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Best Mexican in Philly


philadining
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I found a lot of scattered posts, but no good central repository of our faves.

Many of us are fond of Plaza Garibaldi for enchiladas (especially enchiladas de mole), tacos, bistek, and other homey basics.

Taqueria Veracruzana was the first of the new influx of simple, authentic spots, and remains a great place for tacos and more. And they're open 7am to midnight, 7 days.

There are some mixed feelings about La Lupe and I'll agree that the food has not thrilled me on a couple of recent visits, but it has a great location, an especially nice spot in good weather.

Others are big on Lolita for more upscale, modern preparations.

Despite the skepticism about flashy Steven Starr restaurants, I've always had good food at El Vez. The original chef, Jose Garces, has left to open the Spanish restaurant Amada, but I found one visit after his departure reassuringly consistent with earlier meals.

Thanks to a mention in Michael Kein's Table Talk, I just tried Taco Riendo at 5th and Thompson, one block north of Girard. It's an attractive little place, with most of the usual stuff on the menu, but also some less-common, great-looking soups, stews and specials.

I wasn't all that hungry, so just grabbed a couple of tacos, and they were excellent. One with "Choriqueso" (chorizo and melted cheese) from the regular menu was slapped on the grill for a minute to melt the cheese, so the tortillas had a nice crisp but not-quite-crunchy texture. It dripped florescent red grease down my arms, as it should... thumbs up! The other, from the specials board, was "Carne enchiladas" which was not as spicy as some I've had, but featured nicely tender and juicy freshly-grilled and sliced pork. Served with a wedge of lime, radish slices and and some very tasty red salsa, it made a very tasty dinner. $3.50 each for these particular tacos, but the more basic ones are cheaper.

I liked it a lot, and look forward to trying more.

So, where else do we like?

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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My boss loves Tequila's/Los Catrines, although I haven't been there. We're having our lab's holiday party at Taqueria Veracruzana (previous parties have been at Lee How Fook and Evelyn & Shank's in South Philly).

I'm not sure if this counts, but I've also been a convert to the Mexi-Cali food truck on Spruce between 36th & 37th (weekdays 10something-2ish, noon rush hour has a very long line). $3.75 for the guacamole burrito (sometimes it's the lighter veggie guacamole, but I prefer my full caloried guac) or the potato+chorizo special is yummy too. Other burrito choices include eggplant, spinach, sweet potato, roasted pepper, chicken, roast beef, tofu (I don't know anyone who's tried the tofu and liked it). There's also a nacho chips option, and a tostadas (more salady) option, but really the burrito or chips are my favorites. Salso comes in hot/med/mild, where the hot & med are squirtable sauces, and the mild involves actual tomato chunks. Rich used to be pretty hardcore about not deviating from the menu, but he's been nicer about it lately (he will do hot & mild salsa together)- he's also been learning everyone's names since this summer. Burritos weigh at least 1lb, so be prepared.

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MexiCali also has a small but clean and rasonably nice restaurant at 40th Street and Sansom, just north of the Fresh Grocer.

Nobody mentioned Pico de Gallo on South Street but I've enjoyed several dishes there. The mole isn't my favorite but have liked everything else a lot. My favorite mole is Sabor Latino, which isn't really a Mexican restaurant, but has a Mexican page on their menu, alongside other South and Central American food.

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How quickly we all forget! How about Paloma in NE Philly? Does no one but me remember the lovely DDC dinner we had there? The food was exquisite! Definitely Haute Mexicano, but wonderful.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Went to Mexican Post for lunch today...I know, I know, but its just a few doors from our office, and it was sort of a snow day, and we used to love it there for cheap fake Mexican years ago...

I had a Margarita (for lunch, on a work day! Don't tell anyone!). Sam had a beer. Margarita was as I remember them to be. Not Copa, but okay.

Their salsa is still as fresh and addictive as it used to be, the chips still fried and "moreish" (as in, I have to have more!)

I had Fajitas-steak. The waitress asked how I'd like it cooked! I said Rare. No, I didn't get it Rare, but it certainly wasn't cooked to death! It came sizzling to the table with sauteed onions and green and red peppers. A nice sized portion, enough for two to share, really. It was very good, just lacking any sort of spices. It amazes me how afraid so many people are of spices, and that shouldn't be in places like Mexican food places...It doesn't have to be hot peppery to be spicy! The side dish I barely touched. Two types of plastic cheese, yellow American and white American or Cheddar, some no taste sour cream, a tiny round of no taste guacamole, some no taste plastic tomatoes and no taste iceberg lettuce, along with a couple of no taste tortillas. Bland food. The Fajitas were good, I just left the side plate.

Sam had some sort of old rope dish, or that's what the translation was from the Spanish. It was supposed to be spiced beef. It was okay, with the typical sides of rice and beans and a small mound of sour cream.

$36 plus tip.

We knew what we were getting....I've heard Happy Hour is still fun there though!

