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Meh tacos from Taqueria la Mexicana; what should I have ordered?

So over the weekend, I grabbed an assorted trio of tacos from Taqueria la Mexicana in Union Square. Totally bland, totally boring, especially as compared to the great tacos from Tacos Lupita down the street.

I know this place has a great reputation on the board, so I'm guessing I chose the wrong items; what should I have ordered?

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  1. I know everyone here loves this place, but I feel like it has gone downhill in the past two years. What used to be a great, different from the rest, Mexican/Salvadoran joint is now just run of the mill.

    I am scared to think what is going to happen when they open a real restaurant next door.

    1. Chiles rellenos, enchiladas (esp. enchiladas rellenos), nachos (crazy isn't it), zuma de mango. We've never gotten tacos there so I can't comment on those, but their burritos can be a bit boring.

      1. I like the tacos - sorry you hit them on an off night. I always get tamales.

        2 Replies
        1. re: almansa

          OT, but almansa, have you tried Three Amigos yet? Just curious...

          1. re: Chris VR

            *totally* OT, and *awesome*. I just moved from Andover to Boston, miss Three Amigos (why is it not 'Tres Amigos'?) very much as I can no longer get motivated to drive to Stoneham. Would highly recommend it for anyone living North of the city.

        2. if it's within your limits, TLM's tongue tacos are really superb (much better than Lupita's).

          other than tacos, I'll echo the recommendations above for chiles rellenos and tamales, plus their "chicken mole" dish (it's not what I think of as a mole, but it's really good anyway).

          I've been going to TLM for a dozen years or more and haven't noticed any slide in quality. and aren't they really just mexican, rather than mexican/salvadorean? don't see how they could even pretend to be salvadorean without pupusas. ;)

          1. The only thing I avoid at TLM is burritos, which for some reason always come out a bit squelchy there. I like their tacos, enchiladas and tamales. And flautas, although with those I always check first to make sure there aren't any already sitting under the heat lamp next to the register. Good juices, too.

            1. I've never understood the fascination with TLM. Overall I find the food very disappointing. The tomatoes are always underripe and most things have very little flavor. The tacos are the most "plain" item on the menu as well. I appreciate that it's a local joint and appreciate that there are not a lot of good Mexican options in the area, but I'll go to Boca Grande before TLM any time.

              1. I tend to stick with the tacos & tortas at Tacos Lupita. At Taqueria la Mexicana, I like their tamales and their small order of nachos topped with pork or steak.

                1. Wife and I just went to TLM today for tamales based on the recommendations on this board. I have to concur with the OP -- a definite meh.

                  We both had the beef tamales and were disappointed to find them made with ground, rather than shredded, beef -- and green peas. It was like someone had spread a poor recipe for shepherd's pie on masa and steamed it in a corn husk.

                  I had a beef taco on the side and was impressed with the idea of freshly grilled steak strips. However, the execution failed. They were dried out and tasteless. Again, meh.

                  What am I missing here?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mmmpointy

                    I think they may just be going downhill--I used to be a fan of their tamales (though not much else on the menu) a few years ago. But since last summer, it's definitely been meh for me too. (I'm not sure I'd hold them to the beef tamales, though... Although there are surely many variations of tamales in mexico and around the world, I don't think beef is a very common one. I'd say pork is a better yardstick, or, if you're daring, chicken)

                    1. re: another_adam

                      Beef tamales are actually pretty standard, but as mmmpointy said, the beef should be shredded, not ground, and there shouldn't be peas!

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        Yeah, I have eaten more than my share of tamales, both homemade and commercial, in all sorts of styles and I have never, ever heard of peas in a beef tamale. That sounds frankly rather revolting, and I *like* peas!

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          I assure you it was revolting -- and completely unexpected. I ate them anyway.

                          I won't pass final judgment on a place based on one visit in which I sampled two menu items. Maybe next time I'll try the rellenos and enchiladas.

