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wcmckinney

Mexican in the Triangle -- NC

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Editor's Note: This discussion topic is to focus on the better Mexican and Latin American restaurants in the Triangle area of NC. Feel free to add your thoughts about your favorite place here.

A couple of discussions were started elsewhere about Jibarra, a high end Mexican restaurant in Raleigh, and Vallarta, a Raleigh Mexican seafood joint.

Rather than creating a new discussion for every single Mexican and Latin American restaurant in the Triangle, let's consolidate the discussions here..

As a critical mass of taquerias have sprouted up across the Triangle I was wondering if there was a consensus out there as to which one was the best?

I am a big fan of Fiesta on Highway 54 outside of Carrborro though am not sure if this counts as a true taqueria or not (it is the latest incarnation of El Chilango, perhaps the best Mexican restaurant ever to grace Jones Ferry Road in Carrborro). I have had good quesadillas and tortas at the Tienda across the street from the Highway Patrol/State Bureau of Investigation HQs on Old Garner Road in Raleigh, and I was wowed by the diversity on the buffet of Garner's Taqueria Los Portales on Tryon Rd. until it closed.

On the downside the new Taqueria that opened on Peace St. in Raleigh was severely disappointing (Brisas de Acapulco is the name). The meat was stringy and overfloured and the mole sauce runny.

Is there any comprehensive take on these new additions on Triangle cookery?


William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"

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What a great thread! I am going to jot all these down. I love the tacos carnitas from the taco truck that sits outside the indoor flea market on Capital Blvd. They are really nice as well.

Also, one thing I have been doing when forced to go to the regular combo-Mexican joints with friends, I have been ordering the tacos off the ala carte menu with some pretty positive results, as well as Tortas. Las Trazadores on Avant Ferry has some pretty good carnitas.


-----------------

AMUSE ME

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I love Tolero's Taqueria in Carrboro- it's in the old El Chilango space. They have great tacos, tortas, and gorditas, plus a condiment bar with pickled radishes, onions, jalapenos, lettuce, and a number of very good salsas.

My favorite is the Gordita al Pastor- pork and pineapple, spicy and good.

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I'm picking up the discussion after merging several topics.

I'll start with a very brief description of a gem of a restaurant, Los Cuates (4524 Old Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh 919-872-6012). Los Cuates is a non-descript, spartan restaurant in a strip mall a couple of doors down from the Kanki and Red Lobster. The menu is huge, and I must say, the food is incredibly good. I had read Greg Cox's reviews of the joint in the New & Observer, including his recent description of the $3.79 green chile pork burrito, and I had to try it.

You order at the counter, but everything else is delivered to your table. I sampled an adobada (marinated pork) burrito, which appears to be an average-sized burrito until you start to eat it. It's completly filled with pork, and a lot of it -- no rice, no beans, no cheese -- just pork and the remnants of the marinade and salsa.

Even better is the fish taco, an incredible bargain at $2.29 for a large piece of fried cod with the traditional cabbage salad. This is the first decent fish taco I've had at a restaurant in the Triangle.

We also tried the rooled tacos with guacamole. For $2.39 you get three tortillas filled with a small amount of shredded beef, rolled, deep fried, and topped with a boat-load of guacamole and cheese. Again, it's a bargain and very tasty.

The proprietors apparently came from Southern California, so they have both the traditional and Cali-Mex styles on hand. Everything that I saw coming out of that kitchen looked fantastic, including some deep-fried whole fish that was served to a table behind us. I don't know what it was, but I'll be sure to ask about it next time I'm there.

This is exactly the type of restaurant we need to support. Give it a try, and enjoy!


Edited by Varmint (log)

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Every once in awhile, I get home from work a little later than usual and am in no mood to cook. In those instances, Mrs. Varmint and I have several "go-to" places fairly close to our home for take out food. It may not always be the best food in the world, but it's usually fresh and the quality is consistent.

Our regular Mexican place has been a taqueria on Peace Street that has gone through several different owners over the years. I've always relied on this place, as they've been able to make a chicken burrito that has great flavor without trying too hard. How did they do that? By using dark meat chicken that has been slightly browned on their flattop. No tasteless breast meat here.

