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Eastern NC Taqueria/Authentic Mexican thread

I haven't seen a thread on this subject, so let's do it! I'd like to leave Tex-Mex places out of the discussion unless they have a decent amount of authentic Mexican items on the menu, or something that's really unique and spectacular. And let's keep it east of I-95.

Greenville:

El Picante Mexican Grill
111 W Fire Tower Rd
Winterville, NC 28590

Probably the most gringo-friendly of the Greenville places. The owner and most staff speak English fluently, and they take plastic. They have several different types of tortas, tacos come in al pastor, tripe, tongue, chicken, and azada. They also have Nayarit style tacos(shrimp, fish, and breaded chicken), which have melted cheese and a special sauce whose flavor is hard to describe. They're very good though, and a unique item- I haven't seen this kind of taco anywhere else around here. The tacos al pastor are the best in town.

Supermercado El Rancho
2500 Charles Blvd
Greenville, NC 27858

This is a grocery store/carniceria that has an attached sit-down restaurant. The menu is a bit more extensive than El Picante, but I don't feel like the preparation is quite as good for most items. They have several really unique, somewhat baroque tortas- I've had a couple but the "española" sticks out in my mind, with its chorizo and egg. They also do really excellent fried quail. Birria and pozole are served on weekends. There's a good sized salsa/condiment bar.

El Rodeo Carniceria
102 Airport Rd
Greenville, NC 27834

El Rodeo is another carniceria, this time on the other side of town. I've only eaten here once and was pretty unimpressed. They had an impressive list of soups and stews which included birria and consomé de borrego, but I was told that they didn't have any soups or stews(despite them comprised about half of the menu). I ordered a couple of tacos instead, and both were pretty bad. The salsas had a bitter, acrid taste to them and were kinda gross. Avoid!

El Azador
1200 N Greene St
Greenville, NC 27834

Right across the street from El Rodeo. I haven't been in probably two years since El Picante and El Rancho are so much more convenient, but I did have some pretty good tacos de chorizo there once upon a time. I'd like to go back and try there pollo azado- they make a big deal out of it being cooked over coals.

Wilson:

There are tons of places, but I'm really only familiar with Taqueria Guerrero, having eaten from their taco truck a few times in various places.

Robersonville:

La Esperanza
305 W 3rd St
Robersonville, NC 27871

This is a grocery store with a small attached restaurant. I just found out about it recently, so I haven't had the chance to sample it in any great depth. The major quirk here is that they don't have a menu- one of the employees will tell you what they're serving that day in so-so English. I had tacos al pastor when I went, and they were good. The salsas were above average, too.

Roper:

Los Garcia's Store
6201 Mackeys Rd
Roper, NC

This was a favorite of mine when I worked in Plymouth. Could use a status update, as I've heard that it has closed, but I haven't been down that way to verify. It's out in the country and has a country store atmosphere- many of the customers are non-Hispanic. My favorite was always the sopes and the green hot sauce.

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  1. La Esperanza in Robersonville has turned into a regular lunch spot for me. I alternate between tacos and the daily specials. My favorite of those has been the bistec en salsa roja(the salsa roja was unreal), although they do really good tamales on Friday and Saturday. I had tamales for lunch today and the place was absolutely packed- all the more incredible when you consider the fact that Robersonville is a tiny town of perhaps 2-3,000 people.

    Robersonville is on US64, so if you're headed to the Outer Banks from points west or north, I'd recommend giving La Esperanza a shot.

    1. We tried La Esperanza and El Picante Mexican Grill. La Esperanza was for dinner and they were closing soon. We had the special, a grilled pork chop with sauce and a few tacos. Everything was o.k. but not great. We're thinking that this was due to the hour. Next time we will go for lunch.

      El Picante Mexican Grill was quite nice despite their not selling beer. ;) The chicken enchilada verde was delicious. The tacos al pastor were good but I've had better. I'm certain that there are other delights on the menu and we will definitely be back, brown bagging it, to try other dishes.

      Thanks for the head up Naco...

      2 Replies
      1. re: DaveN

        With the daily specials at La Esperanza, I'll often add some salsa from the bar; this really perks them up. The tamales are very good too, and Friday seems to be their busiest day because of that. One more thing- they're closed on Wednesdays- I didn't know that at the time of my first post.

        I'm a little behind on the menu at El Picante- they made some changes a few months back. But do try the tacos Nayarit, especially the fish or shrimp. Also, pretty much anything in salsa verde is going to be really good there.

        1. re: DaveN

          BTW, El Picante has beer now.

        2. I had lunch at Tacos y Tortas El Mexicanito in Wilson today. I was really impressed; the salsa roja was the best I've had in a while. I had two carne asada tacos and one taco with chorizo, all excellent. I was there in the middle of the afternoon(3:30pm or so) and they were bumping full, always a good sign. I'm going to have to get back soon and try the pastor.

          It's at 403 S. Tarboro St., corner of Tarboro and Hines St.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Naco

            Went back to El Mexicanito yesterday. The first thing I noticed was the giant slab of seasoned pork being spit roasted behind the counter. *Tacos al pastor*. Oh yes.

