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View Full Version : So why can't you get GOOD mexican food outside the Southwest?


Hampshire
10-24-2010, 10:46 AM
Anyone somebody brings up the topic of Mexican restaurants everyone seems to say the "real" or "authentic" or "good" stuff can only be found in places like California and Texas.
Why?
It's not like other parts of the country don't have significant Mexican communities or access to particular ingredients. So why doesn't one of these "authentic" places just repeat it's design elsewhere?
Or is the supposed authenticity of these places overrated and you actually can find great Mexican food in other cities across the country?

beowulff
10-24-2010, 11:03 AM
You can.
There was a very good Mexican restaurant in Maryland (The Alamo, in Hyattsville (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/7/100122/restaurant/DC/Hyattsville/Alamo-Mexican-Riverdale)) - at least as good as some of the restaurants out here. The key is avoiding "chains" - they mostly have miserable Mexican food.

MikeG
10-24-2010, 11:08 AM
Come to Chicago. We've got amazing authentic Mexican food. Whether you want Oaxacan tamales or cochinita pibil, carnitas and nopales, ceviche de pulpo, camarones, or pescado, al pastor as good as anything I've ever had. Then there's Sol De Mexico which has an incredible rotating lineup of moles whether you like plain mole with chicken or mole negro, verde or chiles en nogada at Thanksgiving.

Then there's the mind blowing carne en su jugo at Birreria De La Torre. This specialty soup from Jalisco is one of my most favorite dishes of all time.

OK now I'm hungry:) Think I'll go for some huevos ranchero.

appleciders
10-24-2010, 11:11 AM
Or is the supposed authenticity of these places overrated and you actually can find great Mexican food in other cities across the country?

This is mostly the case. The vast majority of Mexican places in the Southwest are very good, while a majority of Mexican places in the rest of the country may not be very good. But if you search around, you can find good Mexican places almost anywhere. The difference is that in Phoenix, you can assume any given Mexican place is pretty good, while you can't do that in Fargo.

That said, many Mexican places in the northern Midwest severely restrict their use of spices because the local cuisine doesn't include much hot food and many of the natives aren't used to it. You can usually get it spicier if you ask in Spanish, though, so there is a reasonable workaround.

pravnik
10-24-2010, 11:17 AM
I ate at a pretty fantastic Mexican place in Midtown Manhattan last year, Toloache Mexican Bistro (http://toloachenyc.com/media/toloache.html).

twickster
10-24-2010, 11:23 AM
There are a couple of good places in Philly now, which was not the case when I moved back here in '87. Senora's in West Chester is excellent for simple/cheap, as is Cafe Adobe in Roxborough, which is more upscale. I'm not particularly a fan of Johnny Manana's in East Falls, though since it's a five-minute walk from my house I've eaten there more than once.

asterion
10-24-2010, 11:35 AM
Anyone somebody brings up the topic of Mexican restaurants everyone seems to say the "real" or "authentic" or "good" stuff can only be found in places like California and Texas.
Why?
It's not like other parts of the country don't have significant Mexican communities or access to particular ingredients. So why doesn't one of these "authentic" places just repeat it's design elsewhere?
Or is the supposed authenticity of these places overrated and you actually can find great Mexican food in other cities across the country?
I would dispute that you can even find the "real" or "authentic" or "good" stuff in California or Texas. Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex are not Mexican.

drastic_quench
10-24-2010, 11:40 AM
You might as well've titled this thread, "Tell me all about, and vigorously defend, the quality of Mexican food outside the Southwest".

WhyNot
10-24-2010, 11:50 AM
Why do people conflate "authentic" with "good"? I had some crap Mexican food in Mexico, as well as some sublime stuff. Chinese, even more so. Sorry, chicken feet soup may be "authentic", but that doesn't mean it will please my Western palate.

Anyhoo...yeah, what MikeG said. There's some hella good Mexican food in Chicago, from little corner taquerías to five star gourmet cuisine. But actually, the BEST Mexican food I've ever had was in some small town near French Lick, IN. It kills me that I can't remember where!

I disagree with the assertion in the title. Of course you can get good Mexican food outside the Southwest...including in Mexico! :p

Peeta Mellark
10-24-2010, 12:26 PM
Why do people conflate "authentic" with "good"? I had some crap Mexican food in Mexico, as well as some sublime stuff. Chinese, even more so. Sorry, chicken feet soup may be "authentic", but that doesn't mean it will please my Western palate.

This.

Authentic doesn't automatically make it good. You can get authentic American cuisine all across the US, but it's not all good. I've had very good Mexican food made by Anglo-Americans and very bad Mexican food in Mexico itself and every other possible combination in between. Not all Mexicans are good cooks, not all Anglo-Americans are bad at making Mexican food.

And FWIW, the best Mexican food I've ever eaten has all come from the Southeast. :D

Novelty Bobble
10-24-2010, 12:54 PM
Try the southeast! of England. Come to London, Wahaca (http://www.wahaca.co.uk/html/1_restaurants.html) is great, it even has that manky fungus corn stuff that I can't spell but love throwing down my neck. And pickled fish and olive nibbles that are weird and wonderful.

I admit though that that may be a little far.

Tamerlane
10-24-2010, 12:57 PM
Availability of decent stuff seems to be steadily improving. ~20 years ago my folks moved from California to the NYC area and good Mexican was nowhere to be found. They couldn't even find corn tortillas in the local supermarkets. By the time they moved back ~5 years ago, all this had changed. The overall American diet seems to be becoming more cosmopolitan in a broad sense, even away from the coasts.

samclem
10-24-2010, 02:01 PM
Since the OP is about food, let's move from IMHO to Cafe Society.

samclem Moderator

Johnny L.A.
10-24-2010, 02:09 PM
I was spoiled in L.A. Up here, it's difficult to find good Mexican food. My tiny seaside village doesn't have many restaurants. (Four, I think.) But one of them is a Mexican place. I've been jonzin' for Mexican food, but I don't go there. The food is... OK, I guess. Not great, but it won't kill you. It's expensive, though. There's a place called Diego's in Bellingham that I thought was pretty good. It's a long drive from here though, so it's been years since I've been to it.

