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Authentic Mexican food Southern NH

One of the things I miss about not living in California, is truly authentic Mexican food, it is my favorite ethnic food, but I do not care for most of the American-Mexican restaurants that we have around here. I much more enjoy small Mom and Pop shops serving more than the usual fare. Here in Manchester...La Carreta is fine not great, Hermano's the same, Shorty's really isn't Mexican, Consuela's is good and authentic but more like a Mexican sub shop than a restaurant.

Has anyone come across the out of the way, hole in the wall Mexican joint with killer food in the Southern NH area?

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  1. El Mexicano on 197 Wilson St., Manchester. No frills- sometimes dodgy neighborhood, but great food. There is a Hispanic market across the street too.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/162644

    1 Reply
    1. re: edinaeats

      is that near 3 Cousins Pizza? I happened to be near there the other day the the store front. That's what prompted me to start the post. Definetly not Manchester's best neighborhood. My favorite Mexican food in Boston is in a similar neighborhood in Jamaica Plain, Tacos el Charro.

    2. I'm from Colorado, I feel your pain brother.

      Cafe Azteca in Lawrence, MA is pretty good. Don't know if I'd go so far as to call it killer, but it's about the best I've found.

      1 Reply
      1. re: humin

        From Colorado here too...LaCarreta is the closest in the Manchester area to authentic mexican food. Thanks for the Cafe Azteca tip humin!

      2. I agree with both suggestions, El Mexicano in Manch is very good and we love Cafe Azteca but only been once after many chowhounders sent me there. Need to get back to try more but we really loved it. Hubby won't go at night though, can be a sketchy neighborhood across from teh Common - we went on a Sat. afternoon. But same is true about El Mexicano - can be sketchy at night in that neighborhood. Still worth it for great mexican.

        6 Replies
        1. re: lexpatti

          I agree with Lexpatti and edinaeats about El Mexicano. The food is as authentic as it gets for Manchester. Had some of the best carne asada and manudo there.

          1. re: rmsoul

            This sounds like the kind of place I am looking for. Someehere with menudo, pozole etc. Do they have tounge and/or goat?

          2. re: lexpatti

            Lexpatti you are right, that area of Wilson Street is not the place to be at night.

            1. re: lexpatti

              Agree with El Mexicano being in a sketchy neighborhood. We went on a Sat afternoon in the summer

              1. re: lexpatti

                Being female, a Southern NH native, and having lived the past 10+ years in wacky parts of Boston and Brooklyn ...going essentially anywhere I please at night (except east new york) I find it hiliarious anyone could be sketched out in good old manch vegas! Don't be afraid of the brown guy NH!
                Unless you are going to be dining in Valley Street on the guard's night off, you're gonna be okay!

                1. re: butter and whiskey

                  Manchester is perfectly safe huh? I live right next to Centra High School, and a murder happened less than a block from me last year, and I live right on the edge of the good side of town.

                  There were 13 murders in NH last year, and 4 of them, almost a third, were in Manchester. And Manchester's violent crime rate is twice that of the rest of the state.

                  http://www.idcide.com/citydata/nh/man...

                  It seems like every time I pick up the paper lately I'm reading about some guy who was beaten unconcious and robbed, right near where I live.

                  While it's true that NH's violent crime rate is only 25% that of the national rate, Manchester's is twice that.

                  But you're right, Boston is more dangerous. Mass has a violent crime rate equal to the country's average, but Boston itself has a rate twice that. But most of that is in the south west part of Boston. Were you hanging around Roxbury?

              2. Second Cafe Azteca in Lawrence, family run, reasonable and excellent food. Been going there for years.

                1. I am not an expert...what makes La Carreta not authentic? The one in Nashua was great the one time I've been there...I went to the one in Manchester and it wasn't as good.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: observor

                    La Carreta is more Americanized Mexican food. They are good but they are doing the same menu every Mexican restaurant has done sine the 1950's for the American Palette, much like chinese restuarants all have the same basic menu that hasn't changed in eons. it is not an authentic example of the cuisine.

