The best Mexican food in Phnom Penh

A table covered with the makings for roll-em-yourself tacos at La Cita, in Phnom Penh.

Everything you need for delicious tacos and burritos at La Cita in Phnom Penh.

In case you’re worried that you’ll be giving up the simple pleasures of the Western world when you move to Cambodia, let me be the first to assure you: yes, we do have tacos.

There’s a plethora of California and Texas-style Mexican food in Phnom Penh, which is perhaps one of the greatest advantages to the surprising number of American expats there are in town.

Many Phnom Penh bars offer a Mexican food menu; Garage is at the top of my list — the owner, Jeff, hails from Southern California and cares deeply about the authenticity of his offerings. You won’t find lettuce on his tacos, just heaps and heaps of carnitas and al pastor marinated in pineapple juice, cilantro and onions. At just $3.50 for two, they’re great value.

My favorite Mexican joint in town is La Cita. It used to go by the name La Cita Rendez-vous, which was good for chuckle, but they’ve recently changed the name to La Cita Urban Mex, probably because everyone thought it was a brothel before. The owner, Richard, is from Chile and he’s constantly tinkering with the menu and the marketing of the place. His style is not that of a California taco truck, but it’s delicious. His tacos may be made with flour tortillas but they’ve got the best fillings in town — try the carnitas — and the burritos are even better. Priced at $7.49 for a small (and a small is BIG) the place even satisfies picky Californians who think they know more about Mexican food than you do. They also serve a few Chilean specialities.

Dark horse in town is Viva! I say dark horse not because it’s little-known, quite the opposite. Originally from Siem Reap, Viva! opened a branch in Phnom Penh last year to much ho-humming. The place was known for being boring and bland, and most expats went there for one thing and one thing only: $1.50 frozen margaritas. But I’ve caved in and ordered the wet burrito a few times and it’s actually pretty damn good and only $5.50 (be sure to ask for sour cream on the side for an extra $0.50). They also have $1 tacos which aren’t the best tacos in the world but are quite large and make a good-value snack after a few margaritas.

Garage, 9 Street 110; T: 012 754 763
Viva!, 11Eo Sisowath Quay: T: 093 678 888
La Cita Rendez-vous, 13 Street 282; T: 092 388 123

Edit 10/31/2013: Since this post was written, I have a new favorite, Alma Cafe. Check out the Move to Cambodia review here.

16 Responses to The best Mexican food in Phnom Penh

  1. Mark says:

    It seems that Alley Cat just won’t get a mention from Lina even in the comments. Alley Cat has been producing some of Phnom Penh’s best Mexican since 2002. On the specials board now Gorditas and Tamales!!

  2. Marsha Lilly says:

    Cantina has the most authentic “Baja Tacos” in Cambodia! Even Rubio’s in California can’t compare! Everything fresh with hand made tortillas(!)! Yeah! Who could ask for anything more? Oh well, could mention the great selection of tequillas and margarrrritas too!

  3. Pingback: Review: La Cita Urban Mex, Phnom Penh | Move to Cambodia

  4. Chris says:

    Tried Cantina a few nights ago and thought it was just OK.

    Though the tequila selection was good (viva Hornitos! Though I’d love to find some Tres Generaciones around here…) and the flour tortillas and pico de gallo was tasty I thought the refried beans were really bland. As if they didn’t have any salt or lard in them. Same with the guacamole.

    And yes I am one of those picky Californians from Los Angeles

  5. Sorry you don’t rate the food. We have been making fresh tortillas from masa shipped from the US for 10 years. Any comments are welcome to improve our restaurant. Feel free to drop me a line.
    Cheers, Hurley

  6. Lina says:

    Carlos, you’re right, there’s more than what we mentioned! Although I agree that Cantina is an institution, I don’t rate the food. However, Sharky’s has a lot of great Mexican on the menu. Just down the street on 130 the Empire also does great nachos.

