Fast food in Mexico is way more than just a few McDonalds and Burger Kings scattered around street corners. Food is part of almost every social activity in Mexico, so most restaurants take their time, let you linger, relax, and enjoy.
That being said, there are still tons and tons of places to get fast food around Mexico. Whether you want a taco or two, a bowl of soup, some fried chicken, or a family-style meal, it’s all available, cheap, and ready in minutes.
Just make sure you always have cash on hand for these family-run fast food places around Mexico. While the big chains will accept credit and debit cards, pretty much everywhere else will not. Not only that, but they don’t want your big 500 or 1,000 Peso notes either. Some people will quite literally just say that they don’t have change. Which means you then have to go off and find somewhere to break your note and then bring back change.
Simply ensure that you always have 20, 50 and 100 Peso notes ready for these sort of places.
Fast Food Chains in Mexico
Of course, plenty of fast food chains exist around Mexico that you’ve heard of before: McDonalds, Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Dominos, and more sit-down style places like TGIFridays and Chilis.
But you could stay home for that. Instead, check out some of these Mexican fast food chains to try something a little bit different while still keeping the cost down and getting a quick meal.
If you love fried chicken, or the ever-popular rotisserie chicken (my personal favorite here in Mexico), then you’ll love chains like Pollo Feliz, El Pechugón, and El Pollo Pepe. Those are the big names, but if you’re traveling around Mexico and end up in a smaller town or neighborhood, you’ll no doubt find a locally owned version of these chain restaurants.
In most residential neighborhoods, you’ll discover the “chicken shop” by looking for the open storefront that is covered with barred doors. This is usually to keep pesky dogs and other stray animals out of the shop. It’s full of chicken after all. You go up to the slat in the window and ask for either pollo rostisado or pollo frito. Be aware that around Mexico, fried chicken is often referred to as Kentucky-style rather than frito.
For a sit-down family-style restaurant that gets you in and out quickly, check out Casa de Toño. This is mostly a chain around Mexico City, but you can find it in a few places in other cities around Mexico, too. It’s home to one of the most delicious pozoles you’ll have. They also make great cochinita tacos and a seriously delicious flan. Food comes out almost immediately after you order it, so you can be in and out pretty quick. It’s also very reasonably priced.
A chain that is similar to Casa de Toño in price and menu is Potzolcalli. This is another chain that you’ll find around the larger cities in Mexico. Just like with the chicken places, you’ll also see plenty of smaller non-chain places that have the same menus as Potzolcalli and Casa de Toño. They usually have their menus available on the outside of the restaurants, so just have a look!
If you want some seriously good fish tacos, the chain El Pescadito is where you should head. Tacos are 35 Pesos, which is a bit more than you will pay at a taco stand, but the tacos are huge, so you only need one or two. I highly recommend trying the marlin – it’s smoked and shredded. Then head to the salad bar for coleslaw, a nice selection of hot sauces, and pico de gallo.
If you love wings, look for chains like Las Alitas, Wings Army, and Wings Star. All of them have deliciously spicy buffalo wings as well as tons of other wings options. Every now and again you’ll spot the American chain, Buffalo Wild Wings.
Food Delivery Options in Mexico
Tons of restaurants offer take-out options, especially in bigger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara. Pretty much all of the fast food chains that I mentioned above will have a few tables but also offer take out (except Casa de Toño, I’m pretty sure they don’t do take-out).
It’s become even more convenient now with apps like Postmates, Uber Eats, and Rappi. Those are the most common ones in use around the country and particularly in the larger cities of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. They make ordering fast food in Mexico so much easier.
Simply download the app to your phone and allow it to know your location. Once you have selected your delivery location and added your payment method, the app will show you all of the places in your vicinity that will deliver to you. There are menus to select from, drinks options, and desserts to choose from. You can even have coffee delivered to you in the morning (or like me, when you’re at the hairdressers for hours)!
The Real Fast Food in Mexico
One of the most common quick meals that you’ll find all over Mexico is called a comida corrida or quite literally, running food. This is usually a two or three-course meal that is served at a little family-run restaurant. They give you something like a soup to start, the main meal will include rice, a meat dish, and tortillas. Sometimes you will get a small dessert like rice pudding or jello. Then it is always served with an agua fresca or a freshly made juice.
This is perhaps one of the healthier fast foods in Mexico that you’ll find. They’re also incredibly cheap for the amount of food that you get. They range anywhere from 40 Pesos in small places around the country to up to 85 Pesos in larger establishments around Mexico City.
I’ve read that comida corrida was started as a way to feed men that were out at work during the day and couldn’t get home to have a nice meal with their families. Instead, they would head to a family-run restaurant near where they work so that they could quickly and cheaply get a home-cooked meal without having to be away from work for too long.
In my experiences around Mexico, the menu selection is usually quite varied. The starter soup could be spaghetti soup or bean soup with the most variety usually offered for the main course. There are very rarely vegetarian options, but if there are, it’s usually eggs with beans.
If you’re looking for a cheap place that serves local home-cooked food and does it fast, then you can’t beat a comida corrida in Mexico.
Other Types of Fast Food in Mexico
Is there anything faster than propping up at a taco stand, ordering two pastor tacos, eating them, paying and leaving? This is probably the most popular fast food in Mexico that isn’t though of as fast food. You can be in and out of a taco stand in well under 10 minutes if you have exact change on hand.
How about hamburguesas al carbon? These are my favorite stalls around Mexico to grab a seriously delicious juicy burger that is cooked to perfection. They are cooked over charcoal just like a barbecue to give it that outside char and lock in all the flavor. Simply look for awnings over street vendors that say Hamurgeusas al Carbon.
Just know that often around Mexico, burgers come with a slice of sandwich ham on top. I almost always ask for it without because it’s so salty and I’m not a huge fan of the texture. But if you like ham, then it’s a nice addition to the burger. They’ll usually ask you what sauces you want and there are always jalapeñoes in a bucket to add to the top of the burger.
Another popular fast food word to look out for in Mexico is antojitos. It literally means little cravings, so you can imagine that it’s pretty quick to make them and pretty quick to eat them. Antojitos can be anything from tacos to quesadillas, gorditas, tostadas, tlayudas, and flautas.
You can find antojitos inside markets (mercados), at street vendors, or at weekly tianguis which are outdoor markets that usually only set up once a week. You can also find them at restaurants, but they won’t be nearly as quick or cheap.
Healthy Fast Food in Mexico
Looking for some healthy options? It’s not too difficult in Mexico. There are fresh juice stands all over the country, in beach towns and big cities, that will make you a healthy smoothie. Just be sure to ask for it sin azucar (without sugar). It’s commonly added for flavor, but easily left out when it’s being made.
You can get everything from fresh orange juice to beet juice, to bananas mixed with chia seeds or amaranth (both great sources of healthy fats and plant proteins).
You can also find tons and tons of fresh, in-season fruit in Mexico. Simply head to one of the local markets, which exist in big cities and small towns around Mexico. You’ll likely be able to get really great produce for very little money. If you’re staying at a hostel or in a hotel room without a kitchen, you can ask the vendor to slice it up for you.
In a pinch, you can also find street vendors that will do slightly healthier tacos or tortas (sandwiches) for you. Words to keep an eye out for are nopales (delicious and healthy cactus), frijoles (beans), hongos (mushrooms), or huitlacoche (corn fungus).
For a healthy-ish snack look for elotes or esquites (corn on the cop or in a cup). Just make sure they don’t add all of the mayo on top. It’s delicious this way, but not all that healthy.
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