Friday I went to Mama's in Belltown and bought a taco plate. Shredded beef, fried corn tortillas, and... guacamole. Ar? :confused: OK, I like guacamole. Love it. But it was unexpected. I miss Tito's Tacos in Culver City. They don't have the best Mexican food, but it's cheap and addictive. Better than any taco stand I've come across up here.

Rhythmdvl
10-24-2010, 02:20 PM
Somewhere out in the culinary wasteland that is the mid-west, there is a small cafe that sells both excellent Mexican food (outside the southwest) and delectable pizza (outside New York).

Eventually, they will get the idea to add Mexican pizza to their menu. Eventually, someone will order that pizza.

On that day, the mass of the Higgs-Boson will be calculated, and the Earth will shrink to the size of a pea. But it will be a very good meal.

beowulff
10-24-2010, 03:47 PM
Try the southeast! of England. Come to London, Wahaca (http://www.wahaca.co.uk/html/1_restaurants.html) is great, it even has that manky fungus corn stuff that I can't spell but love throwing down my neck. And pickled fish and olive nibbles that are weird and wonderful.

I admit though that that may be a little far.

Pretty sad that they had to name it phonetically, instead of calling it Oaxaca.

enipla
10-24-2010, 04:04 PM
You might as well've titled this thread, "Tell me all about, and vigorously defend, the quality of Mexican food outside the Southwest".yep, 'Mexican' food in actually, you know, Mexico is not hot or spicy. It mostly consists of chicken (if you are lucky) beans and rice, and lots of fresh veggies and fruit.

TexMex is another thing.

Little Nemo
10-24-2010, 04:11 PM
I've eaten a lot of Mexican food in Texas so I know what the quality of the food is there.

And I've eaten a lot of Mexican food in NY's Hudson Valley region which has a large Mexican community. The Mexican food there is as good as the food in Texas.

Novelty Bobble
10-24-2010, 04:19 PM
Pretty sad that they had to name it phonetically, instead of calling it Oaxaca.

But that is a silly point of view, we anglicise many words. Nothing special about that one.
No different to saying a restaurant is Cantonese or Szechuan.

Easier to say for English speakers that's all.

Ephemera
10-24-2010, 04:38 PM
Try the southeast! of England. Come to London, Wahaca (http://www.wahaca.co.uk/html/1_restaurants.html) is great, it even has that manky fungus corn stuff that I can't spell but love throwing down my neck. And pickled fish and olive nibbles that are weird and wonderful.

I admit though that that may be a little far.

I've always read that Mexican isn't very widespread outside Mexico and the US. How many Mexican places do you know of in your area?

sleestak
10-24-2010, 04:49 PM
Mexican food is pretty complex. I grew up in New Mexico and the Mexican food there is way different that Mexico's Mexican food, vs Texas (TexMex) vs. California (cheese).

I lived back east and was never able to find a decent New Mexican Mexican restaurant. New Mexican Mexican food is pretty much red and green chile. Getting decent green or red chile outside of New Mexico is quite hard, though Arizona has some ok places. California not so much, every time I eat at a Mexican joint out there I fear for my heart, they use a lot of cheese. In Texas, the food is ok for the most part but it seems to be more Tex-Mex than Mexican.

The key to New Mexico Mexican food is the chiles, which only grow well in a certain area of New Mexico. The chiles are the key and are used in just about everything. The only difference between green and red chile is the age, green ripens into red. The standard in New Mexico for chile is Hatch. Hatch has great flavor and the heat ranges from pretty mild to fairly hot. Finding good chile outside of New Mexico can be hard. I had a hard time finding it in Vegas for a while. Now a chain store carries Hatch.

My experience with New Mexican Mexican food back east was that a) it was all pretty mild b) they didn't use nearly as much chile as I expected and c) a lot of places called Tex-Mex Mexican. Finding good chile back east was also hard. All the chile was mild and pretty tasteless. I found one joint that had decent chile but they watered it down so much it sucked.

In New Mexico chile is close to a religion. The state question is 'Red or Green'. Hell, one place makes green chile ice cream, which is surprisingly good.

So finding good Mexican is going to depend first on what kind of Mexican you think is good.

Slee

Dag Otto
10-24-2010, 05:12 PM
Speaking as another New Mexican, Slee has it right. If you are from here and go to a restaurant where the waitress asks if you want red or green 'sauce' you just know that you walked into the wrong place - it's never called sauce here. It's red or green chile. And it's not a matter of semantics, the sauce is never the same (nor anywhere near as good) as chile.

That being said, I have had good mexican food in California and other places, it's just missing chile.

MPB in Salt Lake
10-24-2010, 05:19 PM
I've always read that Mexican isn't very widespread outside Mexico and the US. How many Mexican places do you know of in your area?

It's certainly not very common in much of Western Europe, though there is a "Mexican" place off of Damrak Square in Amsterdam that I have been past many times.

I don't recall seeing any Mexican places in Eastern Europe at all, even though Prague (for example) has many various Asian restaurants (Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese) and of course plenty of Italian or French places, alongside the typical Czech and German bistros that are everywhere.
--------------------------
Growing up in the 1970's in the Mountain Western US, Mexican food was the only common authentic ethnic cuisine available, and to this day it's the only type of food I am really, really picky about. Salt Lake has many EXCELLENT Mexican options, from gourmet regional places to dumpy hole-in-the-wall dives with dirt-cheap yet killer fare, staffed with (and mostly patronized by) Mexican nationals who speak almost no English.

I have tried Mexican food in NYC, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and several other major cities west of the Rockies, and have been disappointed nearly every time---I don't think that means that great tasting , authentic Mexican food is NOT available in those cities, maybe just not as widespread as in places that are a bit geographically closer to Mexico.