                    1. re: viva manchvegas

                      What would be the difference?

                      1. re: observor

                        much of the authentic mexican cuisine is much spicier, and the chili's have much more flavor. Not hot, but spicy. And sour cream is not used often. Corn tortilla's.. soft... are the normal. Hard taco shells are not common in authentic mexican. Lot's of marinated pork, like in carnitas. Lime squeezed on everything! Lots of fish and shrimp. This is just my observations from living in Colorado where there are many native mexican's living, and from our travels throughout mexico.

                        1. re: snl1129

                          I would add, if cheese is used it is cotijo, more or less a Mexican paramasan.

                          1. re: snl1129

                            Boy do I miss those roadside stands where they roast the chilis for you !! Still looking for a good green chili sauce here.

                            1. re: rmsoul

                              My ex husband is mexican and grew up in Colorado, he loved loved loved the green sauce at Hermano's - he litereally went through 1 1/2 tubs of it on his meal (while I could only handle a nice tablespoon). It's soooo hot but good, they usually bring a red sauce and a hot sauce to the table but they always joked with him that he could eat so much of the green. He grew up with non-english speaking grandparents who cooked only authentic mexican and he always said "most people wouldn't enjoy the real thing".

                              1. re: lexpatti

                                Okay so I have done the spectrum and here it is.

                                Margaritas <--> La Caretta <--> El Mexicano

                                Margaritas is great family fun, good drinking, downtown on Elm St. and its Mexican is probably the most mainstream.

                                La Caretta was great - definitely still family oriented, little less mainstream (Tamales were very traditional).

                                El Mexicano is not that family oriented (fewer tables, cafe style) but very authentic and very good.

                                All three have the place in the Spectrum of Mexican food, I think La Caretta is very good mix of both ends of the spectrum.

                                1. re: bergzilla

                                  I don't agree. I think the beans at La Carretta are bland, and if I recall the rice was only so-so, and everything else was either too greasy or wet resulting in soggy tacos.

                                  And Magraritas while more flavorful is practically inedible for the same reason most fast food joints are. Low quality beef and chicken + canned crap.

                                  The best mexican I've had in the area are El Mexicano and Hermano's in Concord.

                                  edit - Sorry, I don't mean La Caretta. There's some mexican place off Elm St I was thinking of. I have only eaten at La Caretta once, and I did not enjoy the food, but I don't remember what I ate and I think it deserves another try eventually.

                              2. re: rmsoul

                                Yes..the green chili's roasted in Colorado that come from New Mexico in the fall...very good! I love the green chili in Colo.

                      2. One thing that I keep seeing on the boards here (regarding Mexican food anyway) is the statement that it's not authentic. While I agree that no commercial/chain restaurants are going to be serving authentic anything, much less Mexican food, its very difficult to pin down authentic when you're talking about a country with so many states and regionalized (read "unique") cooking styles.

                        Baja dishes are not the same as Oaxacan which is totally different than Yucatan cooking. They eat more fish/shellfish in the coastal areas and more "turf" animals away from the coast, for obvious reasons. Some of the corporate places (like La Carreta) will try to feature dishes from multiple regions; which is well-intention, I'm sure, but usually not successful.

                        If you want some authentic tacos, there are many, many areas that serve crickets, ants and grubs as taco fillings. Do you think a restaurant should serve those? I don't think the majority of American palates will eat them, but they are authentic.

                        So my point in all this is, if you like it and it tases good, recommend it. Chances are any of the places located in NE are going to have a menu of homogenized, inauthentic Mexican food. I've come to terms with that because I'm not living in Mexico and now I just look for food that tastes good. Don't get me wrong, at the first hint of a place that might specialize in regional dishes or non-commercial menus, I'll be first in line to try it, but I'm just over all the bashing due to lack of authenticity.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: Bri

                          I think when people think of "authentic" Mexican food, they are thinking about "Tex-Mex". It's like lumping all the cuisines of China into "Chinese" food.