            The meat was really well seasoned and flavorful. Both the salsa roja and the verde were superb- I preferred the verde by a very slim margin. El Mexicanito also grills their tortillas perfectly; they're crisped ever so slightly and the corn flavor really shines through. The tacos were also on the small side(2-3 bites each), which I like. The only thing I'd knock was the lack of pineapple. But in general, everything was fresh and flavorful, and they get most of the little details right.

            Definitely worth driving from Greenville.

            1. re: Naco

              I was in Wilson this week and thanks to this thread had some great fare at El Mexicanito. Had 1) chorizo, 1) lengua & 1) buche taco. They were $1.50 a piece and just about perfect taco stand tacos. They were so good, I didn't use any salsa one them. Buche is pig stomach. I always thought tripa was general stomach, but I guess it refers to beef stomach alone or something. They also have huaraches. Good stuff. Very friendly service. Thanks for the heads up, Naco!

              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                Cool, glad you enjoyed it. As for tripa, my experience has been that it can be used somewhat imprecisely, and as you see with buche, there are more specific words that refer to particular types of offal. Beef stomach is typically called pancita.

            2. re: Naco

              Naco,
              You are my hero. I ate dinner at Tacos y Tortas Wilson tonight. I just returned to my room. I skipped lunch and arrived at TyT around 5:30 pm.
              When I arrived I was sure they were closed, no cars in the lot (except one parked in the old drive through), no visible people. I tried the door and it was open, but the place was empty. However, a very nice woman appeared and I had 4 tacos, lingua, al pastor, chorizo and buche. That was my first buche, and I started with it. I loved them all.
              Then I had a huarache with chorizo. As I asked the nice woman, "where has that been all my life?"
              Their salsas were great, especially the green one.
              I asked her how business was and she said ok, but only 2 people came in while I was there, but it was early.
              I will return the next time I am here.
              Again, Thanks!

              1. re: Tee

                I imagine they're doing okay. They've been pretty busy every time I was in there. I actually drove over with a friend yesterday, and we had a bit of a wait for our food because they were short staffed and had a bunch of take out orders to make before ours.

                1. re: Naco

                  Naco,
                  What time do they close at night? this time I arrived at 6:20 pm only to find it locked and dark. Talk about disappointing!

                  1. re: Tee

                    I have a business card from them that says:

                    Mon, Tue, Thurs: 10am-8pm
                    Wed: 10am-7:00pm
                    Fri-Sun: 10am-10pm

                    I ate there just before closing this summer. But most of the times I've been, it's been for lunch.

                    Las Palmas is nearby and is also good if El Mexicanito is closed. There's also a place called El Pollo Loco(which I haven't tried yet) on 42 as you come into Wilson. I think this is Herring Av. inside of Wilson.

                    1. re: Naco

                      Thanks Naco.
                      I guess they closed a little early lasy night. I saw El Pollo Loco as I was headed to my hotel but didn't stop.

            3. Spotted:

              El Taco Loco on Hwy 55 in New Bern, just outside of downtown.

              Selena's Luncheria on Hwy 70 near La Grange.

              1. Tried La Placita in Rocky Mount yesterday. The asada was really nice, lengua was okay, but they didn't have any salsa roja/verde- just bottled hot sauce.

                1. Lunch at El Picante in Greenville today- I had one of the specials- lengua en salsa verde, which was incredible, and one of the best horchatas in the area. I usually post about new places, but the owner said that the insanely long bout of construction on Firetower is really hurting them. It would be a shame to lose this place- please go out and support them if you can.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Naco

                    Last time I went to La Placita they had both sauces and they were pretty good. I hope your trip was an anamoly as it's the closest decent place to me. Was driving into Wilson the other day on 43 and passed what used to be an authentic taqueria that has been repainted bright red. I think the new name is Pollo Loco, although I doubt affiliated with the chain. Any news on this place? Got to eat at a killer stand in Durham my friend simply called la Taqueria. It was housed in an old dairy store and had a cow on the roof. All the usual suspects were superb and they make one of the best hot dogs I've ever had, wrapped in bacon, crispy and loaded with toppings.

                    1. re: veganhater

                      I've seen El Pollo Loco in Wilson, but I haven't gotten to try it. I think they still do tacos- I looked at their health department report, and it mentioned barbacoa and lengua. There's another new place in Wilson called Las Palmas, which is on Goldsboro St., pretty close to Flo's Kitchen.

                      As for Rocky Mount, I found a listing for a place called La Perla Tapatia- do you know it? I'd figured the name had too much Spanish in it to be a Tex-Mex joint.

                      Let's see, other eastern NC taqueria news:

                      1. There is now a branch of La Esperanza(Robersonville) in Williamston on old US64, across from the highway patrol station.

                      2. Tienda Los Garcia in Roper has risen from the ashes as Garcia's Grill and is now open for business again. They mostly cut out the grocery side and are mostly a restaurant now is what I was told when I called today. The lady told me that the hours are 7-5 M-Sat, although the grill closes at 3pm.

                      3. There's a taqueria in Washington now- El Auténtico, on John Small Av., near the tortilleria and the Christian bookstore.

                      1. re: Naco

                        I ended up heading over to Washington to check out El Auténtico last night. The regular menu is standard Tex-Mex fare, and they have placards on each table that list the various types of tacos and other authentic Mexican fare on offer. To the best of my recollection, they had asada, pollo, lengua, pastor, tripa, barbacoa, tinga de pollo and tinga de res. I had one pastor, one barbacoa, and one asada- all were good, with the meat being a touch on the dry side.