Ichbin Dubist
10-24-2010, 05:33 PM
Pretty sad that they had to name it phonetically, instead of calling it Oaxaca.

It's also slightly sad that corn on the cob is talked up as an exotic import only available for a short period of time.

Nearly every small city in New York and New Jersey (and I'm sure tons of other places outside my experience) has small restaurants run by Mexicans and catering to other Mexicans that serve simple fare that's just as good as anything I've had in similar places in California and Texas.

Wendell Wagner
10-24-2010, 05:43 PM
beowulff writes:

> There was a very good Mexican restaurant in Maryland (The Alamo, in
> Hyattsville) - at least as good as some of the restaurants out here. The key is
> avoiding "chains" - they mostly have miserable Mexican food.

There are now better Mexican restaurants right down the road from the Alamo, like La Sirenita and Tacqueria La Placita. (It's only three miles from me.)

In any case, to return the OP, claiming that you can't find good Mexican restaurants outside the Southwest is one of those ridiculous exaggerations that people think they have to make to get people to understand them. They may have done enough research to justify a claim that Mexican restaurants in the Southwest are generally quite a bit better than those elsewhere in the U.S. They don't want to say that though. They feel that unless they wildly exaggerate their point, no one will listen to them.

It's just not true. There are a lot of good to superb Mexican restaurants outside the Southwest in the U.S. They may not be as good on average as those in the Southwest, but they aren't that bad. Furthermore, the quality of Mexican restaurants has been getting better all over the U.S. and less regionally differentiated.

Fried Dough Ho
10-24-2010, 05:47 PM
I grew up in San Diego and during college, we could cut class to dash down to Ensenada for fish tacos. The further away from the border I moved, the more hideous the Mexican food became.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I missed the Mexican food I had access to in San Diego. Now that I live in San Francisco, I miss the Mexican food I could get in Los Angeles.

My only consolation was working the wine industry in Napa and attending the harvest parties thrown by the vineyard crews. Mostly Mexican immigrants, eating their food made me realize there are very few restaurants preparing and serving the authentic food they prepare for themselves. Even now, I don't bother with the "Mission burrito" available in San Francisco...

pulykamell
10-24-2010, 06:01 PM
I have tried Mexican food in NYC, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and several other major cities west of the Rockies, and have been disappointed nearly every time---I don't think that means that great tasting , authentic Mexican food is NOT available in those cities, maybe just not as widespread as in places that are a bit geographically closer to Mexico.

I have to wonder where and when you've been to Mexican in Chicago. As MikeG states, the regional Mexican cuisine in Chicago is quite astonishing. It's as good or better than anything I've had in LA (or anywhere in the Southwest) but with the major caveat that I am much more familiar with where to find various Mexican cuisines in Chicago, given that I live here. So I will keep that in mind. At any rate, I don't think there's any question that Chicago's varieties of Mexican food are up there in quality with anything from California, the Southwest, or Texas.

Novelty Bobble
10-24-2010, 06:02 PM
I've always read that Mexican isn't very widespread outside Mexico and the US. How many Mexican places do you know of in your area?

In the UK most large towns have a Mexican or Mexican influenced restaurant.

Not that I'd vouch for their authenticity but the aforementioned Wahaca is rated very highly.

MPB in Salt Lake
10-24-2010, 06:26 PM
I have to wonder where and when you've been to Mexican in Chicago. As MikeG states, the regional Mexican cuisine in Chicago is quite astonishing. It's as good or better than anything I've had in LA (or anywhere in the Southwest) but with the major caveat that I am much more familiar with where to find various Mexican cuisines in Chicago, given that I live here. So I will keep that in mind. At any rate, I don't think there's any question that Chicago's varieties of Mexican food are up there in quality with anything from California, the Southwest, or Texas.

Well to be fair, I only recall one specific Mexican meal in Chicago and don't remember the name of the restaurant itself. It was not awful, just not anything to write home about.

That said, when I am travelling back east, Mexican cuisine is usually the LAST food I will focus on because A) there is SO much exceptional Mexican food to be had right here at home and B) in the east there is a vast cornucopia of foods that are not well represented in here in Utah, namely authentic Italian or pizza places, quality Chinese food and good ol' greasy Greek-style diners.

To this day Salt Lake City (where the greater metro area has to be 1,250,000+ in population) still only has a small handful of really good Italian or Chinese places, and so when I am spending time in places that are saturated with excellent restaurants that are sorely lacking at home, those are what I gravitate towards.

pulykamell
10-24-2010, 07:16 PM
That said, when I am travelling back east, Mexican cuisine is usually the LAST food I will focus on because A) there is SO much exceptional Mexican food to be had right here at home and B) in the east there is a vast cornucopia of foods that are not well represented in here in Utah, namely authentic Italian or pizza places, quality Chinese food and good ol' greasy Greek-style diners.

Next time you're in Chicago, you should give some Mexican places a shot, but do a little research. That's probably the most diverse and interesting ethnic cuisine in Chicago today. I, too, avoid Mexican when I go out East. But if I find myself in LA, New Mexico, or San Antonio, I'm definitely checking out the Mexican there, even if Mexican is well-represented here in Chicago. LA's Mexican is probably the closest to what Chicago Mexican is like, and the one I like the most outside of Chicago.

While I've been to Salt Lake City, I've never had Mexican there, so I have no idea what it's like. I didn't realize how large the Mexican population was out there, but apparently, you have a decent number out there.

Spoke
10-24-2010, 07:41 PM
It's certainly not very common in much of Western Europe, though there is a "Mexican" place off of Damrak Square in Amsterdam that I have been past many times.

I ate there once on a lark, just to see what Mexican food in Amsterdam would be like. I can't recommend it. It was pretty bland. Not that I am suggesting you can't get good Mexican food in Europe. Maybe you can...somewhere. I haven't had much luck though. I also tried Mexican restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona with disappointing results.

