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Cal-Mex vs. Tex-Mex vs. "authentic" Mexican?

  • r

Can someone explain the difference between the three for me? I realize that Mexico is a vast country with a large variety of regional dishes, but this seems to be a topic that generates some confusion on various Chowhound boards.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. j
    John Whiting

    Before launching yet again the perennially recycling debate on authenticity, take time to go back to early March, on this very board, and look at what has already been posted, including an ironic and perceptive anecdote from Russ Parsons. Also look at the brilliant essay by Rachel Lauden, one of our greatest living food historians, whom Russ commissioned to write on the subject last December.

    Link: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

    4 Replies
    1. re: John Whiting

      www.outlawcook.com has a link to a series of articles called "A History of TexMex" by Robb Walsh. Good reading!

      This discussion reminds me of the fact that I am still looking for sopapillas in the Pacific Northwest area! I try and make up for this lack every time we visit the Southwest!


      1. re: ElizabethC
        John Whiting

        This is essential. I've saved them all into my permanent file. We should all stop and read this series before uttering another word.

        1. re: John Whiting

          I didn't see the link on the page Elizabeth referenced. Perhaps they did an update. Found the author's home page with a link to the series on TexMex

          Link: http://www.bayoudog.com/walsh/main.htm

      2. re: John Whiting

        Just noticed that this is from 2002, when the Times had their now sadly lamented Food section. Eleven years later, that link doesn't work.

        The woman's name is Rachel Laudan, not Lauden, and I have a wonderful book of hers on Hawaiian food called "The Foods of Paradise." Very highly recommended.

        Okay, back to the Mex Debate …

      3. A rather concrete differentiation, since you are aware that within Mexico there are numerous regional cuisines, has to do with the primacy of corn. In Tex-and Cal-Mex styles, the flour tortilla is as important, if not more important than tortillas made from corn masa. Lime-treated corn is the base upon which Mex-Mex cuisine is built.

        1. In addition to other posters I agree with, it seems to me "authentic" Mexican is as varied as the regions and lifestyles in Mexico.

          It seems to me that "authentic" Mexican include frijoles (refried pinto beans), chorizo, lots of melted cheese, hot chili-peppers, corn, barracuda, albacore, halibut; Tex-Mex is the grilled fired foods (blackened fish, etc.), roasted vegetables, dry spices, black beans, that powdery white cheese that sort of tastes like parmesan (sorry about the courseness!), hominy; and Cal-Mex has many more fresh vegetables (incl., tostadas, taco salads), not as many pickled or cured vegetables), fresh fish and chicken, and less use of heavy lard. I would say Cal-Mex is an attempt to use indigenous ("authentic") Mexican fares into a more healthy-style diet. I think Tex-Mex uses more beef products (i.e., Steak Asada) as Cal-Mex has more abundance of Pacific Ocean fish.

          There are two women (their name escapes me just now) on TV who have opened two restaurants in California named "The Border Grill" and I would later research to see if they define the trilogy. I think they are Cal-Mex.

          BTW, REP, how long have you heard the terms "Cal-Mex vs. Tex-Mex vs. 'authentic' Mexican?"

          5 Replies
          1. re: kc girl

            The two women are Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feinegar. I think their show is called "Two Hot Tamales". Both gringos, but very successful with their south of the border restaurant.

            1. re: Chino Wayne

              They also did the food styling for the movie "Tortilla Soup". I rented the movie recently to see if the food looked as great on the small screen as it did on the big one. While it still looked fabulous, it looked even better on the big screen of the movie theater.

              1. re: Gayla
                russ parsons

                they are both great cooks and great folks, but i would hardly call border grill typical cal-mex. rather, those restaurants are closer to what rick bayless is doing in chicago--contemporary recreations of "mex-mex."

                1. re: Gayla

                  I haven't seen the movie yet, but I came across this article that features an interview with the chefs and links to recipes they used in the film. A friend of mine tried the Tortilla Soup recipe and gave it a thumbs up.

