Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New York State (exc. NYC) >
Nov 4, 2006 08:13 PM

MEXICAN in Rockland County

Looking for a good mexican restaurant in Rockland (we're tired of the Fiestas...), any suggestions? TIA...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are two absolutely terrific choices, and everything else in the county pales in comparison.

    First, there's Dona Maria in Suffern. It's on Lafayette Ave, the main drag. It's relatively new and doesn't have a liquor license yet, so BYO. If you're used to the gloppy, cheesey, heavy stuff served at the Fiestas, it's will be an absolute revalation.

    The other is Gallito's in Haverstraw, on New Main Street. Some of the standard things, but also traditional Mexican dishes you don't see on every menu, with ingredients like huitlacoche. Enjoy either one.

    8 Replies
    1. re: JRBlack

      Dona Maria on Lafayette in Suffern is superb---cinco estrellas! Just tried it, on Chowhound's recommendation, and can authoritatively say as a former Southern California homeboy (I grew up in Chula Vista, mere minutes from the Mex-Am border) that Dona Maria is authentic Mexican cuisine with a nouvelle spin (sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese). I'm forever in search of the Holy Grail---unimpeachably authentic Mexican food rather than the gabacho-ized syrupy margaritas and gloppy combo plates that most mallcrawlers mistake for it---and Dona Maria is as close to it as I've come, in Rockland County. La Bamba in Sparkill is good, though its tacos al pastor tends to be a bit dry and stringy and its cocktail de camarones plays bait-and-switch by substituting chunks of crabstick (surimi) for shrimp, and Video Guadalajara in Spring Valley is good, as well, though a trip to the less than spotless bathroom, past the less than spotless kitchen, inspires worrisome thoughts of e. coli. But Dona Maria is light years beyond both. My wife and I toured the menu, to knockout effect: homemade tortilla chips served with a kicky, pumpkin-colored hot sauce that stung the tongue with a cool fire; charred vegetables (chiles, onion, tomatoes) on a bed of mesclun (not very Mexican, but Mexican cuisine is a living thing, not some embalmed tradition, so props to the owner for pushing the culinary envelope); meltingly tender pulpo veracruzano (octopus in the Veracruz style) afloat in a puddle of velvet, garlicky sauce; shrimp in an addictively delicious goat cheese sauce (again, this is Nouvelle Mexican) on a hockey puck-sized mound of yellow rice; and for my Inner SoCal Homeboy, the three taco special ($7.50)---shredded pork, barbacoa, and a standout chorizo that was plump, piquante, and greasy in the best sort of way. Make a pilgrimage to this wonderful little eatery and spread the gospel so it thrives. It's the Mecca of Mexican food in Rockland County, a far cry from the frat-boy faux-Mex of, say, Casa Del Sol in Nyack, where a waiter straightfacedly asked if I wanted mashed potatoes with my fajitas. MASHED POTATOES? In a Mexican restaurant? Somewhere, the ghost of Emiliano Zapata shudders in horror...

      1. re: M. Dery

        We have a Mexican frend who makes something like a quesidilla using mashed potatoes in the filling. They are really really tasty, kind of a cross between a knish, and a alu paratha. Mashed with fajitas may not be as bad as it sounds. That's if you have a great real mashed. Some how I don't think Casa Del Sol was thinking in this direction when offering mashed as a choice.

        1. re: michele cindy

          Interesting point. According to Dana Kennedy, the Marcella Hazan of Mexican food, potatoes aren't unknown as a taco filling. In one of her cookbooks, she mentions a supposedly delectable quesadilla made by one of her maids, when she lived in Mexico, from potato peels! But mashed spuds as a side dish with fajitas, which is Tex-Mex for chrissakes and therefore cries out for rice and beans, is just...wrong. My larger point is that Casa Del Sol is painfully lame---awful, just-this-side-of-Jell-O shooter lame. And it has the huevos to come on all authentic, with that ridiculous bit of tableside theater in which Your Server rolls out the molcajete and makes guac from scratch. Too bad it's 75% onions, avocadoes being so expensive and all. Pardon my rant, but I'm a religious zealot when it comes to Mexican food, and Casa Del Sol is the foodie equivalent of blasphemy.

          1. re: M. Dery

            So ask them not to put the onions in. They always ask what you want in it before they start adding stuff, at least in my experience. I've never had an issue with the guac man.

            1. re: M. Dery

              I totally agree with you, that's why I don't go to Casa Del Sol. Aside from that, the next time you have left over mashed, mix it with some jalepeno, onion, grated cheese, put into a corn or small tortilla, fry in oil until crisp, serve with sour cream.