Also, there are plenty of good Mexican restaurants in Atlanta. Plenty of bad ones, too.

MPB in Salt Lake
10-24-2010, 07:55 PM
I ate there once on a lark, just to see what Mexican food in Amsterdam would be like. I can't recommend it.

Heh---I have been this close to trying it on a couple of different occasions (both after plenty of appetite-enhansing activities) and I have backed out each time.

I knew it would be a let down to say the least, so I ultimately decided against it. Amsterdam has plenty of places that I know I will really enjoy, so I couldn't bring myself to settle for something that I was almost certain to be substandard, at least to my personal tastes. (maybe next time I will sit down and have a beer so I can at least check out how the food looks)
--------------------------------------
I don't ever recall even seeing a Mexican place in Barcelona or Madrid, not that I was looking.

And now for some reason, I am seriously jonseing for some chile rellenos and a couple of bottles of Grolsch Pils. ;)

Rick
10-24-2010, 10:38 PM
Anyone somebody brings up the topic of Mexican restaurants everyone seems to say the "real" or "authentic" or "good" stuff can only be found in places like California and Texas.
Why?
It's not like other parts of the country don't have significant Mexican communities or access to particular ingredients. So why doesn't one of these "authentic" places just repeat it's design elsewhere?
Or is the supposed authenticity of these places overrated and you actually can find great Mexican food in other cities across the country?That is because last week the guy that is making your taco in LA was making them in Mexico is one reason. :D
The local restaurant we go to here in the barrio is named El Abuelo. The grandfather. The mothers and aunts are cooking in the kitchen, the nieces and nephews are serving. You won't find this in Chicago or New York.

pulykamell
10-24-2010, 11:03 PM
That is because last week the guy that is making your taco in LA was making them in Mexico is one reason. :D
The local restaurant we go to here in the barrio is named El Abuelo. The grandfather. The mothers and aunts are cooking in the kitchen, the nieces and nephews are serving. You won't find this in Chicago or New York.

You won't find this in Chicago? Are you freaking kidding me? Have you even been to Chicago? Let me just name one place I go to: Xni-Pec, a Yucatecan restaurant in a Chicago suburb. The owner and wife are from Merida and later Cozumel, moved here five or six years ago. Mother is from Merida as well, owned several restaurants out there. Grandmother comes in from Mexico (sadly, she died recently) a few times a year to check on the recipes and general quality of the products. Brother and sister work as servers. Owners, mom and aunts cook in the kitchen.

This is typical. I don't know where in the heck you get the idea that Chicago wouldn't have Mexican family owned and run restaurants. Chicago's got the second-largest Mexican-American population behind LA--1.6 million people of Mexican ancestry in the Chicago metro area. Almost 700,000 of these are Mexican-born immigrants.

even sven
10-25-2010, 01:14 AM
I think you guys don't really understand the scale of Mexican food in the West/Southwest.

Sure, you may be able to find a few good restaurants, but in Mexican-influenced areas of the US, Mexican food is not something special. It's not something you go out for or go out of your way for. It's just what food is. It's like getting a hamburger. Imagine, for a moment, that you moved to a town where if you wanted a hamburger you would have to go out of your way. Imagine if there were just a couple restaurants that could serve a hamburger above McDonalds quality- that even the kind of hamburger you'd get at Denny's is rare. THAT is how we feel.

From my house in Santa Cruz, which was not in a particularly Mexican neighborhood, I could walk to 11 taquerias, of which maybe 5 were reasonably good. This doesn't even count the high-end sit down restaurants or taco trucks. Hell, we had tamale vendors walking down the street. We don't consider it "ethnic food" in the way that, say, Chinese food is. It's more like pizza to us. It's just normal food.

I also never understood the "it's not really Mexican- ZING!' attitude. California was Mexico long before it was America. Mexicans have lived here continuously for pretty much as long as there has been a concept of "Mexico." The American Southwest is a part of the same cultural continuum as Mexico, and has been for centuries. Southwestern US Mexican food was invented by people who identify as "Mexican," and is largely consumed by people who identify as "Mexican." It's just the Northern end of Mexican cuisine, which happens to be across the border.

Mesquite-oh
10-25-2010, 01:47 AM
You can good Mexican food (Tex-Mex or whatever variation you are into) anywhere there are people who know how to cook AND run a restaurant properly. That can really be anywhere.

I am a Hispanic person living near San Antonio Texas. We have a million Mexican restaurants. A suprisingly large percentage of them are not very good. The people running these restaurants may be fantastic cooks at home on a small scale, but don't know how to run a restaurant professionally so the quality of their product is substandard. It may be easier to find a good Mexican restaurant in the Southwest/California, but only because of the shear numbers of restaurants.

pulykamell
10-25-2010, 02:03 AM
Sure, you may be able to find a few good restaurants, but in Mexican-influenced areas of the US, Mexican food is not something special.

Sure, and I argue that Chicago is one of those places, not just the Southwest. I couldn't even begin to count how much Mexican there is within walking distance of my house. Limiting "walking distance" to one mile, I'd estimate at least two dozen places specializing in everything from Veracruzan seafood to Jaliscan birrieria to Guadalajaran tortas ahogada to Zacatecan tacos, morcilla (blood sausage), chorizos of all kinds, menudo, red or white or green posole, handmade tortillas, etc. Steak tacos, brain tacos, eyeball tacos, tacos dorados (deep-fried) stuffed with mashed potatoes, al pastor tacos, etc. And this isn't counting the Mexican bakeries or groceries.


I also never understood the "it's not really Mexican- ZING!' attitude. California was Mexico long before it was America. Mexicans have lived here continuously for pretty much as long as there has been a concept of "Mexico." The American Southwest is a part of the same cultural continuum as Mexico, and has been for centuries. Southwestern US Mexican food was invented by people who identify as "Mexican," and is largely consumed by people who identify as "Mexican." It's just the Northern end of Mexican cuisine, which happens to be across the border.