The place came under new ownership yet again this past fall, and it's now named Brisas de Acapulco. The owners have made the restaurant far more attractive and warm. The menu has been expanded to add lots of soups and stews. But, unfortunately, the owners have caved into popular demands and now make relatively tasteless burritos and enchiladas -- well, at least their chicken is tasteless. I like their soups and stews and highly recommend them, but when I'm looking for take-out, I want a burrito. So I'm looking for a new go-to take-out Mexican joint inside the Beltline. And please, don't suggest Moe's or other Cali-Mex joints.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Based on the recommendation of one of the carpenters working on my remodel, who interestingly happens to have been the ex-sous chef at Frazier's, I have tried the place in the BP station on Capital. Next time I head out there I will get the real name. There are three ladies there running a lunch counter (maybe dinner too, not sure). I found it somewhat hard to order as my Spanish is weak and I had two 3 year olds with me, but all the food was fresh and great. It has been a while since I went, so I can't remember what I had, but will have to try it again and report. But I would recommend it. It is on the right side of Capital going north, before you get to Cookout. I promise to be more specific next time!

Dean, you will have to come to my house....I have been into making my own tortillas lately. I am still practicing, but we are woofing down the results!


Edited by VaNC (log)

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A quick list:

My favorite standby is absolutely Super Taqueria in Durham on Roxboro Rd. I've always liked the place but have found it to be getting better and better each of the last times I've gone and now is basically outstanding. One could make a meal of the garnish bar alone. All the different pickles... The sopes are freaking great as well.

That same neighborhood has two others worth mentioning. Closer to 85 on Club @ Roxboro is a small place that I like to think of the Burgundy of the Taco scene, aboslutely inspired when it's on but very forgetable when it's not. Certainly worth the few bucks one has to lay out for the chance at a truly remarkable taco. That said, the chicarones con nopales is a bit odd even for this lover of pork fat.

Up the road from Super is a Mercado in the shopping center with the Post Office. Old Oxford Hwy dead ends into it. Nice mole, nopales salad and well crafted tacos made by very nice old ladies.

Now for perhaps the coolest Mexican find of the last year for me. Miss Tortilla on Hwy 98 @ Mineral Springs Rd. For starters, they have a really cool, enormous tortilla machine that cranks out very good tortillas. They also have several large chicken rotisseries and serve a ton of great prepared meats by the pound (Carnitas, lengua, beef cheeks, among others). They don't actually sell tacos but do offer homemade salsas and all the fixins you need to make your own. Hit them on a nice spring day and make a picnic at Falls Lake. The orange pureed salsa is an interestingly pickled variety that I've never had outside of Durham. The green reminds me of the thin tomatillo/guacamole that I used to find in the SF Mission District. If I have one complaint, it's that I found a bone in all 3 of the tamales that I tried from there. I usually don't mind coming across the occasional foreign particle, but 3 for 3 was a bit much.

While I'm on Hwy 98, the little place on the left as you're heading out from 70 makes a good breakfast burrito.

Tienda Don Jose in Chapel Hill, while serving nice homemade tortillas didn't impress me as much. I thought the meats were a bit brutish and the garnishes were a bit piqued. Perhaps I caught them on a bad day. Then again, I live in Durham so I just tend to head back to the stand-bys.

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I'm really keen on this BP on Capital Blvd near Cookout, I can think of two BPs in that general area and I'm assuming it is the larger of the two where a shooting took place last year...

Since I've gotten two emails asking about Jiberra I thought maybe I should add something about the experience. I went about two weeks ago and found the experience good, but not great. I think the problem are issues that gobble up most restaurant when the immediately open: a couple kinks on the taste of the food and not quite working out the menu.

Greater detail:

The drinks were wonderful. The pear and cilantro margarita was just right, sublte pear and not filled with green cilantro chunks, but still with a look, feel and taste that let you know what you were drinking. A+

The fresh bread basket was warm and fufilling, my personal favorite was a biscuit like concoction that was stuffed with a cheese mixture. Fresh tortillas were also notable.

Queso Fundido: Good. Cheese was fresh and hot, and the mushrooms, chorizo and spinach were all fine.

Rabbit Flautas: Good bunny in a crispy shell with a tasty adobo sauce around the plate. The lettuce that they rested on would have been better suited for a steak and ale, but they were not bad.

I should note here that all the dishes came out on oblong plates. Jiberra doesn't seem keen on having any normal tableware, which is fine, but noticeable.

Goat Asada: The cabrito was awesome but veyr rustic. I had some ribs and a shank, both tender, both tasty, both messy. The potato gratin was disappointing; soggy, uninspired and not nearly as tasty as the goat. B+

Desert was a Mexican egg nog three ways: served as a shot, as a custard and as a cake. The shot and custard were the best, the cake was good, but better when touched up with the shot and custard...creative presentation.

I think its a little pricey for what you are getting and more main courses should be served with side dishes, but I'm most definitely not throwing out the baby with the bathwater...

Overall grade: B+/A-


William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"

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Anyone been to Super Taqueria lately? I dove by last week on Tuesday or Wednesday at lunch time and they were closed. I was worried that they might have closed. I see there was a mention about the taqueria next to the post office on Roxboro, but what about the new one between Super Taq. and the post office. It is a meat store and Taqeria a block before the post office on the same side of the street.