                  Link: http://www.homestore.com/food_recipes...

                  1. re: Macy U.

                    I saw it on an even "smaller screen," i.e. the UAL in-flight entertainment monitor on an older 777 in BC.

                    Still, the food DID look good, and it appeared to be better than what was served on that flight to LHR.


            2. Okay, if we could forget about the postmodern quibbles about the nature of authenticity, it seems that there is a real point to be made. A couple years ago, my wife and I moved from Dallas to Chicago, and we found the differences between "Mexican" restaurants in the two locales to be dramatically different. After myriad attempts in Chicago, we realized that, unbeknownst to us, our infatuation in Dallas must have been with Tex-Mex, because we certainly weren't getting it here.

              Now, I'm not talking about higher-end Mexican fare, like Frontera/Topolobambo, or even Monica's Aca y Alla in Dallas. That is wonderful food, but it is a different creature from the standard menu of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, et al., off which a satisfying dinner for two can be had for about $20-$25.

              The first difference we noticed between Dallas and Chicago was the chips and salsa, and mostly the chips part. In Dallas they were usually thin and crispy, in Chicago thick and crunchy. The Dallas salsas were almost always hotter. Among the entrees, the primary difference seems to be the sauce--saucier in Dallas, drier in Chicago. Also, it seems corn tortillas are more prevalent in Chicago, flour in Texas. Returning to the "authenticity issue" Chicago Mex joints seem much more likely to call themselves authentic; in Dallas, an authentic Mexican restaurant was one where only Spanish was spoken, only Spanish was on the menu, Spanish-language soap operas were on TV, Spanish-language CDs filled the jukebox, and most if not all of the diners were Mexican. I thought the food was usually sub-par, but in hindsight, maybe it was just Chi-Mex.

              Point is, can anyone clarify these (American) regional differences regarding the preparation of Mexican food--are there others?

              6 Replies
              1. re: Aaron D

                I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "..(American) regional differences". I agree with you, this is not about Mexican high cuisine, but about simple comfort food. I also believe that the different interpretations we may find, in say southern California, Arizona, Texas or Chicago, are really the response of the restaurants in these locales responding to local tastes and prefernces, or at least, the restaurants' perception of the local prefernces. Kind of "a what ever sells to the masses is what I will sell".

                I think that is why in The Dining Wilderness That Is The Inland Empire (Chino, California and surroundings) where I live, you will find the absolutely worst "white bread" Chinese food anywhere, except for Santa Fe, New Mexico.

                1. re: Chino Wayne
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  Not to be overlooked in American regional variations and adaptations of Mexican food is the fact that the Mexican immigrant populations in different parts of the US generally hail from different regions of Mexico, and there's a great deal of regional variation in the cuisine of Mexico.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Yeah, all of these comments seem to indicate that it will always be an adventure, as it should be.

                2. re: Aaron D
                  russ parsons

                  Rick Bayless says chicago has some of the best "authentic" mexican restaurants in the country because the immigration is so recent. In border states (n.m., ariz., tex., calif), when immigrants come north, they fit into an existing social structure and part of what that structure does is tell cooks "you can't get that here, use this instead." in chicago, there is no similar tradition. folks from mexico use what they used in mexico--and thanks to modern transportation, getting those ingredients isn't a problem.

                  1. re: russ parsons

                    Gotta disagree here. In Texas, the history of Tex-Mex is that Texans who had been to Mexico (mainly deer hunting) would eat a fair portion of appetizers while they drank their margs and beers. Then, they'd come home and ask cooks at local restaurants to re-create the anjotitos (appetizers) they'd had in Mexico. Knowing Texans have an affinity for "goopy" food, these local cooks went heavy on the smooth melt and the chili, and were successful.

                    I would argue that the "authentic" Mexican restaurants have been here all along, just not in the parts of towns that non-immigrants frequented. The immigration has always bee constant and strong in Texas; it's just that only recently have folks down here become truly interested in the true "ethnic" food of our soouthern neighbor. BTW, Fonda San Miguel, the bastion of true "interior" Mexican cuisine in Austin has been dishing it up for over 20 years.