I agree with you here but, boy, did we have an lively discussion a few months back with a poster from Mexico who completely disavowed those cuisines as being Mexican. I, too, see it as an extension of the norteño culinary traditions.

An Arky
10-25-2010, 05:07 AM
It has something to do with migration patterns. There probably has to be enough of a population to support it. What is happening now is that Mexican folks are becoming more prevalent outside the southwest, esp the midwest/southeast. So, the food is starting to catch up.

Here in the DC area, there's not that much yet. I think it's because the hispanic population here is more likely to be from Central American countries than Mexico, and their cuisine, while good, isn't Mexican.

Wendell Wagner
10-25-2010, 05:17 AM
An Arky, as I mentioned in a previous post, try La Sirenita or Tacqueria La Placita.

WhyNot
10-25-2010, 06:44 AM
That is because last week the guy that is making your taco in LA was making them in Mexico is one reason. :D You won't find this in Chicago or New York.
Wait....whut?

Honey, I volunteered at a community flu vaccination clinic on Friday, and you know what I learned? I absolutely MUST learn Spanish in the next 4 months or move to Iowa. Of 72 patients, 7 spoke English.

You know what else I learned? "Firma aqi, por favor! Si! Gracias!" But gods help us if anyone had, y'know, a medical question. I had small children waiting in line translating for me. :smack:

Ichbin Dubist
10-25-2010, 08:22 AM
That is because last week the guy that is making your taco in LA was making them in Mexico is one reason. :D

I'm with WhyNot. I live in Bumfuck, NY, and it seems like there's at least two dudes from Puebla in almost every commercial kitchen within a 20-mile radius. Not just the urban Mexican places but diners, pizzerias, you name it (well, as long you don't name Chinese). You're underestimating how widespread immigration from south of the border has become up here, especially in small cities and anyplace with significant agriculture.

On the other hand, there is an authentic-seeming and fairly widespread demi-franchise of taco places in NYC whose shops are staffed entirely by Chinese people and which serve really awful, sub-food court crap.

Nava
10-25-2010, 08:35 AM
WhyNot, mamita, Iowa is being invaded by the Hispanic hordes too. You may want to sign up for lessons :) and there's nothing wrong with having the kids translate, people have been doing that for milennia!

WhyNot
10-25-2010, 08:43 AM
WhyNot, mamita, Iowa is being invaded by the Hispanic hordes too. You may want to sign up for lessons :) and there's nothing wrong with having the kids translate, people have been doing that for milennia!

¡Ay, caramba!



;)

Nava
10-25-2010, 08:45 AM
Spanish cuisine doesn't go for "hot" anywhere near as much as Norteño does. Eating around Puebla I was in heaven; when I got taken to a place that specialized in Norteño, or going to Mexican places in Houston, I couldn't eat. Their idea of "no pepper at all" still had way too much pepper for me ("I don't just mean 'don't add pepper but use that pan and thongs you never wash', I mean 'the pan and implements have to have been washed as thoroughly as if you were to use them for surgery'"). So anybody looking for spicy Mexican in Spain will be sorely dissapointed, simply because a restaurant serving those amounts of fire here would be out of business within a month. Whether that will change thanks to our own Latin American hordes or not, time will tell, but most of them are from less-fiery locations.

Snickers
10-25-2010, 09:10 AM
Hampshire, head to Pepito's. Chicago and 48th. I went there two weeks ago - fantastic. No idea how authentic it is, but the food is really good. I think I need to go back.

Acsenray
10-25-2010, 10:32 AM
Eventually, they will get the idea to add Mexican pizza to their menu. Eventually, someone will order that pizza.

On that day, the mass of the Higgs-Boson will be calculated, and the Earth will shrink to the size of a pea. But it will be a very good meal.

California Pizza Kitchen's Tostada Pizza --

Tostada

Southwestern black beans, Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses topped with chilled shredded lettuce, and crispy tortilla strips with our homemade herb ranch dressing. Served with a side of homemade roasted tomato salsa. Also available with grilled lime chicken or grilled steak.

Spud
10-25-2010, 10:38 AM
I had the very best Veal Marsalla I've ever had in Mexico City. Also, two nights ago I had steak poblano which tasted exactly like what I had in Mexico... the difference was in Mexico I asked for Charo beans, and they brought me French fries (because I was the white American in the group... and we apparently all like French fries), but in central Indiana they brought me the beans.

pulykamell
10-25-2010, 10:50 AM
California Pizza Kitchen's Tostada Pizza --

Or Happy Joe's (http://www.happyjoes.com/menu.php?category=3) in Bettendorf, Iowa (and other locations.) Their Mexican/taco pizza is their claim to fame, and they say they're the first to have done it. But Mexican pizza isn't a new idea. I saw frozen "Mexican pizza" in Hungary as early as 1998.

What is kind of fun is the more wacky fusions like Korean tacos (started out West, we've just got one here.) Or, I was over at the owner of the Yucatecan restaurant I mentioned's house the other day for dinner, and his wife was whipping up some tacos. I take a whiff of the kitchen, and it smells like my childhood: smoked meat and onions. They were making tacos with cut up Polish sausage, potatoes, onions, and a little bit of chipotle turning what was basically papas con chorizo tacos into papas con kielbasa tacos. He insisted that this particular concoction must be served on flour, not corn, tortillas. And, damn, they were good! Polish-Mexican fusion cuisine, who whouldathunk it?

JohnT
10-25-2010, 11:07 AM
I am a Hispanic person living near San Antonio Texas. We have a million Mexican restaurants. A suprisingly large percentage of them are not very good...

True: the quality of restaurants as a whole in San Antonio isn't very high, especially low to mid-priced restaurants. It really is a city where the chains are the best option.

Now Chicago and NYC... I just gained 3 pounds thinking about the food you can get there. And Boston.

