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Desperately seeking good Mexican food in New Haven area

  • r

I've recently moved away from my two favorite Mexican restaurants in
New Jersey and am missing them greatly.

If you know of a good authentic Mexican place in New Haven, Hamden or
anywhere nearby, I'd love to hear about it.


Rudy Vener

Link: http://www.occasionalpoems.com

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  1. Most of the better known places like Su Casa and Cuckoo's Nest are more Tex-Mex then authentic Mexican. (Not that I'm against T-M, I even occasionally enjoy The Whole Enchilada, a "healthy" Mexican joint!)

    For the real thing, try El Charro Alegre or Guadalupe La Poblanita. You can find reviews at the New Haven Advocate site:

    (Yes, I know some readers of this forum don't like the Advocate, but it has better dining info than any other paper.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Don Shirer

      It may not be gourmet dining but the taco trucks down at Long Wharf are pretty good. Tacos beef/chicken $1.00. No Tex/Mex here most menus in Spanish, most customers Spanish. and no cheddar cheese to be seen. Beef taco just beef, onions,tons of cilantro(used like lettuce), seasonings, and this awsomw green sauce from a tupperware container. There are usually 3 trucks weekdays, 2 marked Ixtapa and 1 from someplace in West Haven. The West Haven one is usually the one I eat from. They all offer beef head and tongue tacos but I haven't gotten that adventursome yet.

    2. I second Guadalupe La Poblanita at they're new location at the end of Chapel Street in Fairhaven. The food is great as usual, but in spiffy new surroundings. A large Mexican beer selection. Try the roast goat.

      1. Try Baja on the Post Rd(rte 1) in Orange across from Burlington Coat Factory and alongside Town Fair Tire. It's a dive buy their food is great. The owners wife I heard is Mexican.

        1 Reply
        1. I'll second Baja's in Orange. My favorite Mexican restaurant around (I live in Hamden). Good fish tacos (which is No. 1 for me when it comes to Mexican restaurants). If you're looking for something closer, Ixtapa (on Whitney Ave. in Hamden) is pretty good, too. Not as good as Baja's, but decent.

          2 Replies
          1. re: plriddler

            Baja is terrible. My husband & I adore fish tacos and were so excited. Deeply disappointing. Deep fried fish? What is up with that? And what is a salsa bar??? Gringo fare in the suburbs. Try the Taqueria No. Dos down the road or Guadalupe in Fair Haven. No fish tacos, but at least the food tastes like it should.

