Americans love Mexican food. The cuisine of our southern neighbor has been ingrained in our culture since the early 20th century. In many respects, it has evolved beyond its origins to become something uniquely American (think Tex-Mex and giant breakfast burritos).
You can find it anywhere, from just across the border to the farthest corners of our northern states. This presents a great opportunity to explore which parts of the country offer the most for Mexican food aficionados. Which city has the most Mexican restaurants? Are there any preferences for tacos or burritos?
Datafiniti’s catalog of business data is perfect for this question. With the ability to filter for cuisine as well as restaurants with available menu data, we easily found several thousand records to start our investigation. From this initial dataset, we extracted over 100,000 menu items and searched for specific instances of tacos or burritos. Finally, by grouping this data geographically, we were able to compare cities.
Ultimately we found that most major cities (e.g. NYC), as well as cities in the Southwest and California, had the most Mexican restaurants to offer. Cities in Texas, Colorado, and California reign supreme for the most restaurants per capita. In the taco vs. burrito debate, the overall skew of menu items was 56% tacos and 44% burritos nationally. Most notably, cities in Texas offered mostly taco options, while cities in the middle of the country and Northwest offered more burrito options.
To start our analysis, we need to determine which cities have the most Mexican restaurants. Below, we’ve charted the top 25 cities.
As we can see, the largest cities in the country dominate this list. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles hold the top three positions. Cities on the list are from all over the country, though there is an abundance of cities from the Southwest (especially Texas).
This list is a bit disingenuous though, and I’ll explain why. As we said at the beginning, we are looking for the cities with the most Mexican food – when I hear that, I think of independently owned restaurants or smaller chains. This list above includes many fast food and fast casual chains that many taco/burrito enthusiasts would not consider authentic, for example, Taco Bell.
We’ve plotted which restaurants have the most locations in our dataset to illustrate that point.
Taco Bell makes up nearly 20% of the listings, and in total, the top ten (which includes other popular chains like Chipotle) make up 28% of listings. As we continue our analysis of Mexican restaurants, we will want to remove these kinds of places. With the help of additional secondary research, we’ve identified 20+ restaurants that would be considered fast food chains and ultimately will exclude from the analysis. In total, these make up about 33% of our initial records. To clarify, we’ll still include smaller local chains in the dataset.
Now we only looking at authentic restaurants, we’ll determine the restaurant most listings by city.
The rankings are very similar to our previous analysis, but we can see that some cities have jumped up in our rankings. Houston moved up to third while San Francisco, Tucson, and Washington D.C. also jumped up several positions. Cities such as Portland and Phoenix dropped.
Now we want to investigate the ratio between tacos and burritos for each of these cities. We will show which cities you should visit if you’re a fan of either option. We’ve arranged our results from most taco percentage to least. Across the country, the average breakdown is 56% tacos to 44% burritos, and we’ve added highlighting to show when a city skews towards a particular entree.
San Antonio and Dallas, have the greatest percentage of tacos at 84%. Indianapolis has the greatest percentage of burritos at 62%. In general, more cities on our list lean towards tacos. Another interesting trend is that all cities in Southwest, from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, are taco cities. Burrito cities are mostly from the Midwest and West. California has cities in both categories. It appears that SoCal prefers tacos (LA and San Diego), while NorCal prefers burritos (San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose).
Our previous lists were made up of cities with large populations, which would naturally have a greater number restaurants of all kinds. By accounting for population and calculating the number of Mexican restaurants per person, we can highlight some smaller cities with a lot of Mexican cuisine to offer.
Similar to our first analysis, we will list the 25 cities with the most Mexican restaurants, but this time we will look at restaurants per 10,000 residents. You should also note that we are still excluding the fast food and fast casual restaurants that we removed earlier.
Humble, TX has a staggering 7.2 restaurants per 10,000 residents. That is almost about 1.5 times that of the second place city, Littleton, CO with 4.8. In this analysis, we see a lot more small cities from the Southwest and California. Larger cities including Tucson, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Denver still made the cut though.
Now how will these cities compare when looking at their offerings for tacos and burritos? Again we will look at the ratio of taco and burrito options, ordering our list from most taco percentage to least.
These cities seem to lean more towards a particular dish than the larger cities. McAllen, TX is clearly a taco town with 93% tacos. Berkeley, CA is king of the burritos with 68% burritos. Overall, we see that there are a lot more places that skew towards burritos than our previous list. Colorado, in particular, appears to have several smaller cities that have many burrito options. It also appears the trend for cities in Texas to prefer tacos holds true.
Ultimately, we found that if you love Mexican food, you can really find a lot of options anywhere in the country, especially in bigger cities that can provide you with plenty of options. If you’re looking for tacos, head to Texas, southern California, or other Southwestern states. Burrito enthusiasts can find what they are looking for in the rest of the country, especially northern California and Colorado.