  7. Carlos says:

    Its one thing to not mention Alley Cat but not mentioning Cantina? I mean its only been in about the primest riverfront location for about a decade. I think Casa Lika is pretty good myself. But if you love Californian style nachos with that runny cheese you must try the nachos at Sharky’s! They also do some kind of baked layered enchilda dish, it takes a while to come out but its pretty good. Other notable places for mexican include Lone Star Saloon and Rock Bar at Naga World.

  8. LIka says:

    Dear Lina,

    I really don’t know who u asked at Casa Lika, but i can say that the staff most of them ever tried and they like quesadillas and Nachos or Pizza and we charge them half price from the menu.

    To be honest, we all don’t like mexican food, we like to have pizza and khmer food because we are Cambodian.

    Also, Casa Lika is no policy free food for waitress.

    anyway the half owner is from California
    ( is Yes )
    Ann who is half owner of Casa Lika, she teach the staff how to cook Mexican Food with her best… and she catch up with her friend who from Mexico for the new item
    ( Enchilada ) in 2011, sure she work very hard not just play play like her husband.

    anyway, Casa Lika now is closed, but i am sorry that i can’t make a good burrito for u when you visit us in that moment.

  9. LIka says:

    Dear Rockwell F. Picador ,

    I am Lika who used to ownder Casa Lika,

    Before u talk that i am stole Casa Lika, u should have evident.

    I didn’t stole even one cent from him, my bestfriend ( Khmer women ) bought his half share , we also have a picture hand the money to his wife at Acleda Bank. I will post on Casa Lika facebook page for clarify.

    He finished his contact work in Cambodia and want to move to third country because his wife want to divorce him, before we buy his biz share, he always come to drink at Casa Lika late at night and love the staff…then the problem come up…because i told his wife about this.
    Sure, all the staff know about this and we don’t want him lost face… but because of his anger that i told his wife..everything is going up side down… the story become we stole Casa Lika from him.
    i never bribe the cope … and i am studied Law and i am Cambodia people… Please don’t judge people easily without proof.
    and please shut your mouth from now on.
    I hope you not look down on Cambodian people if you leaving here…
    I really don’t want to tell about his scandal … he always crazy after smoke herb.If i can do the thing such as bribe money to the cop… then i think i should call the trafficking police officer to push him in jail..as long as he smoke and using sth kinda like drug,

    As long as Casa Lika sold out on 24th Feb 2013.

    Even Casa Lika now sold out and shut down… but i hope you not misunderstanding ( Casa LIka ) or perhaps you are Aaron who cheated your chinese wife.

  10. Stephan says:

    You should check out La Taqueria Corona on 51 Street (#14E). All their food is fresh and good, but they especially do a mean beef barbacoa!

  11. Hayley says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention Alley Cat? It is one of the longest running in town a a favorite among many expats.

  12. Lina says:

    I tried Casa Lika a while ago and thought it was terrible. I didn’t know this story at the time, but I asked one of the women working there if the owner was from California (I saw Mission burritos on the menu) and she said yes. After trying said burrito it was clear that no one who had ever eaten Mexican food worked there. I’m surprised they are still open, to be honest.

  13. Rockwell F. Picador says:

    Most of the Mexican food in Phnom Penh is pretty weak compared to what you can get in America. It isn’t *terrible* generally, just not quite right. La Cita has some great vegetarian stuff – their veggie fillings for burritos and tacos are a heaping of roasted vegetables, great. And their Tofu Enchiladas are really good. Think that sounds gross? So did I. But they are damned good, try them. How about … Casa Lika over on 136? Don’t eat there. I know the original owner. He bought the place with a Khmer woman, because you have to do that to set up a business here to some extent. She stole it out from under him, basically bribed cops and ran him off, after he invested all of the money to set up the business. Not the first nor the last time that sort of thing will happen in Cambodia, but don’t reward the people who do it.

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