The Bay Area is blessed with some of the best Mexican food in the nation, and I’m always looking for the best taqueria in each city. In San Mateo, I couldn’t help but notice the long lines in Pancho Villa Taqueria every time I walked past it downtown. Unable to resist the aroma of grilled meats and spicy salsas wafting outside, I caved one day and went in for dinner.
At Pancho Villa, all the ingredients are laid out behind the counter in full view for patrons to see. The ingredients are fresh and service is super brisk. You order your meal, pay at the counter, grab your drink and make a stop at the huge salsa bar before grabbing a seat.
I ordered carne asada tacos with a side of yellow rice and went to fill up on my tamarind agua fresca while I waited for my order to be filled.
The rice was great, the salsas were out of this world, and the agua fresca was, well, fresca. But the steak was dry, to my disappointment. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just that the meat was pretty overdone.
If the word-of-mouth buzz about Pancho Villa Taqueria is any indicator, though, that’s not the norm. Perhaps they had an off batch of carne asada when I visited. In either case, it’s nothing a little salsa couldn’t fix. (Did I mention Pancho Villa has incredible salsa? Oh, I did already? Sorry about that.)
It can be hard to grab a seat during the lunch and dinner rushes, but tables are turned very quickly so it’s worth the wait. As one of San Mateo’s most popular taquerias, it makes a great place for a casual bite to eat.