                        I do have to qualify all of this with one potentially big thing- their sanitation score was a 78.5, which is a C, the lowest letter grade given in NC. I looked around and the place looked really clean, so I decided to give them a shot anyway, and I've made it through the night unscathed, but some folks might be put off.

                        1. re: Naco

                          La Perla is a tex-mex joint for the most part. If you pick throught the menu you can find some decent stuff, like tortas de carnitas. The staff will get you some decent salsas off the menu, including a good salsa verde.

                  2. I was back over in Wilson today and stopped in to Las Palmas, which is at 900 Goldsboro St. I had one taco al pastor, one barbacoa(beef), and one beef taco dorado.

                    The barbacoa was pretty good, although I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that beef barbacoa is not really my thing. I didn't really like the taco dorado, although this was really a matter of personal taste. It was stuffed full of lettuce, queso fresco, sour cream, avocado, and other things and was just a bit much for me. The whole appeal of a taco to me is the simplicity. My wife probably would have loved this, though.

                    The pastor was by far the best item. It was spiced a bit more than the pastor at El Mexicanito, and its flavor was quite a bit bolder. Las Palmas' salsa verde isn't quite as good as El Mexicanito's, though. Even so, I'd give the pastor at Las Palmas a slight edge over El Mexicanito.

                    Las Palmas is also a tortilleria, and the tortillas were really good. They have the usual weekend specials- consomé de borrego, menudo, etc.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Naco

                      Had somehow missed this thread before - thanks for doing this. I had seen one or two taco places on my way into Wilson in January, but couldn't find them on my way out for some reason. I'll check out some places in New Bern when I'm there again this Christmas.

                    2. Mi Lupita, in Magnolia, exit 373 off I-40 north of Wilmington. Cash only, walk up stand.

                      1. There's a Mexican market on NC97 in an old country store. It looks like it is at the intersection with Old Bailey Rd; I remember a picnic area across the intersection from it. They've got a pretty good taco - I didn't check out anything else, I was hungry and stopped at the first place I saw so I could keep on going. I remember the salsa was good too, and seemed to be made fresh.

                        1. I've been going through and adding the places mentioned in the thread to the database now that I've figured out that function. This should make the thread easier to use, since they'll be listed in the sidebar(I think).

                          -----
                          El Picante Mexican Grill
                          111 W Fire Tower Rd, Winterville, NC 28590

                          La Esperanza
                          4002 W Main Street Ext, Williamston, NC

                          El Autentico
                          1115 John Small Ave, Washington, NC

                          Las Palmas Tortilleria
                          900 Goldsboro St, Wilson, NC

                          Super Mercado El Rancho
                          2500 Charles Blvd, Greenville, NC

                          El Azador Mexican Restaurant
                          1200 N Greene St, Greenville, NC 27834

                          El Rodeo
                          102 Airport Rd, Greenville, NC 27834

                          Garcia's Grill
                          6201 MacKeys Rd, Roper, NC 27970

                          La Placita
                          924 Benvenue Rd, Rocky Mount, NC 27804

                          1. I'm cheating a bit because this was a touch west of I-95, but oh well. I was on the way back to Greenville from Raleigh today, and I decided to get off the main road. I meant to get on Alt-264 East, but I guessed I missed the turnoff and I ended up on 39 South. Anyway, a few miles down the road, I came across some Mexicans selling tacos and sno cones out of a truck/trailer in front of a mobile home. Ambience: casual! Anyway, they had asada, lengua, and pastor, and I had one asada and one lengua with a nice spicy salsa roja. Good tortillas. I asked what the hours were, but I've forgotten(I was dead tired).

                            Anyway, it was really nice food and worth stopping if you're over that way(Zebulon, basically). It's probably five minutes or so from 264.

                            1. Bit of an odd find today- it's not exactly authentic Mexican; let's call it "authentic eastern NC Mexican". :)

                              I stopped into the Country Mart in Stokes(note: not the one between Greenville and Bethel) and noticed that their grill was offering a "chorizo con webo"(sic). This was a Southern style plain or cheese biscuit stuffed with chorizo, egg, tomato, onion, and chiles. Very, very good. The chorizo and the biscuit definitely had a "peanut butter and chocolate" thing going on- it was a great combination.

                              1. AMEXCAN, the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, is having its "spring" festival on the Town Common in Greenville tomorrow from 11am-6pm. They usually have a fair few food vendors from what I gather. I've always had to work in years past, but I'm going to try and make it out tomorrow.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Naco

                                  Pleasantly surprised to find El Manantial in Tarboro. Located in a strip adjacent to the Park Hill Mall and in the back of a Mexican store is a limitied menu of authentic goodies. I tried three tacos (Chorizo - very good, Barbacoa - different than what I'm used to but moist and good, and Lengua - good). One salsa was offered, an orange colored concoction that was tasty and had some dried red chilies in the mix. Although the tortillas were run of the mill and not toasty enough, the flavors and moist meat made for an enjoyable lunch. I also tried a tostada de cebiche that was listed as a special. Nice fresh lime-cilantro-jalapeno flavor, but unfortunately riddled with imitation crab. I should have known better.

