Happy Valley's best Mexican restaurants

STATE COLLEGE – When you’re craving something spicy or a salt-rimmed libation, there’s just nothing like Mexican food. Thankfully, college towns tend toward the cosmopolitan, which means there’s typically plenty of foreign fare to choose from. State College is no different, as Penn State draws in a variety of chefs and recipes from near and far. For the best tacos, burritos, guacamole, and chimichangas on this side of the border, try these State College Mexican restaurants.

1. Plaza Mexican Bar & Grill

At Plaza Azteca Mexican Restaurant, you can taste traditional and Tex-Mex flavors more than 20 years in the making. With its roots in Jalisco, Mexico, the restaurant boasts the freshest ingredients and a menu chock-full of delicious Mexican classics, from guacamole made fresh at your tableside to homemade flan. Stop in for happy hour appetizer and drink specials on weekdays between 4-6 p.m. and for lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day of the week. This year for Cinco de Mayo, Plaza Azteca will be offering live music, sponsored giveaways and a special area for little ones to play.

2. Rey Azteca State College

Family-owned and operated Rey Azteca serves up traditional Mexican fare with three generations of recipe taste-testing and culinary culture behind it. From sweet mole poblano to spicy mole ranchero, there’s a seat for everybody at their family table. If you’re interested in trying a new drink, sip some horchata or Agua de Jamaica hibiscus tea; for something with a newer flair, taste some Jarritos or sangria soda. After dinner, finish your meal off right with a platter of traditional sopapillas or some deep-fried churros rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Voted best in the State College area, Rey Azteca shows exactly what it means to be el rey – the king of Mexican food.

3. Mad Mex

The “funky fresh Cal-Mex” tradition of Mad Mex may come from the West Coast, but it’s quickly made its home in Pennsylvania. Combining classic Mexican flavors with trendy microbrewed beer and health-conscious culinary style, Mad Mex is a new kind of Mexican-Spanish-Southeast Asian fusion restaurant that suits the State College atmosphere perfectly. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, including offerings with Daiya cheese and Tofutti sour cream. If you have a sweet tooth, try their hazelnut churros with creamy chocolate filling; or, if you’re feeling indecisive, mix and match three of their ten dips and salsas with the Pickadippa. Thanks to their generous portion sizes, you’ll go home with leftovers no matter what you order!

4. Yallah Burrito Company

If build-your-own is your thing, head straight to Yallah Burrito Co. for a Mexican-themed dose of meal customization. Born of State College’s own Yallah Taco Stand, this version of Yallah is equipped with enough personalizable, authentic meals to start taking on other fast food Mexican restaurants like Chipotle and Fiddlehead. More meat and sauce options have been added to the restaurant’s already extensive selection, as well as quesadillas, burrito bowls, and salads. With a generous amount of seating and a location that’s more than convenient to PSU, it’s clear that Yallah’s newer location is set to be a Penn Stater fan favorite.

Pennsylvania may not be the first place you think of when you have Mexican food on your mind, but Happy Valley has always been fond of exceeding expectations. If you’re in the mood for margaritas with brunch, or dinner fare that will set fire to your taste buds, visit one of these four fantastic restaurants and find a new reason to be grateful to live in State College.


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