Finding good Mexican food in the northeast

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’sreal 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.

PHILADELPHIA


La Lupe’s
1201 S 9th St
Philadelphia 19147
215-551-9920

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).

NEW YORK CITY


Tacos El Paisanito
202 W Fordham Rd
Bronx, NY 10468-5509
(718)329-0278

I stopped by here during a visit with Aileen, Kate & Susan. I don’t think many tourists stop here. They seemed pretty excited about our stop. Excellent tacos, great sauce. I would stop here again.

Taco Mix
Frnt 1, 234 E 116th St
New York, NY 10029
(212) 831-8147

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.

PROVIDENCE

La Lupita
1950 Westminster St
Providence, RI 02909
(401) 331-2444

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.

GREATER BOSTON

Tacos Lupita
13 Elm Str
Somerville, MA 02143
617-666-0677

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?

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Out to Wheaton

We arrived in Wheaton, Illinois yesterday to take my sister, Ashley, back to college, visit with some friends of ours, Madison and Regina, and speak at their church about our ministry with Wycliffe. Our drive out here included a stop at a Stew Leonard’s grocery store in Connecticut (see our blog entry from last year). We wanted Ashley to experience this place. She’s standing in front of the Chiquita banana animatronic lady. Push a button and she’ll sing about the bananas.

Then we stopped in the home of a wonderful couple that is on the Wycliffe Associates hospitality roster. They showed us the movie, The Ultimate Gift while we were at their house. What a great movie!

We made another stop in northern Indiana to see one of my friends from college, Kelly. It was great to see her, her husband Ryan and now their TWO kids! We enjoyed some great Mexican food together. Jeff says this place has the best tacos outside of Los Angeles!

Oh, and check out this row of soda machines in their town. That’s a serious selection of soda!

We hit the ground running yesterday, arriving in Wheaton early in the day, collecting all of Ashley’s stuff for her on-campus apartment and beginning to unpack it. We visited with Madison and Regina today in-between stops at Ashley’s apartment. It’s always great to see them. Jeff has know them for many years. I met them when Madison worked for Wycliffe in Orlando.

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Chocolate & Schmorgesbord!

It’s our last day in Pennsylvania, so we took a little break. We drove by the Hershey’s Chocolate factory. The smell of chocolate was in the air as we drove past.

This area has several Pennsylvania Dutch Schmorgesbords. Jeff enjoys good food, so it was off to the Shady Maple Schmorgesbord in West Earl, Pennsylvania for…lunch and dinner combined.

They had so many things there–ham, fried chicken…even pig stomach! (Yikes…) One of the specialty deserts there was shoefly pie. We both got to try some. Watch the video to see Jeff talking about it.

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Day with Jewel

When we got up this morning, we could finally see where we were. It’s really pretty out here with rolling hills and corn fields. And, it continues to be unseasonable warm. I’m thankful for it, although Jeff can’t wait for it to be cold!

We had an appointment at a church this morning. Then we went to see Jewel who used to work with us in Orlando. She just moved back to Pennsylvania. We got to see where she works, and then we went to her house for dinner. It’s a neat old cape-style house in a park-like setting. All of her antique furniture goes perfect in the house.

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Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania…

We drove today on I-70 from Zanesville, Ohio, through a little bit of West Virginia, and onto the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania. We’re staying at some missionary apartments near the northeast office of our ministry organization. We’ll be in the Pennsylania area for a few days to get some materials at the office, visit with friends and have meetings at a couple of churches.

We stopped for dinner last night at Paul and Corbyn’s house. They were both friends of mine at Evangel. Corbyn was one of my suitemates one year in the dorm where I lived. They have a cute house that they’ve done a great job fixing up. It was so fun to see them. Corbyn made a great dinner for us, which was quite welcomed after so much time on the road. We got to see all four of their kids! They are full of energy. After the kids went to bed, Paul and Corbyn told us about all that’s been happening in the last few years and had us laughing all evening.

-Heather

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