                    1. re: russ parsons

                      Thanks, that confirms my hunch. I never really saw how anyone could live on a regular diet of Tex-Mex food, and what I've had up here, though it didn't initially satisfy my Tex-Mex cravings, seemed like a more "normal" eating experience.

                  2. My first experience with "Mexican" food was at a dive called "Mama Garcia's" behind the Stanford campus. I was fresh from Washington state and tortillas and frijoles hadn't made it up there yet (this was quite some time ago.)

                    Mama Garcia served tacos - crisp-fried ones - containing spicy mystery meat (probably some hamburger-chorizo concoction). They also contained shredded lettuce and a little tomato salsa, as I recall. I LOVED them! At Lake Tahoe there was a taco truck at the beach which made similar tacos. Later, in San Jose the same type of crisp-fried tacos were prevalent, plus enchiladas smothered in a mild, rather creamy red sauce.

                    In 1969 I visited a friend in Phoenix and had chimichangas for the first time. I have never seen them in Mexico, and even now, you rarely see them in California.

                    So, for me, Cal-Mex is crisp-fried tacos, and enchiladas drowned in mild sauce. Arizona-Mex is Chimichangas with some sauce on top and guacamole on the side.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Sharuf
                      John Whiting

                      "In 1969 I visited a friend in Phoenix and had chimichangas for the first time. I have never seen them in Mexico, and even now, you rarely see them in California."

                      They've been well-known in San Diego for at least twenty years.

                      1. re: John Whiting

                        I was born and raised in San Diego, and just moved back this past October after having been gone for 25 years. Chimichangas were not around when I grew up. I'm not quite an antique yet , Chimis were not part of the standard Mexican restaurant menus of my youth.

                        What I can remember mostly were crunchy tacos and cheese enchiladas. All plates were served with the ubiquitous beans and rice, smothered under a bed of the even more ubiquitous yellow cheese (which is not see in Mexico). Beans were mostly refried with the occassional pinto bean, "Charro" beans were not common. Black beans (often referred to as a "turtle" bean back in the 60s) were rarely served and considered exotic. Avocados and guacamole were not considered exotic because, of course, San Diego county is a major producer of avocados so we knew - thanks to Sunset Magazine - what they were and what to do with them. Tamales and chile rellenos were fairly common in Mexican restaurants and both were fairly decent, or so my memory says. Seafood was not uncommon, and fish taco weren't on any menu ;-). Ceviche and lots of shrimp dishes were common and one restaurant even served a sea bass with a jalapeno bernaise sauce. (Lest one forget, San Diego had a huge tuna fishing fleet at one time, so seafood was easy to come by and inexpensive.)

                        The local chain Consuela's used to serve a complimentary "quesadilla" which was a very large flour tortilla that had been topped with grated yellow cheese and run through the broiler till it melted. Certainly not a quesadilla by any definition, but a great munch while reading the menu, and different than chips and salsa.

                        I've had the opportunity to live with a Mexican family in central Mexico and can safely say that the food I ate with my Mexican family bore little resemblance to anything labeled as "Mexican" that I've eaten in the State of California. What we lack here is the sheer variety that is available in Mexico. For example, I haven't found many restaurants on this side of the border that serve really good sopa or cocido, but I ate really great ones all over Mexico. And while the variety of produce used by Mexican restaurants here in the States has improved dramatically, it still can't match what you find in Mexico. The immigrant population brought their traditions with them, adapted them to what was here and them molded them to fit the tastes of the local population in order for their restaurants to survive. Pretty typical process.