                                  1. re: veganhater

                                    Do you think the barbacoa was lamb? It seems to be beef in a lot of places, but every so often I run across lamb. The lamb tends to be more moist and have a less heavy spice profile- beef barbacoa typically is drenched in a dark sauce.

                                    I tried a couple of new places today. The first was El Jarocho in Pink Hill, which is basically a Tex-Mex place with authentic items scattered throughout the menu. They had a "Flavors of Home" section that had huaraches, mixiote, ceviche(I believe it was fish, and not mixto), and mojarra a la veracruzana on it. I asked for the mixiote but was told they aren't doing it any more, so I went with the huaraches, which were pretty good. They gave me a nice salsa verde after I asked. The menu had Veracruz dishes (molcajete veracruzana, siete mares, etc) scattered all over(and Jarocho is a person from Veracruz), and I was tempted to try one, but also skeptical of ordering seafood at a random Tex-Mex place in Pink Hill, even one styling itself as Veracruz style. This went double for the ceviche, which was, perversely, what I was most interested in. My wife got shrimp in garlic sauce(camarones al mojo de ajo) though, and she said that the shrimp were good and unusually fresh for this type of place. Maybe it's worth another shot at some point.

                                    The second stop today was Tienda y Taqueria Flores, which is at the junction of 111 and 55, about 15 miles south of Goldsboro. I had one barbacoa and one tripa taco, and both were really nice. The barbacoa was the best and most moist beef barbacoa I've found yet- I've eaten a fair amount of beef barbacoa that was either too dry, too heavily seasoned, or both. This was perfect. The tripas impressed, as well- they were fried up really well.

                                    1. re: Naco

                                      The meat definitely wasn't lamb, although I wish it had been. It was good, moist braised beef, but with no seasoning or sauce to speak of. I prefer a dry spice mix applied to roasted beef after cooking, then cooked down a bit to give the meat a touch of crunch.

                                      After numerous attempts to order seafood in Eastern NC Mexican joints, I have given up. At best you get farm raised Tilapia and pond shrimp from Indonesia. At worst you get ammonia flavored seafood and fake krab. Too bad there isn't a place out there using local fresh fish. A couple of women I work with do wonderful things with fish when I bring them something I've caught, and they use the entire fish.

                                      1. re: veganhater

                                        I don't mind a whole fish, actually; I love the tails, although I'm clueless as to what to do with the head. But every mojarra frita I've tried has ranged from poorly fried to damn near incinerated. The only worthwhile Mexican seafood I've found has been at El Picante- their Nayarit/Baja style fish and shrimp tacos are good, and even the ceviche tostada is okay. I really prefer Peruvian and Ecuadorean ceviches to Mexican ones though, so it's rare that I get it.

                                2. Ate lunch today at El Taco Loco II in New Bern (2311 Neuse Blvd).

                                  Great tacos! My husband and I had one each of carne asada, pastor, chorizo, and barbacoa. I thought I would be content with two tacos ($1.50 each), but after tasting my husband’s carne asada, I had to order an asada also. Great beefy, fatty goodness.. I wish they would bottle the housemade red sauce so I could take some home. The pastor did not have the pineapple taste I have had at some places, but still so much more flavor than I am used to in this area. Very nice barbacoa also. There is only one layer of corn tortilla so be gentle with your taco or it will fall apart. I look forward to a visit on the weekend for the tamales. The restaurant wasn't packed at lunch, but they sure should be.

                                  2 Replies
                                    1. re: Naco

                                      I ate at El Taco Loco in New Bern on Saturday. Good stuff- one of the better taquerias in the area, although still not up to the level of El Mexicanito.

                                      We had asada, barbacoa, pastor, and lengua. Each taco consisted of two tortillas, so we didn't have any problems with them falling apart. Glad to see they made that change. The tortillas were griddled to a light crisp, but didn't have much flavor to them. May have been store bought, but the meats were all good, the barbacoa was the standout for me. Probably the best barbacoa I've had in the area. Lengua was a little disappointing, although I've been spoiled by the lengua at El Azador in Greenville of late. They had a taco called a taco loco which had, IIRC, beef, pork, bacon, peppers, ham and a couple of other things. I'll have to go back for that.

                                      Anyway...current hierarchy of taco meats in eastern NC, IMHO of course:

                                      Pastor: El Mexicanito, Wilson. Best on the weekends when it's spit-roasted.

                                      Lengua: El Azador, Greenville. They boil and then fry/griddle it, most places seem to only boil. That last step adds so much extra texture and flavor.

                                      Barbacoa: El Taco Loco, New Bern. El Azador is supposed to have good barbacoa, but they're always out when I go. A good sign, though...

                                  1. I had a late lunch at Taqueria La Morenita in Mount Olive today. Meats were standard fare- carne asada, al pastor, barbacoa, tripa, chicharron, etc. They offer any of these as tacos, tortas, burritos, or nachos- that last I haven't seen before. They also have a breakfast menu with various egg dishes on it, and lunch/dinner plates with rice and beans.

                                    I was feeling rather pedestrian, so I got several carne asada tacos and a few pastor. The asada was okay, and the pastor had a really nice flavor to it- not too powerful. Tortillas were handmade(I watched them being patted out) and very flavorful. The salsa verde was a touch on the bland side for me, but the roja was really good.