            1. re: plriddler

              I just had lunch at Baja's today. It is hard for me to put my finger on a rating for it or whether I will go back soon; probably not premeditatedly. I had many ups and downs while there. I'll try to flesh out this meal and you can decide for yourself.
              First off, I was intending to go to Taquaria #2 but couldn't quite find it and I was running out of time. I had passed Baja so after a while I turned back. It is in a strip and looks a lot like a fast food joint, but it's not quite. You can certainly get food to go. The place has little atmosphere or charm. Kinda a stripped-down, no-frills eatery.
              I think I was surprised at first when I went in and this very pretty but sour-pussed girl said, "whatta you want?" Stunned by her directness and NYC attitude that I said, "food." She said, "here or to go?" I said, "here." She said, "sit anywhere", so I sat. There was about five occupied tables (of mostly two people per), and she was dealing with it all and making drinks. Later, I think her boss came in. She still semed to be handling it all. That might explain her curt attitude and frequent frown. Service was passable but very minimal. At one point I was looking for the little condiment cups so I could try different salsas and she calls out loudly, "what do you want", like I shouldn't have left my desk in class. She gave me one cup when I said what I wanted. So I kept cleaning it out and reusing it. I didn't want to have to go sit in the corner...
              I got a beer reasonably soon and then it took her a few minutes to get around to my order and then it was processed fairly quickly. While eating she came to the bar area, made drinks and splashed water on me. I'm not sure she noticed but she didn't act like it.
              They give you a small plate and a basket of chips. The chips are the hearty (somewhat thick) type. They were OK. At first I didn't realize that you should take the plate and head to the "salsa bar". Once I figured that out I put two salsas on my plate but was not enthusiastic about how they were melding before I had a chance to try each individually. I did not care that much for the medium-mild cooked salsa; IMHO, not as good as Pace. The fresca pico de gallo was quite good. The red, chile sauce was medium heat and had a bitter taste. Couldn't get past the bitterness. The tomatillo (I'm assuming) was so hot I think it had a lot of serranos in it. It was not bad but probably over the top for most people. They also had lots of fresh lime wedges on the salsa bar. Nice!
              The #6 I ordered is a carnitas plate consisting of two, large flour tortillas (too hot to handle), refried beans (with two american cheeses sprinkled on top), rice (fresh and done very well), carnitas (meaning something akin to roasted, pulled pork with a tomato seasoning) and (chuckle-snort) "guacomole". I can hardly control myself because we have just been talking about (on CH) the desecration of guacomole with mayonaise or sour cream! This was sour cream mutilation. I actually asked the waitress/cashier/bartender if it was guacomole and she resoundingly said, "yes!" Friends and comrades, we must rise up against this abomination before guacomole sinks to the lowly condition that home fries are just now resurecting themselves from! This was so sloppy-juicey with sour cream that it was seeping down into the lettuce pile it had been placed on. Just a vague resemblance to guacomole, but (thankfully) it was ok on the carnitas.
              The carnitas meat was alternately slightly dry and stringy to juicy and tender. Mostly it was good though marginally seasoned enough. It was too much for me to eat. I had the second tortilla virtually filled with meat, for a snack later.
              I will say that this is pretty passable food that I think falls in-between authentic Cal-Mex and New England Gringo Mex. I think I might give the edge to Mezcal (and I need to give them a fair shake), or possibly El Amigo Felix.
              This plate cost me $10.50. With the Negra Modello my bill total was $15.50.
              On the way out the waitress chirped, "have a nice day!" I have the George Carlin routine stuck in my head, where he says, "F you" in reply!
              Not that Baja or the waitress/cashier/bartender was that bad. Just that I cannot forget Carlin and those priceless routines...

            2. Guadalupe la Poblanita. It is authentic mexican and a great value; most of the other places are tex-mex

              1. Definitely check out Guadalupe la Poblanita on Chapel Street, in Fair Haven (drive down past Wooster Square, under the highway, and over the bridge - Guadalupe will be on the right, a block or so past Blatchley). Their mole is terrific. It's in an unfortunate location, but easy to get to, and the food can't be beat. Also, try out Tacqueria Mexicana #2, on the Post Road (Rte. 1), just past University of New Haven, in West Haven. It's in an equally unfortunate location, in a small, run-down strip mall, but their food's pretty tasty.

                3 Replies
                1. re: surrys

                  And with just a little more driving (depending on where in Hamden you start), there's Taqueria Mexico #1 in Wallingford on Rte 5. Conveniently located near Chef's Equipment Emporium, where you may be able to buy your own molcajete!

                  1. re: surrys

                    I wouldn't want people to get the wrong idea about Guadalupe la Poblanita's location. It is in a beautiful, stand-alone brick building that is wheelchair accessible. Inside it is much like any average restaurant in New Haven. It is spacious and open. The one anomoly is they do not take credit cards.
                    The neighborhood IS hispanic, and you might say it's in a run down neighborhood, but it's not unlike much of Fair Haven. They have their own private parking lot and we have never had a problem with breakins or being accosted and we are older Gringos. They do have a monitor setup (for all patrons to see), with outside camera views all around the place. This was new to me. If you are drawn to looking at displays, you can watch your car throughout the meal. I don't know if anyone has had a different experience but we feel safe going there. Unfortunate, is that this is the only place to find really authentic, good Mexican food, in New Haven. Unfortunate for us Gringos, it is a little out of the way, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I wouldn't even add "to find cheap" or "to find inexpensive" to this comment, though it is a good value. That doesn't enter into the equation for us. Four of us had (more than) plenty to eat, and a beer apiece, for $56.
                    You can see my post of our meal here, with Passadumkeg @ http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44637...
                    I understand that I will be debated about whether this is the "only" place to get real Mexican in New Haven, but that's fair. Tacqueria Mexicana #2 is my next stop...