                        The one thing that I have noticed in some of the Mexican restaurants I've been to in San Diego since I've been back is the decided lack of pork on the menu. Since pork is such an interegal meat in Mexico I was surprised to find multiple restaurants not serving it here in S.D. So far the most satisfying Mexican food I've found has been at El Cuervo (1st & Washington), but I'm just taking my time working my way through the options. But for "real" Mexican food, I'm going to have to plan a trip back to Mexico :-)

                        1. re: Gayla
                          John Whiting

                          "I was born and raised in San Diego, and just moved back this past October after having been gone for 25 years. Chimichangas were not around when I grew up. I'm not quite an antique yet , Chimis were not part of the standard Mexican restaurant menus of my youth."

                          Over a twenty-year period, until ten years ago, whenever I visited my friends in San Diego we always went out for chimichangas. Maybe it was the only place in town.

                          1. re: John Whiting

                            Or maybe I *have* reached antique-hood

                            1. re: Gayla
                              John Whiting

                              On the other hand - maybe it actually *was* the only place in town. After all, I didn't live there.

                        2. re: John Whiting

                          I believe that chimichangas were invented in Southern Arizona, somewhere in that area between Tucson and Nogales. I first encountered them in Tucson in the early 70's. Even the university cafeteria served chimichangas, but the best were to be found in South Tucson in the very Latino area. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1973 none of the local Mexican restaurants served chimichangas. Eventually many Mexican restaurants, including the chains, started serving them, and now they can be found in chain restaurants all over the country. In my opinion they don't compare with the originals (for one reason, the flour tortillas in Tucson are paper-thin, and become light and flaky when wrapped and deep fried). I have an Arizona/Mex cookbook that I bought in the 70's, and according to the author the word "chimichanga" has no meaning in English, other than something on the order of "thingamabob."

                          Also in that cookbook was a recipe that I used to make for "tacos con berenjena" -- eggplant tacos. I remember that they were good but I haven't made them in about 25 years. You boiled the eggplant whole, then combined the pulp with beef, spices, and cheese, as I recall. I will never forget the look on the face of a man I was dating and to whom I represented that I was making tacos for his dinner, when he came into the kitchen and found that whole eggplant bobbing up and down in a saucepan of water.

                          1. re: Sarah C

                            That's what I've always heard, too, about the chimichanga. Especially the chains-copying-them part.
                            I never heard of eggplant tacos, but I'm going to have to give them a try. I was raised in Tucson but my parents were both from the midwest, and were delicate in their exploration of fabulous Mexican food. I had to break out on my own when I grew up and delve into it.

                        3. re: Sharuf

                          You will find plenty of chimichangas at the big chains in Southern California, like Acapulco or El Torito. I really don't care for those chain operations, although, there are coupons in every Sunday L.A. Times for Acapulco, so if you gotta go there, at least you can get some deals.

                        4. Tex-Mex uses ground beef quite a bit, whether in tacos, in beef enchiladas, or in chili sauce used to top various items. Chile sauces tend to use a mix of different kind of chiles. Tex-Mex also favors the jalapeno more than other styles do. I don't remember seeing the flour tortilla much when I was a kid, so I'm wondering if that may be a more recent addition, possibly borrowed from the fast-food sector(Texas is big enough to have its own internal regional variations, so maybe I just didn't have much contact with the flour tortilla.) Cheddar and Jack cheeses pretty commonly used. Fajitas are considered Tex-Mex although they're really just a Texas variation of border food.

                          Sonoran(Ari-Mex?) leans toward the fairly mild. White cheeses predominate. Flour tortillas widely used but corn tortillas are also common. I think a restaurant in Tucson or Phoenix claims to have invented the chimichanga which is basically a deep-fried burrito. Red chile sauces tends to use New Mexican chiles but in lower concentration than New-Mex chile sauces and are likely to have tomato of some form in them. Beef in tacos or whatever tend to be shredded rather than ground.

                          New-Mex, in general, is hotter than the other variations. Red chile sauce is straight New Mexican chile and water(alright, that's an exaggeration but not *that* much of an exaggeration.) Green chile also tend to be somewhat hot. Pork favored over beef. Whole beans are more traditional than refried in New-Mex cuisine, but refrieds are pretty common. Corn tortillas dominate. New Mexican also has internal regional variations with the southern part of the state being milder than the northern.