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Susie and I tried to go to Super Taqueria today at lunch and it was closed. We went down Roxboro a little further to Carniceria Superior Taqueria Mercado, or whatever it's called, and it was open and delicious.


Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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It's more of a burrito place rather than a taqueria, but Carrburritos in Carrboro is a personal favorite. Everything is very fresh, and they have an excellent selection of wonderful salsas, as well as excellent chorizo that is great in almost anything.

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For a quick lunch, I like Salsa Fresh off of Duraleigh. The food is generally lighter and I prefer that at lunch.

There is a bizarre taco truck (like an ice cream truck gone horribly awry) that parks across the street from my building off of Edwards Mill. It serves the construction workers, I got a taco lunch -- honestly not bad. Very crispy shells.

For a greasy, fill-ya-up meal, I like El Rodeo (gross, I know). I've only been to the one in Chapel Hill, but there are others, I believe. Everything is dripping with cheese and grease :wub:

I used to LOVE Wicked Burrito, but I came back from 4 years in NY and they were closed. Health violations???

Of course, you are all to classy to have mentioned my personal (drunken) favorite, Armadillo Grill in Chapel Hill (technically be in Carrboro??)

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For a quick lunch, I like Salsa Fresh off of Duraleigh.  The food is generally lighter and I prefer that at lunch. 

There is a bizarre taco truck (like an ice cream truck gone horribly awry) that parks across the street from my building off of Edwards Mill.  It serves the construction workers, I got a taco lunch -- honestly not bad.  Very crispy shells.

For a greasy, fill-ya-up meal, I like El Rodeo (gross, I know).  I've only been to the one in Chapel Hill, but there are others, I believe.  Everything is dripping with cheese and grease  :wub:

I used to LOVE Wicked Burrito, but I came back from 4 years in NY and they were closed.  Health violations???

Of course, you are all to classy to have mentioned my personal (drunken) favorite, Armadillo Grill in Chapel Hill (technically be in Carrboro??)

I highly suggest/insist that you take a look at some of the places named by others in this thread. There's actually plenty of good Mex in the area and none of it is served at the places you mention (with the possible exception of the "roach coach" that parks near your building).

I don't mean to be elitist about it, thems is just the facts.

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For a quick lunch, I like Salsa Fresh off of Duraleigh.  The food is generally lighter and I prefer that at lunch. 

There is a bizarre taco truck (like an ice cream truck gone horribly awry) that parks across the street from my building off of Edwards Mill.  It serves the construction workers, I got a taco lunch -- honestly not bad.  Very crispy shells.

For a greasy, fill-ya-up meal, I like El Rodeo (gross, I know).  I've only been to the one in Chapel Hill, but there are others, I believe.  Everything is dripping with cheese and grease  :wub:

I used to LOVE Wicked Burrito, but I came back from 4 years in NY and they were closed.  Health violations???

Of course, you are all to classy to have mentioned my personal (drunken) favorite, Armadillo Grill in Chapel Hill (technically be in Carrboro??)

I highly suggest/insist that you take a look at some of the places named by others in this thread. There's actually plenty of good Mex in the area and none of it is served at the places you mention (with the possible exception of the "roach coach" that parks near your building).

I don't mean to be elitist about it, thems is just the facts.

Geez, I'm embarassed at my poor taste :sad:

I have been to many (actually, I think almost all!) of the previously mentioned resturants.

In a shred of self-defense, sometimes you want a quickie lunch during work (ie, Salsa Fresh), sometimes you just want a greasy meal after a long night out with friends when every other place seems to have closed (ie, Armadillo), and well, I actually thought Wicked Burreto was kind of good before it closed, and the taco truck that comes near my building.....thats just weird, you GOTTA try that!!

...I was just adding some places I'd been that were not mentioned!! I kind of like Salsa Fresh, I don't always want a greasy meal.....guess I have poor taste :sad:

....amylou sulks off, in shame, kind of embarassed at her lack of refinement/poor taste :sad: .....

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Ah, don't worry about it amylou, as detlefchef is pretty opinionated about his Mexican. That's the strange thing about this cuisine, is that many of us really don't understand it. We're used to places that have toned it down a bit -- call it gringo-fied cuisine -- so when we try the authentic stuff, it doesn't strike an immediate chord with us. Moreover, many people like the Cali-Mex offerings of places like Salsa Fresh. You shouldn't feel ashamed of what you like, but as you're doing, you should continue to explore.

Let's focus on why certain places are great. What are the special dishes? What distinguishes this place from the run-of-the-mill "Mexican Restaurant from a Kit" joint that are so ubiquitous these days?


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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