              1. re: michele cindy

                Totalmente. Se llama tacos de papa. I had them a million times when I lived in Mexico. Muy rico.

          2. re: M. Dery

            ¡Qué lástima! Re-visited Dona Maria in Suffern on December 24, only to discover, to my horror, that the restaurant has changed owners and seems to have plummeted in quality. Many of the menu's more adventurous nouvelle-Mexican offerings were gone; the ingredients, once fresh, were less so; and what had once been a spotlessly clean, spankingly efficient little restaurant was now a dingy, glum hole, empty but for a table full of wobbly-eyed Mexican day laborers, one of them so shellacked his buddies were working him over like a drowning victim. Depressing. The recession, the former owner's departure, and maybe the less-than-ardent support of Rockland locals has carved the epitaph of Dona Maria.

            1. re: M. Dery

              that's really disappointing. I've had this on my list of places to try next time I schlep up to Woodbury Commons (which would have been in a few weeks, likely). Bummer. Think I should still try it, or go elsewhere nearby?

        2. Thanks - I'll have to give those a try...

          1. Try La Bamba in Sparkill. Very yummy, and you can make a meal from the chicken tortilla soup alone.

            Nancy C

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nancy C

              What else do you suggest at La Bamba?

              1. re: Nancy C

                I made it to La Bamba for lunch last week with the intentions of checking it out both as a grocery and as a place to eat. I can definitely see making a part of my regular rotation, and it turns out that Sparkill is not really too far from home.

                The store is not too large, but it is clean as a whistle and what they had seemed to be of good quality. I got the chorizo and poblanos that I was looking for (the poblanos were not on display, but kept in the back and brought out upon my request- very fresh, and very large- I'm quite pleased with what they gave me), made some mental notes on some other things (i.e.- they carry cecina in the refrigerator case, which I have never seen before), and some cilantro while I was there (a mistake, though not a huge one, as I can get much better cilantro at a cheaper price closer to home).

                I eventually decided on the tacos for lunch, but can see myself getting a torta or maybe a soup-n-taco combination next time (tacos are individually priced at $1.50 each). This time around I went with the lengua and pastor- 2 of each. The pastor (marinated pork with chorizo) were tasty and well seasoned but ultimately puzzlingly dry. The lengua were much better, tender with a full-on meaty flavor. The tongue itself wasn't peeled, but thankfully the appearance didn't translate to the texture. I liked these quite a bit, actually. The two salsas were good and seemed to be made in house, and there was a good amount of filling in the tacos. Overall I'm glad I went and look forward to trying some other of their offerings.

              2. Haven't eaten there recently - do a search for them on the board/archives, and you'll see comments from other folks. Only thing I remember not liking all that much was guacamole, as I'm a cilantro freak, and there wasn't much in it.

                Good luck and enjoy.


                1. Found the old post about La Bamba.


                  Looked up Sparkill, and it's on one of those.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Nancy C

                    Across the street from Dona Maria (which I haven't tried yet) is La Hacienda, which I've always found to be nice. Decent mole. good guac, very friendly staff. The owners wife painted all of the mural herself.

                    1. re: Drew E

                      Dona Maria is so much better that it's hard to even consider Hacienda as in the same category. To me, Hacienda feels like a touristy, Disneyfied version of a Mexican restaurant. In our experience the staff can be described as intrusively, phonily friendly, eg, a waiter who punctuated every other phrase with the word amigo, as in "Welcome, amigo, let me tell you about our specials, amgio. But first can I get you something to drink, Amigo?" It became extremely hard not to snort with suppressed laughter with every repetition of "How's everything, amigo?" throughout the meal. We found the variety and quality of the food offered to be only slightly superior to say, a ChiChi's. Generally, Hacienda is probably a C+ to Dona Maria's A.

                      1. re: JRBlack

                        Went to Dona Maria last Saturday and thought it was great. The 'salsa' that comes with the chips is more of an enchilada gravy, tasty and spicy. The chips were also high-quality. I had the corn with cheese, lime etc. which was a nice appetizer. Followed that with the grilled vegetable salad which was outstanding. My friend had, what they called, a mixed salad with avocado which he said was very good and then enchiladas with mole. For no particular reason, I didn't ask how it was. For a main, I went light with the mushroom quesadilla. Service was friendly and efficient. I can't wait to go back. That said, I've never run into the 'amigo' problem at Hacienda. Maybe it's because I've been going there since it was a small storefront in the '90's and there were few if any 'gringos' eating there. Hacienda's food doesn't reach, but it's more than satisfying. Their soups are very good. The guacamole doesn't dissapoint and I like their mole.