I have a theory that, as a general rule, north of the Mason-Dixon line people care more about their food than those living south of the M-D line, and it shows in the quality of their restaurants.

I will say, the biggest issue I have with San Antonio Mexican restaurants (and this is likely because I'm a gringo who grew up in the Southeast) is that the cheese dip you find in local Mexican restaurants is cheddar-based, and not the jalapeno-laced queso blanco that I'm used to. And I can't stand cheddar cheeses. So I'm in the bizarre position of whenever I leave SA to go back east, one of the first things I do is find a Mexican restaurant that has my beloved queso blanco.

Spud
10-25-2010, 11:17 AM
Or Happy Joe's (http://www.happyjoes.com/menu.php?category=3) in Bettendorf, Iowa (and other locations.) Their Mexican/taco pizza is their claim to fame, and they say they're the first to have done it. But Mexican pizza isn't a new idea. I saw frozen "Mexican pizza" in Hungary as early as 1998.


There was a Happy Joe's in my home town when I was in High School... they served the first ever I had heard of Mexican Pizza. This was in the late 70's so 20 years prior to your find in Hungary.

An Arky
10-25-2010, 11:21 AM
An Arky, as I mentioned in a previous post, try La Sirenita or Tacqueria La Placita.


Thanks! I will; always on the lookout for some good Mexican! :)

ETA: Come to think of it...I ate at a decent tacqueria in Hyattsville when my band played at the (now defunct, I think) Surf Club...it might have been one of those...

pulykamell
10-25-2010, 11:25 AM
There was a Happy Joe's in my home town when I was in High School... they served the first ever I had heard of Mexican Pizza. This was in the late 70's so 20 years prior to your find in Hungary.

No, of course I know Happy Joe's started in the 70s. I wasn't making the point that Hungary had the earliest Mexican pizza. The point was, it was so widespread and relatively common in 1998 that you could find it even in Hungary.

Spud
10-25-2010, 12:21 PM
No, of course I know Happy Joe's started in the 70s. I wasn't making the point that Hungary had the earliest Mexican pizza. The point was, it was so widespread and relatively common in 1998 that you could find it even in Hungary.

Sorry, didn't mean to sound like I was contradicting you... just trying to set a timeline.

Also I had almost forgotten about Happy Joe's. I knew a guy in High School who may have had a little to drink and smoke before going there. Someone had a birthday so they dimmed the lights, turned on the red flashing lights and sounded the siren. When the lights came back on he was sitting in a pair of very wet jeans. :smack:

Siam Sam
10-25-2010, 11:37 PM
I've always read that Mexican isn't very widespread outside Mexico and the US. How many Mexican places do you know of in your area?

There are Mexican-food restaurants all over Southeast Asia, including one I recently saw in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Have also seen them in Japan and China.

There are several in Bangkok, the best of the bunch at the moment being the American-owned and -operated Sunrise Tacos (http://www.sunrisetacos.com/), with several locations.

Siam Sam
10-25-2010, 11:49 PM
There are Mexican-food restaurants all over Southeast Asia, including one I recently saw in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Have also seen them in Japan and China.

There are several in Bangkok, the best of the bunch at the moment being the American-owned and -operated Sunrise Tacos (http://www.sunrisetacos.com/), with several locations.

Oh, and we even have one place that is actually Mexican-owned and -operated, Tacos & Salsa (http://tacosandsalsa.com/Home.html). A little pricey, but their Saturday-night and Sunday-brunch all-you-can-eat deals are good value. And they carry a range of margaritas not found elsewhere.

even sven
10-25-2010, 11:50 PM
In my experience, Mexican restaurants abroad cater to American tourists, not locals. We had a passable Tex-Mex restaurant in Chengdu, but you rarely saw Chinese people there unless they were with a foreigner.

Siam Sam
10-25-2010, 11:52 PM
In my experience, Mexican restaurants abroad cater to American tourists, not locals. We had a passable Tex-Mex restaurant in Chengdu, but you rarely saw Chinese people there unless they were with a foreigner.

Tex-Mex sucks even at the best of times. Growing up in Texas, and then living in Albuquerque, I could really taste the superiority of the New Mexican fare.

(And as a former decades-long Texas resident, I've never bought into this nonsense of Texas being in the Southwest.)

pulykamell
10-26-2010, 10:05 AM
I've always read that Mexican isn't very widespread outside Mexico and the US. How many Mexican places do you know of in your area?

Budapest has two: Arriba Taqueria and Iguana Cafe. Arriba is a Chipotle-level taco-and-burrito joint (apparently they just added fish tacos to the menu. I'm curious to see what they're like when I'm back in January.) Iguana Cafe is a festive Tex-Mex restaurant, better than the generic middle-American Tex-Mex you find in any random town in the US, but probably not what the OP would consider "GOOD" Mexican. It was passable, however, and better than the Mexican I've seen elsewhere in Europe, like they had homemade chorizo that actually tasted like chorizo and was spicy. Most any other place I've been to didn't know anything about chorizo unless it was the Spanish sausage (which is different.) And no ketchup or weird sweeteners in the salsas. (Of which they had three: a pico de gallo, a rojo, and a verde.)

As for who they cater to, my experience is that in Europe, "Mexican" has the same sort of cachet as, I dunno, an Ethiopian restaurant may have here. Sure, there's some draw for the expats, but it's more of an interesting, exotic place that you take your date to on a Friday night.

pulykamell
10-26-2010, 10:07 AM
Tex-Mex sucks even at the best of times. Growing up in Texas, and then living in Albuquerque, I could really taste the superiority of the New Mexican fare.

I wouldn't go quite that far, but my preference is to New Mexican over Texan. Now that's a cuisine I haven't been able to find a decent outpost of outside of the New Mexico area.

Dogzilla
10-26-2010, 10:28 AM
You can good Mexican food (Tex-Mex or whatever variation you are into) anywhere there are people who know how to cook AND run a restaurant properly. That can really be anywhere.