                    1. re: surrys

                      My very positive review of take-out lunch from Taquaria Mexicana #2: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/37025...
                      I don't think the location is too bad or that run-down. I think it share a smallish building with a convenience store. It is on the left as you go out Boston Post Road (from New Haven), 3/4 mile (past the University), from 122. It's easy to miss because it, and its sign is tucked back in a corner, obscured by trees. If you are coming into NH it's easy to spot.

                    2. Mezcal on Mechanic St., in New Haven is my personal favorite.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: EastRocker

                        I had a pretty lousy meal at Su Casa in Branford the other night. Fish tacos were bland and mushy. My companions fajitas were also sub par.Shrimp jalepeno poppers had no kick either.
                        I will not be going back.

                        1. re: mmalmad

                          any reviews for Sloppy Jose in the Woodmont section of Milford?

                          1. re: jesoda

                            What a name! Made me laugh. Not sure if I want to eat at Sloppy's....

                            Still have not been to Su Casa but it looks like the consensus on CH is it's not very good and perhaps only passable if you are more into Tex-Mex style.

                            1. re: Scargod

                              Calling the meal I had there Saturday is being kind.
                              I ate at Sloppy Jose's a few years ago, and remember it being good, but I also recall having a few drinks, so don't go by me

                              1. re: mmalmad

                                I really have no idea what authentic Mexican food is, so that’s why I was wondering what everyone thought of Sloppy Jose’s. I have been there twice and both times came home with a quart of their salsa and two bags of chips. By far the best salsa I’ve ever had. Both times I’ve had some type of salad and I have to say that their taco salad was the best taco salad I’ve ever had.

                                Again, I can’t really say if its authentic but it was tasty none the less. And if you do go, don’t get fooled by the appearance of the outside of the building. The inside is much nicer than it looks.

                                And just as a comparison boyfriend and I stopped in for a quick drink at the Senor Pancho’s in Southbury and I thought the salsa was terrible. Very paste like.

                                1. re: jesoda

                                  What is the rest of the food like? I could be mistaken, but I don't think taco salad has any Mexican origin.
                                  If you like it, that's what's important. I grew up on Tex-Mex, but I prefer Mexican or New Mexican.
                                  Is their salsa fresco or cooked? There are any number of styles of salsa. Many authentic ones, are cooked, thin and hot, while Tex-Mex fresh salsas tend to be closer to saucey pico de gallo.
                                  I had a salsa (at a place I cannot recommend) where they used canned tomatoes while the rest of the (measly amount of)ingredients were fresh. It tasted metallic. Was the one you disliked cooked?

                                  1. re: Scargod

                                    I figured as much with the taco salad. I don't really know Mexican food at all so I usually play it safe. The salsa I liked was not cooked, it was very fresh and light and served at room temperature. And I believe the salsa I didn't like was cooked, also served at room temperature. It was on the thicker side, kind of heavy and paste like in comparison to the salsa at Sloppy Jose's.

                                    The chef/cook at Sloppy Jose's came out and sat at the bar. I know he said he made it fresh earlier but I probably should have asked him more about it.

                                    I can see there is a lot I still need to learn about Mexican/Tex-Mex.

                              2. re: Scargod

                                Goodness, the meal I had at Su Casa years ago -- although we are talking 6+ years -- was monumentally bad. I asked for "hot salsa" and after some confusion was given...wait for it...a small bowl of steaming marinara.