And you should see the men's toilet! Sam said its decorated like a dessert scene, with cactus' going down the drain or something. Ceramic/pottery glazed, the waitress said its hand done.

Philly Francophiles

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We knew what we were getting....I've heard Happy Hour is still fun there though!

And you should see the men's toilet! Sam said its decorated like a dessert scene, with cactus' going down the drain or something. Ceramic/pottery glazed, the waitress said its hand done.

Their HH was one of my favorite things in 1995-96.

$1 food (taco shell pizza, taco, quesadilla, or wings), $1 beers (Yuengling, I think Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol and Bohemia too), (roughly)$13 pitchers of flavored margaritas.

Not sure how much of that is still going on.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Sam had some sort of old rope dish, or that's what the translation was from the Spanish. It was supposed to be spiced beef.

I'm guessing this was the Ropa Vieja (Old clothes) because it looks so raggedy. A shredded spiced beef dish, yes?

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Yes, Katie, that was the dish! Ropa Vieja.

Anyway, since we're on a Mexican kick (thanks to this thread), I stopped at Taco Rienda today for a late lunch. That's the little, cute restaurant on 5th, one block north of Girard.

Got take out to bring home. Very pretty, brightly painted, extremely clean, I mean perfectly so....cute little tables, and there was about 5 employees busily prepping, and this was 2:30... While it was being cooked, I talked to the owner, the same handsome guy with the silver hair I used to see cooking at Las Cazcuelas....he's thrilled with the new place, I asked about all his help and Las Cazcuelas... turns out when needed, the employees go back and forth! It's only two blocks. He said there should be a review in tomorrow's paper, was very happy that there was a camera crew in recently and the same reviewer came back a few times (Craig?). I asked about BYOB, he said certainly...they are also open for breakfast and he was touting the Huevos Rancheros. The only difference between this place and Las C. is that he doesn't have nice glassware, he said, which I assumed to mean nice plates also...It's also a bit more informal than Las C. -and, I think, more creative. Las C. was getting to be the same every time, nothing changed...Taco Rienda seems more adventurous. They had items like Beef cheek, Beef Flank, Beef Tongue on the menu, Lamb soup, etc. There are also specials on the blackboard behind the register.

Anyway, came home with an incredible special of the day-a Shrimp Burrito ($7). This was filled with shrimp and rice, very large and delicious. (It wasn't plain rice, can't describe it, but very, very good)-- We also had a Choriqueso which is a chorizo/oxaca taco, and tried something called corn sopes. They were 3 corn steamed tacos topped with beans and cheese, so fantastic! They have a whole section of "steamed" tacos, which I think are softer, not the hard??

There was a side item of extremely crisp slices of radishes and three cubes of the freshest lime wedges. Not sure which dish they were intended for, but used them with all!

-- The three items cost $16. While I was there Chef gave me a taste of this rice drink on the counter. I really wasn't interested (rice drinks in concept don't do anything for me)...this was great! It tasted of vanilla and cinnamon, no rice taste at all, very refreshing!

So forget what I said yesterday about bland Mexican food with no spices or taste. Taco Rienda is super! He uses lots of fresh spices and herbs, very fresh food.

Philly Francophiles

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I gotta get up to this place. I was intrigued when I first read about it and now between you and philadining I'm certain it's on my soon to do list.

That rice drink you had is called horchata, and it's delicious stuff. Kids really like it too. It's like a rice milk dessert almost. Like drinkable rice pudding!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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That rice drink you had is called horchata, and it's delicious stuff.  Kids really like it too.  It's like a rice milk dessert almost.  Like drinkable rice pudding!

Here's one I had in LA at a Oaxacan place called Guelaguetza.

gallery_23992_2179_56355.jpg

I don't know how the ones at Taco Riendo compare, but this one was awesome, served with a spoon because it had little chunks of fruit and nuts in it. Please, someone get one and report back!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Taqueria La Michoacana in Norristown is really good. They have excellent soup and entrees. They also have very good tres leches cake.

I am partial to the tacos at Taqueria Veracruzana especially the chile rellenos tacos, the carnitas tacos, and the chorizo tacos. I had a recent frustrating experience calling there to order take-out. I have ordered from them over the phone many times in the past. I called one week night about a month ago to order and the woman who answered the phone told me she didnt speak English. I had my husband call to order in Spanish and when he said he wanted to order take out she said in English "we dont have that." I havent been back since then because I was pretty angry.

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How quickly we all forget!  How about Paloma in NE Philly? Does no one but me remember the lovely DDC dinner we had there?  The food was exquisite!  Definitely Haute Mexicano, but wonderful.

Paloma aka Le Bec-Mex is reviewed in the 12/15/05 Daily News.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Nobody mentioned Pico de Gallo on South Street but I've enjoyed several dishes there.  The mole isn't my favorite but have liked everything else a lot. 