                          I don't know much about Cal-Mex but tend to think of its influence on the other regional styles as being all the green garnish I have to scrape off my food before I eat.

                          Not sure where the sour cream in some of the regional styles comes from, possibly Californian or Texas-German. It was probably originally added to cut the heat of chiles.

                          Mex-Mex if you're talking about tacos, enchiladas, etc., tends to mirror the areas adjacent to it in the U.S.(or vice-versa depending on your perspective.) Further south in Mexico the sort of foods that are main courses in Ameri-Mex(?)cuisine are snack foods.

                          There's quite a bit of cross-pollenization among the regional styles. In Albuquerque, for example, fajitas are very popular at Los Cuates and Sadies' red chile sauce has beef in it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Chimayo Joe

                            Just three comments. The flour tortillas in Texas are common because of our proximity to northern Mexican (norteno) cuisine, where flour tortillas rule.

                            I think the most common Tex-Mex dish is cheese (smooth melt) enchiladas with beef chili sauce.

                            The sour cream and black olives are from California.

                          2. d
                            David "Zeb" Cook

                            Having lived in both Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex country and visited family in Ari-Mex zone, I'm still hard-pressed at times to give a clear definition of what's what, but here goes.

                            Tex-Mex. Beef, flour tortillas, charro beans, refried beans seem to be pretty common ingredients. Generally if you don't ask for corn tortillas it comes with flour ones. Beef is ground or chunked. The most basic dish would be a beef enchilada with red sauce and yellow cheese, the red sauce being red chile (not as in chili, which you almost never find on a menu). Green tomatillo sauce is usually available too. Table salsas are typically red, green and sometimes a pico de gallo (salsa cruda to some), often hotter than you'll find elsewhere. Pico often gets served as a garnish instead of the lettuce you see elsewhere. Pickled jalapenos are a pretty common garnish, too. Other dishes include queso -- a melted cheese dip made of yellow or white cheese, chiles, and sometimes a little tomato (also available as queso con carne, queso con pico), carne guisada, tamales (smaller than I've had elsewhere), and migas (a breakfast of scrambled eggs and stale tortillas, often with fried potatoes/beans and pico on the side). Fish seems right out except for maybe a shrimp enchilada or campachena and not many places serve sour cream. Tacos are usually soft-shell, not fried. Breakfast tacos with fillings like fried potatoes, cheese, scrambled eggs, chorizo, and bacon are common.

                            Mind you, Texas is big and there's variation even in the state. Visiting my sister in El Paso, the enchiladas are completely different, the sauce is usually a New Mex green chile, there's more gorditas, etc. Down in the Valley, you can find more tamales and barbacoa than further north, etc., etc. There's not necessarily a lot of fried items on the menu but this is NOT health food.

                            Ari-Mex: Probably better called Sonoran. Most noticeable is the use of huge thin flour tortillas (fresh and hot these things are amazing), more green chile sauces, less cheese, and less overall spicing. A lot of burritos on menus. Machaca shows up. Breakfast tacos become breakfast burritos, same general fillings.

                            Cal-Mex: Corn tortillas seemed to get used more and most places have tacos and burritos on the menu, less emphasis on enchiladas and heavy saucing. Tortas show up more. Carne asada, al pastor, al milanesa(?), chicken and of course fish tacos with cabbage. Refried beans seem less common, more black beans. Lot of places serve sides of chiles en escabeche (actually a mix of pickled chiles, onion, carrots, etc. -- yum!). Avocado gets used more, either as guacamole or just slices thereof. Breakfast burritos are breakfast burritos.

                            As for authentic Mex, I'm no expert. I know a guy who teaches rural Mexican villages cooking and nutrition. You don't want to ask about butchering goats.

                            As for chimichangas, fajitas, and the like, a lot of these appear to come out of the Valley and the border regions where US and Mexican influences are mingled -- and then they get further mangled through the chain joints.

