Sampling The Array Of Mexican Restaurants

Posted on: 25 May 2015

So many restaurants out there tout their "Mexican Food Authenticity", but how do you know when you're getting the real thing and when you're not? When it comes to the perfectly spicy salsa or the melt-in-your-mouth molé, a second rate restaurant just doesn't cut it.

So where, in the spectrum of authentic Mexican restaurants, can you find the real thing? Here's a quick sampling of the food, flavors, and features you might find at each type of restaurant.

The Flaws of Fast Food

Did you think of a few fast food restaurants that use a sprinkling of Spanish, serve their meat with a tortilla, and call themselves authentic? Well, if you want genuine Mexican food, there are some flaws in this option, including:

  • Nacho Cheese: Sadly, nacho cheese didn't really originate in Mexico (or Spain, or Guatemala…). So if it is a main ingredient, it's probably not authentic.
  • No-Mess Options: Mexican food is messy by nature – the beans are meant to spread across the entire plate and into the rice. If your food is perfectly packaged and easy to eat, it just doesn't cut it.

Is any type of fast food considered the real thing? If you think so, you might want to sample a few other restaurants and reconsider your food expertise. Fast food is simply fast food.

Made-To-Order Meals

The next level of food after fast food is the made-to-order meals. These are the ones where you walk through the line and tell the chef what to put on your burrito. Now, these restaurants are probably a hundred times better tasting and closer to authentic than fast food, but let's face it, they're not the real deal either. Here's why:

  • Burritos aren't Traditional: The most noticeable reason these made-to-order meals aren't authentic is that they don't serve traditional Mexican food. They serve imitations of Mexican food. Burritos are the classic example. Did you know that burritos fall into that indistinct "TexMex" category?
  • Homemade Ingredients: Another reason that made-to-order restaurants don't qualify as authentic is that they don't always serve homemade food – and those that do often have a recipe. Have you ever watched an expert make tortillas, salsa, sopas, or molé? All the ingredients are out, but no measuring utensils. They just feel and taste their way to perfection.

Made-to-order restaurants cater to their clients well. They serve good food and, since you choose exactly what goes into your dish – type of beans, spiciness of salsa, etc. – you get exactly what you want. Unless what you want is authentic Mexican food.

Authentic Mexican Food

So here's the deal: if you want authentic Mexican food, find a nice sit-down restaurant. Probably one whose name you are afraid to pronounce because it's Spanish. Look for a few sombreros on the walls, and even more Spanish in the menu. Inhale deeply when you enter this nice sit-down restaurant – do you feel like sneezing for all the chili in the air? If so, you've probably found it. Mexican food is more than a tortilla filled with meat and beans. It's an atmosphere. When you find the right atmosphere, you've found the right food.