I've always been pretty happy with Pico de Gallo: it's not the best Mexican in the city, but it ain't bad, either. And it doesn't hurt that it's closest to Center City (1501 South): that fact alone made it a natural for my jet-lagged welcome back to Philly dinner last night. Had the chicken fajitas- the meat was a little dry (I assume they were using breast meat, but it was too dark in the restaurant to see), but it flavorful and cheap, with good guacamole and pico de gallo.

pico de gallo also has good menudo.

Yeah, but only on weekends. I totally could have gone for some menudo last night; oh well.

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  • 3 months later...
Taco Rienda seems more adventurous. They had items like Beef cheek, Beef Flank, Beef Tongue on the menu, Lamb soup, etc. There are also specials on the blackboard behind the register.  ...  So forget what I said yesterday about bland Mexican food with no spices or taste. Taco Rienda is super! He uses lots of fresh spices and herbs, very fresh food.

Happened to be passing by Taco Riendo on Friday, so I popped in. TT's review of the ambience of the restaurant and the friendliness of the owner are spot on.

I asked the owner about the tacos al vapor -- yeah, I know, "steamed tacos". It was the components that intrigued me -- beaf cheek, beef tongue, etc. I opted for a beef cheek, and it wasn't very good. Skimpy portion and bland. And a good deal of it was unchewable gristle. Really underwhelming. I noticed too late that they had sopes, which I would've grabbed in an instant. All the same, I'll definitely give it another try or two. And I'll try the standards to permit a comparison to Taq Veracruzana, La Lupe, et al.

I also passed by El Castillo at 2nd & Thompson (I think, 1 block N of Girard). Anybody have any input on that place?

And I also picked up a menu from Restaurante Acapulco on 9th below Washington. Looks pretty good: basic tacos, picaditas, chilaquiles.

Edited cuz I just found the Acapulco menu on my computer

Edited by cinghiale (log)
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Stopped by Taco Riendo a few weeks ago.

Whatever I had was good, albeit more expensive than it would be elsewhere.

Considering the newly renovations and stuff, not suprised though.

Worthy addition to the scene, especially in that part of town.

I prefer Joe's ??? on 10th south of Spring Garden b/c little cheaper, and I think just as good.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Tried Acapulco last night. Bright, cheery interior -- blue and white tile. Nice floral arrangement at the service stand (might wanna take the celo off the bouquets, though). Had the picaditas (think pizza) and a torta. Asked and received a taste of the chilaquiles (red) -- unfortunately, a cold taste. The picaditas (bean, cream, cheese, onion; 4 for $6) weren't stellar, though they reheated quite nicely this AM. On the other hand, the torta (de milaneza -- chicken, chorizo, avocado, et al.; $6) was quite good, though a tad longer on the grill would've really scored. Flan was more like a cheesecake (?). Only one salsa (green). Nice vibe -- workers, families. Nice service. No problemo w/my BYO beer, either.

Major bad: They've located the dishwasher directly behind the service counter. When you look back into the kitchen, you essentially see just the designee furiously washing dishes. Further in the hinterland, you can glimpse someone rolling tortillas -- put THAT show up front, please! I nearly asked for a tour of the kitchen seeing that distant action.

General nudge: It took forever to get my food here. But not just here: Why does it seem to take so bloody long to get food out of the kitchen at Mexican joints in general? I mean, I once left La Lupe when, half hour in, not one other patron in the establishment, I hadn't receive anything more than chips. Same goes for TV, Garibaldi. To me, this should be the ultimate, ne plus ultra of "fast" food -- delicious, flavorful, healthy... and simple, clear, quick. end rant.

Also, coming back from an architectural installation at the corner of 6/Diamond/Germantown, I passed by Pura Vida (6/Fairmount). Wanted to stop, but gf had to get to her Spanish lesson. Looked inviting, in a pretty contemporary way. A little googling, and seems the Weekly's already been. Read it here. Mmmm, Guatemalan fusion. Anyone been?

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General nudge:  It took forever to get my food here.  But not just here:  Why does it seem to take so bloody long to get food out of the kitchen at Mexican joints in general?  I mean, I once left La Lupe when, half hour in, not one other patron in the establishment, I hadn't receive anything more than chips.  Same goes for TV, Garibaldi.  To me, this should be the ultimate, ne plus ultra of "fast" food -- delicious, flavorful, healthy... and simple, clear, quick.  end rant.

i haven't had that experience at garibaldi, but i have had it at enough other places that i've always wondered if it's, like, cultural or something. like how in french cafes you won't get your check or a refill or anything unless you ask for it--sitting there nursing an empty cup is fully expected.

but who knows. not me, certainly.

next up on my radar, the new place just below washington on 9th, with a big ol' BARBACOA neon sign, with a picture of a goat and CHIVO written below it. a place serving as a consistent source of barbacoa? fantastico.

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Mexico Lindo in New Castle DE is very good. They have a $6.95 lunch buffet that features a variety of taco fillings, as well as 3 or 4 hot dishes that change daily, or you can order off the menu. The lunch choices are around $6.25 and most include rice or beans and salad,

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