                          1. re: whs

                            I completely agree. I was even thinking about Chinese and Italian cuisines as well when I was writing my post, but I didn't want to open a whole other can of worms...lol.

                          2. re: Bri

                            I agree with you Bri about the size and range of Mexican cuisine, but now that there is a sizable Hispanic population here in New Hampshire, it follows that there are restaurants opening that are opening that do not need to cater to the anglo palette to survive and are offering cuisine styles based on thier orgins and not to what Americans will buy. That is the dining experience I was looking for when I started this post.

                            I have dined at La Carreta many times and have never been dissapointed but it is the ethnic equilivant of The Back Room, very general and wide in scope. If I am in the mood for menudo or oxtail stew I am not going to find that a the American-Mexican restaurants in this area. Bergzilla put it perfectly in a recent post. What it comes it comes down to is the expectations I have when I go out.

                            1. re: viva manchvegas

                              Has anyone been to Gusano's in Lebanon, NH. It seems mostly Tex-Mex (the owner is from Durango and then later lived in El Paso), the usual fajitas, flautas, etc. However, there are two items on the menu I'd really love to try - the pozole and the tacos al pastor - both of which are favorites of mine.

                              I haven't made it there yet, because its about an hour from where I live. However, I am in W. Leb a few times a month for work and want to try it soon.

                              Please post any reviews, if anyone has tried it. Thanks!

                              1. re: Bri

                                Yes, I'm going there for lunch today, in fact. Apologies, no time for a detailed review, but in short, I find the food to be quite good, certainly the best Mexican food in the Upper Valley area and I spent my early years in Yuma, AZ. If you catch it on the right night, live music as well.

                                Little Red Baron in Newport NH is another decent place, in a pretty old house sitting on the edge of a small local airfield -- more Tex-Mex, and not as well-flavored (tends towards the New England Bland), but still a nice place, family-friendly, with decent food. Until Gusanos opened it was the best around.

                            2. re: Bri

                              I am pretty sure "authentic" can be found in any predominantly ethnicized neighborhood in most urban areas...though I am still not clear why authentic is more desireable than anglicized anyway. Hell, if authentic is so desireable, why not just learn how to make the stuff?

                              1. re: observor

                                And that's exactly what I end up doing - make my own. My guess as to why people are searching for authentic cuisine, is that many ethnic foods are incredibly layered, use ingredients we don't, are spicy, etc. Taming those aspects of a type of food down is not what I look for. Some people have traveled to these other countries and eaten the food there and want to try to find it here, if at all possible - to relive the memory of travel and enjoy something that they don't make at home. Or just plain because I'd like food to taste like where it comes from not what someone thinks I would like.

                                1. re: Bri

                                  Right on the mark, Bri. I do the same, but there is a time commitment to making some of these dishes. I can make a mean menudo but a pound of tripe makes over 2 gallons of menudo and not everyone in my household (read my GF) likes tripe. And as much as i like menudo 2 gallons in one sitting is a bit much. hence the search for the "authentic" mexican place where I can get a portion of menudo and she can get something "safe"

                                  1. re: viva manchvegas

                                    You might ask one of these places in Manchester if they would make some menudo for you...even if it isn't on the menu, I bet they might have it, or wouldn't mind making it...

                                  2. re: Bri

                                    I suppose if I had had occasion to have some real food from Mexico, I might be looking for it too...my taste has been limited to what you find in your typical place. I can't imagine real Mexicans are making much stuff in Manchester, but I would think Lowell would have the real thing...

                                    1. re: observor

                                      Lowell is definately an asian market. I have not found any great mexican food in lowell but lawrence is another story - we were turned on to Cafe Azteca and love this place. Owners are from Mexico.

                                      1. re: lexpatti

                                        Any chance that El Mexicano is open on Sundays? Like tomorrow? And is it more taqueria counter service or do they have a liquor license?

                                        1. re: GabachaYucateca

                                          I don't know when El Mexicano is open, but they do have beer, and it's more counter service, but they do have three tables next to it and if you sit down they'll hapilly walk the two feet to the table and take your order.