                                    There was a Mexican bakery directly across the street, and I noticed two other taquerias in Mount Olive- Sabor Mexicano was just down the street from La Morenita, and El Sol(which apparently also does Salvadoran food) was on the northern side of town.

                                    Taqueria La Morenita
                                    747 S Breazeale Av
                                    Mount Olive, NC 28365

                                    1. It looks as though El Autentico in Washington is gone.

                                      1. Naco, I'm in Elizabeth City (Hwy 17 So to 64) and my sister lives near Cambria Drive in Greenville..I'm going to try La Esperanza in Robersonville since it's on my way on my next trip in that direction...Any other recent suggestions?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Cherylptw

                                          La Esperanza actually moved to Williamston. It's now on US64 Alt just as you come into town from the west. I haven't gotten to eat there since they moved. They used to do tamales on Fridays and Saturdays. The tamales are okay, but a little dry the last I had them. However, El Azador in Greenville does tamales Fri-Sun, and I would recommend their tamales over La Esperanza. They have pork and chicken; I think the chicken are the best, as they had little bits of green chile mixed into the masa. El Azador is on N. Greene St., near the airport.

                                          Supermercado El Rancho on Charles. Blvd. in Greenville also does tamales on the weekends. I haven't tried them yet, though.

                                          I would like to add that while Greenville has some good options, the real standouts that I've found are not in Greenville. The best tacos I've found in NC are at El Mexicanito in Wilson. There's also a place called La Cuata in Dudley(about an hour south of Greenville, just on the other side of Goldsboro) that does excellent Mexican home cooking- birria, pozole, huevos tapatíos, pollo encebollado con rajas, etc. It's a really superb restaurant and worth the drive from Greenville.

                                          Here's a thread I started about it:

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641883

                                          And a blog post from someone else:

                                          http://www.ncfolk.org/ncfood/tapatio....

                                          Unfortunately, your neck of the woods is one of the toughest parts of the state for authentic Mexican. The only thing I am aware of that's relatively close is Garcia's Grill in Roper. I haven't eaten there in several years, though. They closed for a while and reopened a year or two ago, and I haven't made it down there. I liked it a lot in the late 90s/early 00s, though. I'd really appreciate a report if you go and check it out.

                                          1. re: Naco

                                            Told ya I'm in a food wasteland..anyway, I'll check out some of the places you suggested over the holidays as I'll be traveling that way a few times..I may even get to El Mexicanito in Wilson as I've another sister in Rocky Mount so will probably get that opportunity as well. Thanks for the suggestions and I'll report back

                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                              Yeah, Elizabeth City and the whole Albemarle region is pretty tough, food-wise.

                                        2. Cold weather Mexican:

                                          I've tried El Azador's version and El Picante's(both of Greenville/Winterville) version of caldo de res several times. No clear winner for me here- El Picante's broth is a little more flavorful, but I like the simplicity of the one at El Azador too. The vegetables are more plentiful at El Azador- one serving generally comes with the equivalent of one whole potato, a carrot or two, and half an ear of corn on the cob.

                                          El Azador also has consomé de borrego, which I really need to try soon.

                                          1. Tried Taqueria La Guadalupana in Grifton a few days ago. We were only looking for a snack, so we only tried a couple of al pastor tacos and one barbacoa. The barbacoa was different- fattier and more moist, and also less heavily seasoned than most barbacoas I've run into. It was okay. The pastor was very good- it had a spicy note to it that was unusual. The menu was standard fare- the usual assortment of taco meats, tortas, egg plates, etc.

                                            On Saturday we had yet another wonderful meal at La Cuata in Dudley. There wasn't as much on the specials menu this time as on previous visits, but the birria de chivo impressed as always.

                                            El Picante in Greenville seems to be slipping a bit- the salsas have been off on my last few visits, and off the menu items have been variable. The specials menu is still usually a good bet, but I have found myself going to El Azador more and more.

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: Naco

                                              Any confirmation on el mexicanito closing? A woman I used to work with is now cooking at Los Dos Rosas in tarboro. I haven't been yet, but her food has been good, if limited, in the past

                                              On a side note, I dropped in for a few tacos at El Azador today. Their salsa rojo was killer, and better than normal. I need to try some of their plates with rice and beans. All the Mexican guys order them when I'm there, yet I keep ordering tacos

                                              1. re: veganhater

                                                I'm going to try and head over there this week. I had called and confirmed that they were open not long before Tee posted that they'd changed hands, so I'm thinking they may have changed owners, but not names. If they've changed owners it could make a big difference, because what made them so good was attention to small details.

                                                The rice and beans are good at El Azador- I always order the chicken with tortillas, rice, and beans. Definitely recommended. The caldo de res is good, too.

                                                1. re: Naco

                                                  I'm down with the chicken, if you're talking about the pollo asada, but they also have good looking stews in the steam table. Today there was chicken with tomatillo, pork in a spicy broth and beef with vegetables in a red sauce. Have you tried any of the above? I'd be willing to bet every dish is tasty, considering everything they make is delicious. One thing I can't get into is tripa. Let me know if I'm missing something, but it's too chewy in every authentic Mexican joint around here. If I'm missing a definitive example, clue me in.