                                I kid you not. Maybe they are under new management these days, and I should stop calling them "Su Caca."

                                1. re: hollerhither

                                  Did they do Italian, as well?
                                  I never suggested it was any good; I meant, that of the few comments that exist on CH, most were negative unless equated with Tex-Mex (or fascimile), not real Mex. Now we have one (very old), monumentally negative, new vote.
                                  Six years is a long time. I think, in all fairness, you should revisit and report back. Perhaps you would rename it muñeca caca or poco caca.

                                  1. re: Scargod

                                    No Italian, as far as I know.

                                    Yes, in the interests of fairness, that is why I made a point of saying it was six years ago. I'm not down that way as often as I used to be so I'll leave it to others to report. Regardless, it would take quite glowing reviews to get me to go back there again, particularly as I have found better tex mex *and* mexican food to choose from (relatively speaking, that is).

                                    But wow, it definitely ranks as one of the most bizarre restaurant experiences I've ever had.

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      Ah, but they may have had "mozarella sticks" at the time, hence the sauce on-hand. I made quite a point of asking for hot as in SPICY and got the blankest of all blank looks, from a native English speaker.

                          2. Has anyone been to J's Luncheonette? It is a tiny place on Middletown ave., in New Haven, near the school buses etc. I have often driven by and been curious.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: EastRocker

                              Not another place to try! I just brought food back from Taquieria #2 and it was great!

                              1. re: Scargod

                                i think i am going to take the plunge and check it out tonight. will report back.

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  Scargod, by now you know I am tasteless and as predictable as a trained pig, so I am compelled to volunteer Aunt Chilada's (Whitney Ave., Hamden) into the mix. I can't help myself :)

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Veggo, I require confirmation by other Chowhounders that Aunt Childa's food wouldn't put me into gastrointestinal malaise before I venture back for chow. Otherwise I'm going to stick to a cold one and gazing at the golf course, if I happen to be in the area. SO is going to be today, but I don't think I can convince her to be a guinea pig. She still has recurring nightmares.... :)
                                    PS: I thought pigs were smart?

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      I am one who actually likes Aunt Chiladas...I go for the freshly made salsa with bold tastes of garlic, lime, chilis and onion...Its taste varies- dependent on the season,peppers and tomatoes have fluctuating intensities of flavors and heat.
                                      Any of the dishes with fish or shellfish are what I always order...I have never been let down...
                                      Grilled shrimp 'Santa Fe' is a healthy plate of lime and cilantro grilled shrimp-meaty and fresh.
                                      Tuna Tacos- I get them sans the tortilla...Fresh blackend Tuna w/ blk beans,corn,tomatoes,olives, etc.
                                      The quesadillas and chimis are always good as long as you order them 'fajita' style..
                                      They also make a fine Chili Relleno...
                                      All of the chefs/cooks are 'authentic' Mexicanos...
                                      And they have some kickass frozen drinks...

                                      1. re: cannedpoo

                                        OK, fine. You and Veggo go there and I'll meet you....
                                        Remember, you're the one that likes Su Casa and Ixtapa, too. Though I ate at Ixtapa a number of times I finally called it quits because of (Tex-Mex), mediocrity and inconsistency. There was also the McDonald's w. kids feel at times. Also, this was when I was new to the area and didn't know any better.

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      Good lord no! Rudy, do not go to Aunt Chilada's in search of anything other than a beer and a nice deck.

                                      Sorry to through you under the bus Veggo, but Rudy is clearly a man with a need, and the americanized food at AC might send him over the edge.

                                        1. re: EastRocker

                                          ER and Scargod, enough is enough. I'm calling the ASPCP :)

                                  2. re: EastRocker

                                    Went there with a large party, results varied . . .