                        2. re: Allstonian

                          I guess my thinking was more that beef tamales are perhaps more regional, and therefore more variable? (I can think of several places that have received tamales from mexico by colonial or migratory contact, but didn't really get beef tamales--even in LA, my favorite little places generally didn't have beef, or only in the form of cecina) Even so, peas does seem quite odd :)
                          Chicken also seems to vary a lot by region or individual-- roasted or boiled, with or without lots of little bones, etc... The style of pork tamales seems quite universal, though... So, I think our usual baseline measure for tamal, taco, etc. from mexican places of unknown regionality is their pork!

                    2. Yeah, I also find the tacos just so-so. Pork tamales are my favorite here. Never tried the beef ones, but they don't sound as good.

                      I agree, while the food is good and I like having the place around, it is really not anything amazing. The Mexican food scene is Boston is pretty dismal.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: andytee

                        It's not amazing, that I'll give you. But before Angela's came around it was really one of the few games in town for down-home Mexican (not Salvadoran, but Mexican food cooked by Mexican people.) Tu Y Yo is a different style of Mexican and more refined but that has been about it save a taqueria or two in Waltham. Angela's blows these places out of the water but it's a little out of the way for some.

                        I've had the tacos there and didn't find them tasteless -- they are of the small double corn tortilla school of taco with a little meat a little pico de gallo and a squeeze of lime. Very simple but I found them satisfying. However, I fear that Roberto's attention might be elsewhere during the renovation of the space next door. The other night I stopped in for some nachos topped with carnitas and they were good but the pork itself wasn't GREAT as it's been in the past. I like the tamales, but have never had the ones with beef and peas. I like the enchilladas plates and the chiles rellenos. The only thing I have not enjoyed at this place is the torta which is far superior down the road at Tacos Lupita.

                        I really hope this isn't a downhill alert. I don't like hearing "meh" about any of my old favorites, but it might be happening. More research is needed.

                        1. re: yumyum

                          Do tell YY.

                          My last visit was the same old TLM. Tasty pork tamal, kickin' chile rellenos (with potato & chorizo), and refreshing zuma de mango. My wife swooned (as she always does) over the chicken enchiladas positinis. But that was a good six weeks back.

                          I look forward to the 411.

                          1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                            "I look forward to the 411" -- word. I probably wont get there soon as there are way too many other places on my list right now. I hope others will chime in on recent experiences.

                            1. re: yumyum

                              Made the (seemingly) weekly nachos and rellenos run last weekend. Pretty much the same as ever. Perhaps not the best we've ever had from them, but the difference was subtle. I can't really put my finger on it and it's certainly not outside the normal range.

                              Agreed that it's not the best Mexican ever, but on the Boston scale, it's excellent. If I lived in LA, I wouldn't go the 2 miles for them, but I'd probably still go a couple of blocks. Since we live in Somerville, I'll gladly go the 2 miles.

                              1. re: yumyum

                                We order takeout from TLM fairly frequently. It can be uneven but there are enough outstanding experiences that bring us back. Last night's takeout was one.

                                I ordered my usual chile rellenos stuffed with potatoes and chorizo and a size of nachos with carne asada (to share). C got his usual burrito, which he enjoyed. The CR were great last night. The pomplano peppers had a real kick to them and the chorizo and potatoes were finely diced. The separate containers of hot sauce also had an extra smokiness in the chipotle flavor. The nachos did suffer a bit from takeout and the chips were slightly charred on the side. But, they were still tasty.

                                Part of TLM's uneveness stems from whether or not Roberto is working the grill and how stressed he is about the space next door.

                                The agua de melon last night was also fabulous - sweet and cantalopey. The last time we got this, it was flavorless.

                            2. re: yumyum

                              oh, i wouldn't disagree, it is one of the better mexican places in town and i eat there regularly. tamales, chiles relleno, and echiladas are, imo, what they do best, but i will also order burritos or tacos sometimes.

                              my guess is that they have been slipping a little bit during the chaos of construction, but i am not too worried that this is a sign of a more permanant decline. i would suspect once the new place is opened, they should iron out the kinks pretty quickly.

                              my comment was more to speak to some posts on TLM raving about how amazing it is, "best mexican food ever", that sort of thing. i think that anyone who knows mexican food, and reads those descriptions, would be easily dissapointed. OP's experience seemed to me to fall in that category.