                            Finally, everything I've just said is probably wrong. This whole subject lacks clear boundaries and definitions.

                            David "Zeb" Cook

                            1. r
                              russ parsons

                              having lived for extended periods in California, Texas and New Mexico, i can say that there are definite differences between teh cuisines. in fact, they sometimes seem to be more dissimilar than similar. here are a few generalities: In Texas, the main dish seems to be either cheese enchiladas with a beef-flavored red sauce (chile ancho). in New mexico, i'd say it's a cheese enchilada with either red or green chile sauce (local anaheim chile variants--not to be mistaken for what is found outside the state). In california, i'd say it's the soft taco, stuffed with some kind of meat (asada, al pastor, my beloved carnitas). there is a wider variety of chiles used, but i'd make a gross generalization and say that jalapeno and serrano tend to dominate. In Texas and New Mexico, tacos are usually deep-fried. True cal-mex is based on flour tortillas, though this rancho tradition is obscured by the influence of the many recent immigrants' favor for corn.
                              but the more you know about something, the harder it is to generalize. even in new mexican cuisine, which is probably the simplest of the three, there are important regional differences. traditionally, you never found sopaipillas outside the northern rio grande basin (say, truth or consequences north). and the mexican cooking of the eastern plateau is much closer to tex-mex. traditionally, blue cornmeal was used rather than yellow (blue corn results in a more fragile tortilla--the reason the most traditional new mexican enchiladas are stacked instead of rolled).
                              Another generalization: in all three areas, there seems to be a pretty profound difference between home cuisine and restaurant cuisine--the latter seeming to reflect mainly what the locals thought tourists would eat.
                              And one more: the fans of each are among the most chauvinist food lovers i've ever encountered, each considering his regional cuisine the only true expression of "mexican" cooking. I remember when I was in new mexico, talking to friends who had gone to Oaxaca on vacation. they loved it, they said, but they were surprised at the food. it was delicious, but it certainly wasn't mexican.

                              1. I'm sorry to join this thread after so long a time has passed, but I couldn't resist the temptation... Although we're German and Irish-Americans from NY (originally), my family has sent various members to live in Mexico for a few years for the last three generations. We know--and love--Mexican food.

                                I think the tex-mex vs. cal-mex et al. has been covered by others, so I'll skip that, except to make two points. First, many of the older so-called "Mexican" restaurants were never Mexican at all, they were Salvadoran, Guatamalan, or even Periuvian. (My favorite example near Seattle was run entirely by Brazilians!) And, of course, each brought their own national "flavor" to the cuisine. I suspect that this is more true the further north one goes. Second, just as an aside, someone used the term "gringo" to refer to the two owners of a restaurant. I should warn you that this is NOT a nice word, and should probably be avoided--similar to "mick" or "wop" or the dreaded "n-word". (I'm sure the person who used it meant no offence, though.) I only (occasionally) use the term about myself, for example when someone compliments my Spanish, or asks me where I'm from, and I want to be self-depricating.

                                I'd like to take shot at the "authentic" side of the Mexican food. While it's certainly true that there are tremendous regional differences in cuisine in Mexico, I have rarely--if ever--seen a restaurant in the US that serves ANY of the regional variations that I'm familiar with, possibly excepting the northernmost regions.

                                As just one example, one of my family's friends in the Mexico City area makes Puerco in Adobo by making a paste out of tomatillos, chilis, and vinegar. She coats a pork roast in the paste and then cooks it in a very hot oven. The paste hardens, forming a delicious crust--but also sealing in most of the juices. The result is tender and moist and unbelievably delicious. I've certainly never seen anything like that in a US "Mexican" restaurant.

                                I won't even mention the roast suckling pigs, but I'm salivating anyway. I think I need to schedule a visit to Mexico City soon...

                                I'm not saying that there aren't any "authentic" Mexican restaurants in the US--but I've never encountered one. (If anyone knows one--particularly in the DC area--but even as far as NYC, I would be eternally grateful to know about it...)

