Because he grew up in Los Angeles, Jeff’s experienced a host of good Mexican food. I grew up having an about once-a-year taco dinner, eating chips and salsa, going once or twice to Casa Lupita (Mexican restaurant that used to be in Warwick, RI) and then Taco Bell came to Woonsocket when I was in high school. Those were all good, but I hadn’t yet really experienced great Mexican food.
I went to Mexico in November of 2000 and searched in vain for some of the Mexican favorites I knew. I didn’t find them, but I did find a lot of great foods that I really loved. So, when I met Jeff, I was ready to experience the Mexican food he liked.
Shortly after we were married, he started making me tacos (not like I’d ever had), enchiladas, burritos… I’ve never been the same.
We’ve spent part of this year traveling in the northeast, and we’ve been searching whenever it was possible for some good Mexican food. Not Taco Bell…not Don Pablo’s…real Mexican food. We’ve been looking from Philadelphia to Boston. Finding good and truly authentic Mexican food has been a challenge. There are more Mexican eating establishments here than when I was I younger. Some of them even say “authentic” on their sign, but we’d define many of them as tex-mex restaurants in disguise (trust me, there is a difference). However, we have found a few gems. Our test food is carne asada/bistek (steak) tacos.
How do we distinguish an authentic taco from a tex-mex one? We look for soft-corn tortillas, meat (chopped steak, shredded and seasoned beef/chicken/pork and other meat like lengua), onions, cilantro and occasionally fresh jalapeno, tomatoes and/or guacamole on top. Hard shells, flour tortillas, cheese, lettuce or hamburger usually signal to us that the tacos aren’t the real thing.
All of these places offer great steak tacos for between about a dollar or two.
The sign on the front of their building reads, “The very best Mexican in Philly”. We think they’re right. What did it for us? Homemade corn tortillas. They have a full menu (sit-in or take-out), including a nice selection of Mexican sodas. This restaurant is located close to Gino’s (a famous cheese steak eatery).
Bronx, NY 10468-5509
Located in Spanish Harlem, their tacos were made in the authentic style (soft corn tortilla, meat, onion and cilantro). Their meat was seasoned slightly different than we’re used to, but it was still very good.
You’ll find this place in the Olneyville section of Providence. They have excellent tacos, and they sell Sangria soda. This non-alcoholic drink is my favorite Mexican soda.
13 Elm Str
Somerville, MA 02143
They serve both Mexican and Salvadorian dishes. Great tacos. We’d first tried another place up the street just over the Cambridge line because we’d read so many great reviews on it. This Chipotle-like restaurant had nice decor but only OK Mexican food. They substituted roast beef for steak (but still called it steak), and had skimpy-sized burritos. The real Chipotle is much better. Thankfully, we found Tacos Lupita, and our trip wasn’t wasted. The decor was not as nice as that other restaurant, but the food was far better.
Have you found any great Mexican food establishments in the northeast?