                                    1. re: EastRocker

                                      I found one comment about J's Luncheonett on "Restrauntica", which I see has an incomplete list of Mexican restos and very few are reviewed: "The best mexican food I ever had in my life...pure and simple, and I have lived in the Southwest for a number of years. A true Mexican eatery..truly simple food done exceptionally well. we have been there several times ....always the best food , I have never been disappointed...a very well kept secret...I am actually afraid to write a great review, because then a great thing may be ruined...but these folks know what they are doing and do it well. Reasonable prices, exceptional food and atmosphere.. cannot say enough good things about it.. small place though but the atmosphere is amazing it's like going to south Texas for a little while,.just exceptional."

                                      This review sure has me curious though. I may have to wait a few days till the chile level in my bloodstream goes down and my cholesterol level stabilizes.

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Scargod, which restaurant was this review for?

                                        1. re: jesoda

                                          I edited my post to include "J's Luncheonett" and the way it is correctly (or incorrectly) spelled.

                                      2. re: EastRocker

                                        Ok, I went last night to check out J's Luncheonette (48 Middletown Ave, New Haven)

                                        Situated between AMR and a body shop on Middletown Ave., J's i certainly not relying on its looks to draw people in. The service was friendly, it seemed to be a 2 woman operation, a nice older woman taking orders and a younger woman in the kitchen. The menu is fairly short, and interestingly most of the dishes are named with generic english description. ie. Beef Stew, Fried Pork Chop... I ordered 3 tacos for $1.25 each (steak, spicy pork and beef tongue), the Chicken Stew ($7.95), and a Negra Modelo. She brought me some of the thick homemade chips that I love, with a nice thin red salsa. My tacos came out each on a double layer of small corn tortillas with lettuce, onion, cilantro and lime wedges on the side. They were delicious, I could easily eat six. The Chicken stew was a very simple dish with three chicken legs stewed with green beans and carrots, with sides of beans and rice. The stewed chicken was satisfying, but nothing special, just basic home style cooking.

                                        I don't think I will be dragging friends out there for dinner anytime soon, but if I worked nearby I would probably be eating the tacos for lunch twice a week.

                                        1. re: EastRocker

                                          I haven't been to Jalapeno Heaven in about 5yrs.
                                          A little east of New Haven, but I really enjoyed the lunches.

                                      3. I can't find anything here on CH (and I haven't Googled it yet), but I went into El Tapatio, across from C Town Supermarket on Grand, in Fair Haven. It looked nice inside. I took a menu. Looks very interesting. Anyone care to comment?

                                        PS: I bought some really fresh poblanos in C-Town and they have quite a selection of Mexican ingredients, including dried peppers, chorizo and cheeses. I just need to improve my Spanish so I can get better help! Know how ethnicities get stereotyped?
                                        I kept asking for chorizo and (being a gringo), was taken to the salami and assured it was the chorizo!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          Is it possible they had the Spanish style of chorizo? It's kind of dried (which you probably already know) compared to the Portuguese product; though I doubt you could confuse it with salami.

                                          1. re: harrie

                                            There was a bi-lingual speaking (more than I), man who was trying to help me with Mexican cheese. There was confusion when I asked him, while standing in front of the biggest selection of chorizo I have ever seen (around 20), "which he liked best". This question prompted him to walk away (?) without comment! In retrospect, I could see how he might have interpreted what I was saying as sexual inuendo. The hispanic employee then took over and dragged me down to where the (definitely) salami was. This was actually all pretty funny. I ended up picking a chorizo that, visually, looked good...that I hadn't tried before.
                                            Which prompts another question: What's a good (brand of), spicy chorizo? Some I've had were good but some were not spicy and some are more salami-like than what I want.

                                        2. I'm still looking for some input on El Tapatio, a Mexican restaurant!
                                          I went into El Tapatio, across from C Town Supermarket at Grand and Ferry, in Fair Haven. It looked nice inside. It was 11:30AM so there weren't any customers yet. I took a menu and it looks very interesting; they have a lot of authentic Mexican fare that you don't find elsewhere, like flan napolitos, cabeza, shrimp seviche and tlacoyos. Does anyone know anything about it??