                                                  1. re: veganhater

                                                    I haven't had any of the other stews you mentioned. Are they off-menu? The only ones I remember seeing listed are caldo de res, siete mares, and consomé de borrego. I almost always go on Friday evenings, so maybe these others are daily specials for other days of the week. The last time I was in there(maybe two weeks ago) there was a Mexican guy asking what stews they had that day, and caldo de res and consomé de borrego was all that the woman cooking that day offered in response.

                                                    As for tripa...yeah, I mostly feel the same way. It is very chewy compared to southern-style chitlins. I have tried it many different places and it was okay at best. If you want to try an offal meat with a better texture, buche is a decent choice. It can be hard to find, though- I've had it at El Mexicanito, and I believe that the taqueria inside El Rodeo carniceria(across the street from El Azador) had it on the menu when I was there- but I really was not impressed with the food there at all.

                                                    Of course, Venter's Grill is only a couple of minutes from El Azador on Mumford Road, and they do really good, spicy chitlins. Might be a weekend thing- I've always had them on Saturday.

                                                    1. re: Naco

                                                      I always end up there for lunch, and during the week they're on offer to the right of the menu in a steam table behind the counter. The woman I usually order from (who speaks fluent English, thankfully), explained to me it's home cooking for Mexican construction and agricultural workers who are separated from their families. I wasn't that hungry yesterday, so I opted for tacos and am regretting it right now. The braised chicken in some form of green sauce looked the most appetizing, but i'll have to try them all. I'm guessing they do basic home cooked style stews during the week, and then caldo de res, consomme de borrega, pollo asada and tamales on the weekend (all of which are unavailable on my weekday visits).

                                                      As far as tripe is concerned, after your comments I think I'll stick to other meats. After a dozen or so attempts at Mexican restaurants, I'll save tripe for other ethnic meals.

                                                      1. re: veganhater

                                                        Okay, thanks. I'll see if I can make it a point to go in there during the week. Interesting that they have people speaking English when you go- El Azador is one of the few taquerias I go to where I have to speak Spanish pretty much 100% of the time. Whenever I go, the only person working is an older woman who doesn't appear to speak any English. She's nice enough, but not very chatty- not that I blame her, running a restaurant with no help.

                                                        Have you ever managed to get any barbacoa there? They are *always* sold out when I go. I've been meaning to try them for lunch just to see if I have more success then.

                                                        1. re: Naco

                                                          I've had barbacoa there a bunch of times and it's great, although they were out yesterday. I'll have to ask about it's availability next visit. The woman who I see most of the time is a younger, fair skinned Mexican lady and speaks great English. She's always friendly and helpful. I did notice they serve breakfast/egg plates, but chances are slim I'll be there in the morning to check them out.

                                                          1. re: veganhater

                                                            I've been meaning to order one of the egg plates, but I don't think they're just a breakfast item. The place doesn't open until 10am or so anyway- I pass by on my way to work fairly often(used to be every day) at around 7am or so, and they are not open.

                                                            1. re: Naco

                                                              Do you know of any good taquerias off of I-40 between Raleigh and Wilmington? I know there are a couple off the Newton Grove exit, but would love to know of some others.

                                                              1. re: ToothTooth

                                                                The main area along that stretch of I-40 with which I'm familiar is the Faison-Mount Olive-Dudley area. Wayne/Duplin/Sampson counties have pretty large Mexican populations these days.

                                                                I haven't tried any of the ones in Faison, but I have been to La Morenita in Mount Olive. It was pretty good and I believe there's a post about it upthread. They have lots of home cooking dishes in addition to tacos. There's another place called Sabor Mexicano that's up the road about a 1/4 of a mile from La Morenita. Mount Olive also has a Salvadoran place called El Sol.

                                                                If you go a few miles north of Mount Olive on 117-Alt, you'll come to La Cuata, which is by far my favorite authentic Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. Should be about 15 minutes from I-40. Absolutely worth that small detour, IMO. The tacos are good, but my advice would be to ignore the regular menu- the English version in particular- and order off the specials board on the back wall. Soups and stews are especially good- birria de chivo(goat) is my usual choice- they also have borrego(lamb) if you prefer that. Pozole and caldo de res are both great. Any egg dishes are great- torta de huevo and huevos tapatíos. Torta de huevo is on the regular Spanish language menu- it's not a sandwich, but an egg fritter in a very complex(and spicy) red chile sauce.

                                                                In general though, it's one of the best parts of the state for finding taquerias and authentic Mexican food. Any small town you duck into will have several of them. I haven't even begun to explore this area well, as there are just so many places.

                                            2. Been trying some meats from Supermercado El Rancho lately- they have pre-made al pastor meat for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-3.50 a pound, and chorizo for $2.50 a pound, IIRC. The pastor is great and loaded with pineapple- odd because I remember not liking the pastor when I got it from their taqueria, but it has been a while and they may have changed the recipe. We did perk it up a bit with a packet of Goya's achiote and cilantro seasoning.

                                              The chorizo was impressive, too- only mildly spicy, as opposed to the typical blinding hot store bought varieties, and not the least bit greasy- although I did cook it on the grill.

