tortilla truck last week. Chevy’s, that great bastion of Tex-Mex, had closed its doors at River Park. Obviously this created a moment of crisis.
If Chevy’s was your go-to Mexican spot in town, surely you had some questions: Whatever would you do now? Where oh where, in this wonderful city, would you find great Mexican food? How could life go on?
Check this out: you live in Fresno (or Clovis or maybe even Selma or Madera Ranchos or something), which is the land of fantastic Mexican food. We’ve got a baseball team that plays as the Fresno Tacos. We’ve got more taco trucks than you can count. You don’t need no stinkin’ Chevy’s in your life.
Trust me, you don’t. It’s just a chain started by a dude named Warren. Even if you’re really ’bout that chips-n-salsa-with-a-big-ol’-margarita life, you can get that at plenty of other places. So, as a public service to the people living in Fresno A.C. (after Chevy’s, duh), here’s a list of 10 places you can find great Mexican food in Fresno:
1. Literally everywhere
If you want one of those Mexican restaurants, like Chevy’s, where the intention is to make you feel like you’ve wandered into a stereotypical Cinco De Mayo party on Taco Tuesday, then just go to Toledo’s or Plaza Ventana or the restaurant-sized Bobby Salazar’s or Casa Corona. These are quite easy to find and, I guarantee you, they have ample supplies of chips, salsa, and tequila. Heck, just go to El Torito. It’s still open in Fresno and it’s even owned by the same chain as Chevy’s. But you came here for something more specific than “literally everywhere,” didn’t you? Right, so let’s do that.
2. La Elegante
Now let’s say you’re a more adventurous Fresnan and want to really see what’s happening in this city beyond fancy margaritas. Head over to La Elegante in Chinatown for some of the finest tacos and tortas you’ve ever had. I’ve been preaching the La Elegante gospel for literally a decade and just last week Food Network co-signed this spot too. So, if you need that national pat-on-the-back before you try a place, there it is. It’s tiny and you won’t find chips and salsa, but one taste of the adobada and you’ll forget all about that.
Castillo’s is an institution around these parts. Frankly, if you went to Chevy’s when Castillo’s was in your city, you were doing it wrong. It gets packed over there on Ventura Avenue, especially on the weekends, but you don’t get to be an institution if you can’t bring the people.
Pro tip: If you love Castillo’s, live North of Shaw, and don’t want to venture across town, then head to Carrillo’s in Clovis. It’s a recent addition to the Mexican restaurant landscape and — surprise! — it’s family with Castillo’s. Basically, you’re getting the same food in a different zip code.
5. Tacos Tijuana
Back over on Ventura Avenue sits another local jewel — Tacos Tijuana (aka the spot Bernie Sanders visited when he was in Fresno to prove that he was a man of the people). Put your politics aside, because Tacos TJ will make you drool whether you’re liberal, conservative, libertarian or an anarchist. Their red salsa is no joke. If you’re going for tacos, ask for homemade tortillas. Trust me.
Guadalajara is legit, man. When I moved to Fresno, my friends raved about this place and they were right. These days, they have their tiny O.G. location on Weber Ave. and a huge restaurant at Fort Washington and Friant, which is much fancier and right in tune with that chips-salsa-margarita crowd. And that salsa, so good.
7. El Premio Mayor
El Premio Mayor is official Fresno taco royalty. It has won Taco Truck Throwdown three out of the six years it’s happened. So if you’re looking for street tacos or a taqueria-style menu, this should be at or near the top of your list.
8. Papi’s Mex Grill
I haven’t forgotten about you, Northeast Fresno. Papi’s Mex Grill is a nice little spot at Champlain/Shepherd that has fantastic chips and salsa, good food, and a great number of drink options. Translation: It’s better than Chevy’s. The same people that are behind this are behind Taps & Tacos over on Shaw near Fresno State. I can’t vouch for that necessarily, because I’ve never been there, but that’s still good info to know.
9. El Mercado Super
Straight up, if you want Chevy’s, you shouldn’t just walk into El Mercado Super and expect the same thing. It’s not even close, except they do make their own tortillas. But if I’m writing about great Mexican food in Fresno, I want to give you this hidden gem. It’s a Mexican market on Belmont, and the al pastor comes right off a spit. It’s amazing.
10. Tacos, Brews & Jams
This is the point in the article where I get all self-promotey and tell you to come out to Tacos, Brews & Jams at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. It’s a monthly taco party that I organize and each month I feature a different delicious local taco vendor. The January installment is Jan. 19 and it features one of my favorite taco trucks in the 559 — Los Toritos from Selma. I can’t promise you chips and salsa, but Tioga Sequoia has hella craft beer options to make up for it.
Mike Oz is a Fresno-based journalist, taco fanatic, and all-around chill dude. When he’s not covering baseball for Yahoo Sports, he organizes Tacos, Brews & Jams and Taco Truck Throwdown. He also hosts Ozmosis on New Rock 104.1, Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Follow @mikeoz on Twitter and Instagram or follow @TacosBrewsJams and @TacoTruckThrowdown for taco updates.