                                Sorry about the long post, but I just had to put in my $.02.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: James Q.
                                  Vital Information

                                  <<I'm not saying that there aren't any "authentic" Mexican restaurants in the US--but I've never encountered one. (If anyone knows one--particularly in the DC area--but even as far as NYC, I would be eternally grateful to know about it...)<<

                                  I'm like you in that I stayed out of this thread for a while, and like you I do not have much specific knowledge of cal-mex or even tex-mex. In fact my over-riding image of what tex mex is, is the great photo in the centerfold of ZZ Top's Tres Hombre album (something we miss with CD's, but that's another thread...), but I do know what we have in Chicago.

                                  Obviously, there is always the question of ingrediants and such as food travels (the tomatoes offered year round in Chicago's Mexican resturants have to be about the worst anywhere), but many, many of the places around town seek to replicate their food from back home.

                                  There is pozole de guerro, birria de jalisco and birria de michocolan, cecina de quebrada, and tons of places offering taco's and tortas estillo d.f. I've grown especially fond of la cucina guadalara, and call its carne en su jugo, mexican pho. I even know a place that serves that beef jerky stuff oh so popular in norteno cusine, plus there is an oxacan place I've never tried, but need to soon. This does not even include the seafood nayarit places, the seafood acupulco places and the general mexican seafood places also liberally sprinkled around town, the mexican bakeries, the dulceria, the street corner elotes, god I could go on and on. That's just Chicago. I know in nearby Milwaukee, there's a Yucatan style place.

                                  It seems there are plenty of mex-mex places in the upper midwest.

                                  If you ever come to Chicago, I'd be more than happy to give you specific places and addresses. In the meantime, many of these places have been written about on the Chicago board.


                                  1. re: Vital Information

                                    You are lucky to live in a city with so many immigrants who open restaurants. Like James Q. I live in DC, where there are many recent Mexican immigrants, but remarkably few restaurants where one can find good, regional dishes as you describe above, or any Mexican tortillerias which make fresh masa. I grew up and lived for much of my adult life in Los Angeles, where there were innumerable neighborhood places to buy warm tortillas, masa par tamales and nixtamal for posole. I had my favorite places for birria, barbacoa, tacos al pastor and other street-type food. And high end places like La Seranata de Garibaldi and Border Grill for gourmet Mexican food. One good thing about being Mexican-restaurant deprived, is that I've been cooking the dishes that I crave at home.

                                    1. re: Vital Information

                                      Thanks, Vital Information. I don't get to Chigago very often, unfortunately. But I may just have to plan a trip before too long--it sounds to me like you're in heaven...

                                  2. There are several threads, that break down regional "Mexican" cuisine, and also "US-Mexican" cuisine. I really think that everything that needs to be said, has already been said. To recite those same differences would be a waste of time, since some of those threads are still active.

                                    Good luck,


                                    1. Don't forget you also have Southwest style Mexican food.

                                      1. At last, some posters agree there is mexican-style food between Tex- and Cal-. I mentioned Sonoran food and Chimichangas on another thread awhile back, and drew a big "huh?" as a response. During a 9-year stay in Tucson, I enjoyed the many Sonoran restaurants from the high class (fountains in the lobby) to the common (dirt floors and Christmas tree lights). They have a restaurant (El Charro) that claims to have invented the Chimichanga, as well as a Mexico City style outpost (La Parilla Suiza).

                                        Since moving to CT, all the Mex seems to be Tex- so I've had to transfer my gustatory enthusiasms to seafood.

                                        1. California has wonderful Mexican food. since I live here it's only fitting I like it I grew up eating it. lived in Texas and ate a lot of Tex Mex. I don't care for it. a best friend was born and raised in Mexico spoke no English when we first met as adults. anyway I've eaten at her parents house in Mexico and her food is different from the other 2.
                                          hers was fabulous, simple and full of straight forward flavor.