                                              -----
                                              Supermercado El Rancho
                                              Greenville, NC, Greenville, NC

                                              1. I was in Wilson today and dropped by what is by now the former location of El Mexicanito- it's gotten a remodel and is now called El Paso- looked to be a Tex-Mex joint by any reckoning, so I didn't bother going inside. A damn shame.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Naco

                                                  So I didn't lose my mind!
                                                  You almost made me believe that I imagined the new sign (EL PASO).
                                                  RIP El Mexicanito - Tacos Y Tortas.

                                                  -----
                                                  El Mexicanito
                                                  925 1-B Ward Blvd., Wilson, NC

                                                  1. re: Naco

                                                    What a disappointment. Closed before I was able to stop by. Reminds us we need to support these restaurants as much as possible.

                                                    On a side note, I was driving to the coast trailering a boat and didn't want to get off route to get lunch and didn't want fast food. We ended up at a place called el Zarape just south of New Bern. It was attached to a gas station and was clearly Tex-Mex, but was convenient. The place is worth noting because it's so much better than any Tex-Mex joints I've been to in Eastern NC. Completely surprised us. Very good salsa rojo on request, better than average fish tacos, tasty rice and authentic Mexican style tacos with decent meats (pastor, carnitas, lengua). Not necessarily applicable to this thread, but worthy of a visit if passing by.

                                                    1. re: veganhater

                                                      Tex-Mex places can be good locally, but it is very hit or miss. Often there are great off the menu items and sauces, but I run into a lot more reluctance from the staff, even when I speak Spanish. Case in point: a few years ago I was waiting for a take out order at the Mazatlan on Eastbrook Dr. in Greenville. Some Mexicans came in behind me and ordered some salsa roja to go(in Spanish). I had always been told that they didn't have anything but the weak table salsa when I'd eaten there before. I told the guy at the counter that I'd understood the guys making the salsa order, and ordered one myself. I *still* had to go through several iterations of are-you-sure before he sold me the stuff. Which was great!

                                                    2. re: Naco

                                                      I had lunch at a new taqueria called Los Dos Rosas on Albemarle Ave in Tarboro. I ordered two tacos (lengua and barbacoa) and a plate of camarones a la diabla. The barbacoa was ok, but the lengua was great. Moist, a little spicy and a little greasy in a good way and stuffed into tasty hand-made tortillas. The highlight of the lunch, however, was the shrimp. The sauce was a killer dried red chile concoction and highly addictive. Great black beans cooked down with some pork (maybe bacon) and rice tossed with roasted jalapeno pieces accompanied the shrimp. All in all an awesome dish. I'll report back when I try the rest of the menu

                                                      1. re: veganhater

                                                        After my second visit, Los Dos Rosas is officially on the radar. I'll be the first to admit their tacos are good to very good, but not great. On our last visit I ordered a couple carnitas and a couple adobada, both very good. I intentinally went light on tacos to try an extra plate. We decided on the bistek el ranchero and chilaquiles in green sauce. The steak (flank or skirt) was sliced and cooked in a delicious red sauce, accompanied by very good rice and killer black beans. What stole the show, however, were the chilaquiles. Great green sauce tossed with crispy tortilla, topped with crema, lettuce and cotija cheese. Just a fabulous vegetarian dish.

                                                        With Los Dos Rosas frequently so close to me around lunch, this will be a regular stop. They speak English as well, which is a bonus if your Spanish is as spotty as mine.

                                                        1. re: veganhater

                                                          When I pulled up to Las Dos Rosas today, they were charcoal grilling whole chickens outside. I don't know if this will be common practice, but was excited to try a plate. The whole chicken was served with tortillas, fresh salsa verde and a bean stew which was tasty, but contained an excessive amount of sliced hot dog. The chicken itself was very good, almost as good as El Azador's, and the salsa verde was mild and fresh.

                                                          Another highly satisfying meal and worth a trip to Tarboro. They also carry hecho en Mexico Coke in glass bottles.

                                                      2. First of all, a huge tip of the hat to sol34, who let me know that El Mexicanito hadn't gone out of business, just moved to another location. I went over this afternoon and it was as good as ever. Maybe it was just absence making the heart grow fonder, but I thought the pastor was even better than before. The tortillas were hot, ever so slightly crisp, and incredibly fresh. Salsa verde was perfect- El Mexicanito still has the best salsas I've found anywhere in NC. The verde is really the perfect complement to the pastor. I like to put the verde on their pastor and chorizo, and the roja on the carne asada, buche, and lengua.

                                                        The new location is:

                                                        925 1-B Ward Blvd.
                                                        Wilson, NC

                                                        Phone: 252-291-3993(same as before)

                                                        It's not well marked, but it is adjacent to a panaderia/tienda called El Diamante, near a Big Lots.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Naco

                                                          Naco,
                                                          you have made my day.
                                                          thanks for what you have done with this thread and for this board!

                                                          1. re: Tee

                                                            Yeah, Naco, thanks for your efforts -- without your recommendations, I'd be dyin' in this town.

                                                            BTW, on your tip I finally got a torta at El Rancho today: milanesa (chicken-fried steak, basically) with cheese and avocado. YUM. Best sandwich I've had in Greenville.