I am a Hispanic person living near San Antonio Texas. We have a million Mexican restaurants. A suprisingly large percentage of them are not very good. The people running these restaurants may be fantastic cooks at home on a small scale, but don't know how to run a restaurant professionally so the quality of their product is substandard. It may be easier to find a good Mexican restaurant in the Southwest/California, but only because of the shear numbers of restaurants.

I was going to say that some of the best -- and worst -- Mexican food I've had has been in San Antonio. (The company I work for is located there; I get to go a couple times a year.) Since I discovered "good" Mexican food (Some being Tex Mex and some being full on Mexican) in San Antonio... I haven't been able to find anything that comes even remotely close in North Florida. Even in restaurants run by Mexicans. I've gotten to the point where I just don't bother.

ETA: After reading this thread, I am now looking for a job in New Mexico.

Kevbo
10-26-2010, 05:14 PM
Just have to mention the aptly named "Senior Gringo's" in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I refused to try it, but those that did confirmed it was every bit as dreadful as it sounds.

ThelmaLou
10-26-2010, 06:27 PM
One time about 15 years ago, we were traveling in Alaska and really really really needed some Mexican food. Stopped in a place on the side of the road, not expecting much, but desperate. The food was fantastic- just like home. Actually better than home... Turns out the guy was from Laredo, God bless him.

Hmmm... could use some right now... 'scuse me.

gazpacho
10-26-2010, 07:39 PM
I wouldn't go quite that far, but my preference is to New Mexican over Texan. Now that's a cuisine I haven't been able to find a decent outpost of outside of the New Mexico area.I have a good story about new Mexican food. I grew up in New Mexico and as this thread shows we are an opinionated lot when it comes to food.

My brother in law recently taught a class in Albuquerque and asked the class where to go to eat. All 30 people in the class had strong opinions about where to go. Sadie's vs. El Pinto vs Los Cuates etc. Red vs. Green. Was Sadie's better 20 years ago when it was in the bowling alley? When I saw him a few weeks later he said that he always thought it was just my sister and myself that went on and on about New Mexican food. It is all of us.

GameHat
10-26-2010, 08:28 PM
Come to Chicago.

I strongly agree. Even way out in the suburbs there's lots of good Mexican (though admittedly mostly at the cheaper end). The suburb I work in is over 40% hispanic; mostly Mexican (by my guess).

There are three taquerias that I frequent. All within 5 miles from where I work. All very cheap. All really good. For me it was a bit jarring at first to be the only anglo in a place; I got over this really quickly because the food is so damn good. You know I had never even heard of Posole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posole) until I moved here? My god, that's up there for the world's best comfort food.

Labrador Deceiver
10-26-2010, 08:45 PM
I have a theory that, as a general rule, north of the Mason-Dixon line people care more about their food than those living south of the M-D line, and it shows in the quality of their restaurants.



That's the most hilariously incorrect thing I've read all day. I can't wait to share it with my Southern friends. The ones from New Orleans, especially.

sleestak
10-26-2010, 09:44 PM
I have a good story about new Mexican food. I grew up in New Mexico and as this thread shows we are an opinionated lot when it comes to food.

My brother in law recently taught a class in Albuquerque and asked the class where to go to eat. All 30 people in the class had strong opinions about where to go. Sadie's vs. El Pinto vs Los Cuates etc. Red vs. Green. Was Sadie's better 20 years ago when it was in the bowling alley? When I saw him a few weeks later he said that he always thought it was just my sister and myself that went on and on about New Mexican food. It is all of us.

MMMMM Los Cuates Green Chile Cheese Fries MMMMMMMMM :: begins drooling :::

Those are probably the most unhealthy things I have ever eaten but damned they are good.

Red is nice but green is the bomb.

I prefer the original Los Cuates*, though Sadie's rocks. I am meh on El Pinto. Garduno's was pretty good for a while as well but I heard they got all jacked up due to a divorce/lawsuit/one partner ripping off the other/etc.

I have a theory that, as a general rule, north of the Mason-Dixon line people care more about their food than those living south of the M-D line, and it shows in the quality of their restaurants.

I am also going to have to totally disagree on this. The issue, I think, is that until recently a lot of food south of the Mason-Dixon line was considered just food, not fine cuisine. I know that for a long time Mexican and New Mexican was viewed differently than Italian. Italian was *real* cooking while Mexican was something you got at Taco Bell. I do know that in New Mexico there are huge debates about which Mexican places are the best and people are very picky. Then there is the whole cilantro debate**. And the red vs green debate can turn into a war....

Slee

*Los Cuates is bizarre. The first store they opened is a little diner kind of place. The second store they opened is much nicer, a full restaurant kind of feel. The odd thing is that the two stores are directly across the street from each other.

** Cilantro tastes like soap. It is evil.

pulykamell
10-26-2010, 10:37 PM
I grew up in New Mexico and as this thread shows we are an opinionated lot when it comes to food.

To be fair, that's not particularly unique to New Mexico, though. Any area with a proud food culture is going to be pretty damned opinionated when it comes to local foods.

Siam Sam
10-26-2010, 10:40 PM
Now that's a cuisine I haven't been able to find a decent outpost of outside of the New Mexico area.

Ain't that the truth. I have fond memories of Tomasita's in Santa Fe, and I remember back when Sadie's in Albuquerque was just a bowling-alley diner, before it opened it's spiffy huge new place next door to the bowling alley. People used to crowd into the bowling alley just to wait for a table in Sadie's and to hell with bowling! (I think the quality steyd the same when they moved, too.) Introduced the wife to those places and more. Must be many other good restaurants there now since my day. Mmmmmm.

As for finding Mexican food outside of the the US and Mexico, I recall eating Mexican in Kathmandu. Or was it upcountry in Pokhara? Maybe both!

