Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, is sometimes mistaken for “Mexican Independence Day,” but it’s actually a minor holiday down in Mexico that celebrates a victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with tacos and Mexican food and drink, which means mid-Willamette Valley residents may be on the hunt for restaurants and more.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, here’s a list of the top-ranked Mexican restaurants and taco joints in Linn and Benton counties. We've included both authentic eateries owned by Hispanic families and white-owned establishments directly inspired by Latin American cuisine and ingredients.
Rankings are from reviews on Yelp as of Sunday afternoon. Only restaurants with reviews averaging 4 stars were considered.
From Albany and Corvallis, we chose three restaurants each. Then we picked restaurants from Lebanon, Sweet Home and Philomath, the next largest towns in the area.
We’ve also added for your dining pleasure two businesses without numerous reviews that our foodie friends are absolutely raving about right now.
The options on this list include everything from sit-down restaurants to food carts — and a taqueria located within a gas station market.
Tacos el Machin, 1642 Pacific Blvd. S.E., 159 reviews averaging 4.5 stars.
The storefront for this sit-down restaurant at 1642 Pacific Blvd. may not look imposing, but it’s the favorite of chefs all around the mid-valley for the seemingly simple yet magnificent tacos, which include just a few ingredients and the truth. The business also has a food cart over in Corvallis.
La Roca, 1727 Hill St. S.E., 85 reviews averaging 4 stars.
Los Tequilas, 2525 Santiam Highway S.E., 73 reviews averaging 4 stars.
Dos Arbolitos, 50 West Oak St., 49 reviews averaging 4 stars. “Dos” is numero uno in Lebanon, and a longtime favorite of residents for many dishes, including the delicious tacos. This is run by the family that also owns Taqueria Alonzo in downtown Albany and Corvallis.
Casa De Reyes, 2434 Main St., 24 reviews averaging 4 stars.
Your foodie friend recommends
Cinco Estrellas Taqueria Y Antojitos, Henry’s Food Court, 6435 Old Salem Road, Millersburg, nine reviews averaging 5 stars. This food cart has an array of delights, including the tacos. But might we recommend the tortas, which hit all sorts of satisfying flavor notes and have an amazing mouth-feel with a crisp on the outside of the bread and a gooey, soft center.
TacoVino, 151 N.W. Monroe Ave., 208 reviews averaging 4 stars. This restaurant offers traditional options but also is known for experimental fare that can seem a bit out there on first glance. As the owners have stated, anything that tastes amazing would be amazing in a taco. And that’s led to Brussels sprouts, chicken skin and Dungeness crab tacos.
La Rockita, 922 N.W. Circle Blvd., 119 reviews averaging 4 stars.
Tacovore, 2503 N.W. Kings Blvd., 84 reviews averaging 4 stars.
La Rockita, 1319 Main St., 42 reviews averaging 4 stars. The top spot in Philomath belongs to another of the La Rockita locations, which includes a downtown Corvallis spot, too. This business started along Main Street in Philomath in 1997 as a walk-up stand. Back in the day, it was one of the first mid-valley eateries to offer authentic Mexican street tacos.
Your foodie friend recommends
El Cruzero, 1830 Main St., Philomath, 34 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. This taqueria features Yucatan style dishes including turkey options, and it’s a great example of the diversity that exists within Mexican cuisine. It’s safe to say that there’s no other restaurant like this in the mid-valley — and that’s not because the business is inside a gas station.