And there used to be a halfway decent joint in Bangkok called Tia Maria's. Lasted 15 years or more, and we think it may have been some sort of drug-money laundering front or something. A large place, I don't think we ever saw more than four tables filled at any time. Usually just one or two others. Once when my friend came down from upcountry, he and I and our wives whiled away a good two hours there during dinnertime on a Saturday night, and not one single other person came in. But it kept on going. Finally cloed down about five years ago maybe. It was actually not bad.

Siam Sam
10-26-2010, 10:46 PM
I have a good story about new Mexican food. I grew up in New Mexico and as this thread shows we are an opinionated lot when it comes to food.

My brother in law recently taught a class in Albuquerque and asked the class where to go to eat. All 30 people in the class had strong opinions about where to go. Sadie's vs. El Pinto vs Los Cuates etc. Red vs. Green. Was Sadie's better 20 years ago when it was in the bowling alley? When I saw him a few weeks later he said that he always thought it was just my sister and myself that went on and on about New Mexican food. It is all of us.

I think Sadie's quality stayed the same when it moved, but I don't know about nowadays. Is Baca's still there? On Central, not too far from the university. The food was not bad, but I especially liked sitting in the back room, the bar area, where they had this stunning giant 17th-century (I think it was the 17th) handcarved bar that someone had shipped over from Europe. Italy, I think it was.

Aestivalis
10-26-2010, 10:57 PM
Sure, you may be able to find a few good restaurants, but in Mexican-influenced areas of the US, Mexican food is not something special. It's not something you go out for or go out of your way for. It's just what food is. It's like getting a hamburger. Imagine, for a moment, that you moved to a town where if you wanted a hamburger you would have to go out of your way. Imagine if there were just a couple restaurants that could serve a hamburger above McDonalds quality- that even the kind of hamburger you'd get at Denny's is rare. THAT is how we feel.


This is the key right here. If it's considered "ethnic" food by the majority of patrons, it's not likely to be as good as if it is just considered a normal meal. This is why the Mexican restaurants will generally be better in Mexican neighborhoods, which goes the same for the Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Jewish, Polish, Czech, and African neighborhoods I've been to (and that's just in Chicago and suburbs). The more natives of that ethnicity clamoring for that kind of food, the more competition there will be among restaurants to deliver better food.

Now this doesn't mean that it will necessarily fit your non-native palate, but that's another conversation altogether. For example I hate going to the chain Mexican joints in Texas for work-related events, but I'm happy when I'm trying to find restaurants, dives and taco trucks that serve the community. You might not like sweetbread, tongue and tripe tacos, but I will go out of my way for some good ones.

EvilTOJ
10-27-2010, 04:35 AM
Pretty sad that they had to name it phonetically, instead of calling it Oaxaca.

Most everyone would pronounce it "O-axe-akka" except Mexicans.

Bridget Burke
10-27-2010, 07:46 AM
...Now this doesn't mean that it will necessarily fit your non-native palate, but that's another conversation altogether. For example I hate going to the chain Mexican joints in Texas for work-related events, but I'm happy when I'm trying to find restaurants, dives and taco trucks that serve the community. You might not like sweetbread, tongue and tripe tacos, but I will go out of my way for some good ones.

I don't hate going to Pappasito's for a work related event. Because that means somebody else is paying. Their margaritas are fine & I've never gotten sick there.

On my own dime, I'll go to neighborhood places like Teotihuacan (http://teotihuacanmexicancafe.com/). Taco trucks (http://www.robbwalsh.com/2009/03/houstons-top-10-taco-trucks/) are OK, even if you have to elbow your way through the foodies. Pico's (http://www.picos.net/) is worth the trip to Bellaire & Hugo's (http://hugosrestaurant.net/index.html) is great when I'm feeling rich. Some chain places are OK because they are well managed (& of course the kitchens are full of Mexicans) & some "authentic" places are crap. At least we've got a huge choice down here. But more Mexicans living outside the Southwest means good food can now be found in unlikely places.

Calvin Trillin said he preferred Mexican restaurants that served tripe. Even if he didn't eat it, he considered its presence on the menu a good sign.

ralph124c
10-27-2010, 08:47 AM
Mexican food is pretty complex. I grew up in New Mexico and the Mexican food there is way different that Mexico's Mexican food, vs Texas (TexMex) vs. California (cheese).

I lived back east and was never able to find a decent New Mexican Mexican restaurant. New Mexican Mexican food is pretty much red and green chile. Getting decent green or red chile outside of New Mexico is quite hard, though Arizona has some ok places. California not so much, every time I eat at a Mexican joint out there I fear for my heart, they use a lot of cheese. In Texas, the food is ok for the most part but it seems to be more Tex-Mex than Mexican.

The key to New Mexico Mexican food is the chiles, which only grow well in a certain area of New Mexico. The chiles are the key and are used in just about everything. The only difference between green and red chile is the age, green ripens into red. The standard in New Mexico for chile is Hatch. Hatch has great flavor and the heat ranges from pretty mild to fairly hot. Finding good chile outside of New Mexico can be hard. I had a hard time finding it in Vegas for a while. Now a chain store carries Hatch.

My experience with New Mexican Mexican food back east was that a) it was all pretty mild b) they didn't use nearly as much chile as I expected and c) a lot of places called Tex-Mex Mexican. Finding good chile back east was also hard. All the chile was mild and pretty tasteless. I found one joint that had decent chile but they watered it down so much it sucked.

In New Mexico chile is close to a religion. The state question is 'Red or Green'. Hell, one place makes green chile ice cream, which is surprisingly good.

So finding good Mexican is going to depend first on what kind of Mexican you think is good.

Slee

Same here-I used to go to Albuquerque on business a lot-so I loved the local food. Nobody outside of New Mexico makes chiles rellenos correctly, and I haven't seen sopapillas anywhere here (Boston, MA area). I wonder if I could opena a new Mexican restaurant here?
Anyway, there is a very good Mexican place in Braintree, MA (the owner is from Sonora).
But New mexican..no.. damn, I'm hungry for some pozole and sopapillas now.

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