                                                            -----
                                                            El Rancho
                                                            1115 Cedar Lane Rd, Greenville, SC 29617

                                                        2. I tried out Taco Express a few days ago- this is on Moye in the terminally unlucky Tandoor/Secret Colombian/Olive Grove/Olive Grove part deux/Ali Baba/Acropolis/Etc. space.

                                                          I think the owners described this as California-style Mexican in the Reflector, and it is about halfway between the mostly Latino frequented places detailed in the rest of this thread and something like a Mazatlan. They have meats like pastor and carnitas, but the tacos are served with guacamole on them, which I've never seen elsewhere around here, instead of onions and cilantro. I didn't ask if you could get onions and cilantro instead; I figured I'd try it their way.

                                                          I tried three tacos- one pastor, one carnitas, and one fish. The pastor was pretty good, the fish was better, and I didn't really like the carnitas. Three tacos was also, as it turns out, way too much food, as the tacos are huge. If I went back, I'd only get one or two. I didn't like this aspect of the meal, as it made things very messy, and in general I prefer small tacos. El Azador's tacos are a bit bigger than I like, and Taco Express' are probably twice as large as those.

                                                          The tortillas and the salsas were unremarkable. They have a hot, medium, and mild on the condiment bar, as well as pickled red onions and chiles. The hot salsa didn't taste hot to me at all and the medium was about the same. I didn't try the mild.

                                                          Overall, not really what I was looking for. The fish tacos were the best thing, but I like the fish tacos at El Picante a lot more. I haven't been there in a while though, and the last I was in there, it had slid a bit. But the fish tacos were still great the last I had them.

                                                          1. Hey Naco,
                                                            I find myself in Kinston tonight, do you have a rec. for anything here?
                                                            Thanks very much, and I hope you are lurking out there, or have signed up for the email notification!

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Tee

                                                              I haven't been to any places in Kinston, but there are a few around. I have a spreadsheet with listings for La India Bonita, 1574 Hwy 258 S and Taqueria Don Martín, 2342 Hwy 11/55 S. No idea what they are like. IIRC Don Martín is the one that's a bit north of Kinston, next to a plant nursery. But Google it, I could be wrong about that.

                                                              Not a taqueria, but Chef and the Farmer in Kinston is really good for a more upscale dinner.

                                                              1. re: Naco

                                                                Thank you Naco.
                                                                I have been on the Chef and the Farmer's website salivating over their menu but I wish i had my wife to enjoy that meal with....
                                                                I will give La India Bonita a try as I think it may be close to my hotel, and have found El Nuevo San Juan on line but I only trust YOU!

                                                                1. re: Tee

                                                                  Let me know how it is. I haven't tried any new places in a while; I need to get back to doing that. It's just that I found a couple of places that are so good, the temptation is to make a special trip there.

                                                                  1. re: Naco

                                                                    Naco,
                                                                    Sorry for the delay in reporting . I called La India Bonita and there was no answer so I assumed they are not open for dinner, made a huge mistake and went to El Nuevo San Juan.
                                                                    I asked if they had any tacos, barbaco, al pastor, lengua, etc and they looked at me funny. I should have fled into the night but I was tucked into a chips and a negra modela.
                                                                    I had a carnitas torta which was passable, the bread actually was good but the pork was dry....
                                                                    I appreciate your help and all your posts!

                                                            2. Had three tacos at Taqueria El Valle in Washington recently; this is on Bridge St., down past King Chicken as you head towards the river. One lengua, one pastor, and one cabeza, with the usual onions/cilantro, and radish slices as well. Three homemade salsas- two verde and one roja, that were excellent. I'm not sure what the difference was in the two salsas verdes; I could taste it, but I don't know how to describe it. The lengua and the cabeza were my favorite.

                                                              Unfortunately, I was short on cash and unable to try the more interesting parts of the menu. They had a couple of homemade moles, caldo de pollo, caldo de res, and other really good sounding stuff. A really ample selection of homestyle stuff. This place has promise. I'll report back soon on some other items.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Naco

                                                                I've been back a few times and tried the mole(excellent and homemade), plus more tacos and a quesadilla. Their salsa verde is excellent and kicks like a mule. The caldos and mole and such are offered later in the week, and I probably won't be able to get back to try more of them for some time.

                                                                This is a good choice if you're in the area. The mole was really nice and everything else I've had has been above average.

                                                              2. I was across the street from La Placita in Rocky Mount yesterday right at lunch, so I stopped in for a bite. My last meal there was a few years ago and, while good, was nothing special. I ordered two sopes (barbacoa and adovada), caldo de siete mares and a torta they called cubanas. Quite simply, the food was great.

                                                                Guys I work with had been going there frequently up to a few months ago had been giving me average reports, so I was not compelled to make a trip. As far as I can tell, new people are cooking. I'll need another trip to confirm this, but the place was packed and smelled incredible. I remember a post about a lack of homemade sauce, which is currently not the case. Back on my radar.

                                                                -----
                                                                La Placita
                                                                Rocky Mount, NC, Rocky Mount, NC

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: veganhater

                                                                  Interesting that this thread has never mentioned Mario's at 5th and Memorial in Greenville. I popped in there the other day. All I had was three barbacoa tacos, but I really liked them -- the tortillas were fresh and fried up nicely, and the meat was juicy and flavorful. I'm gonna say that they're the best tacos I've had in Greenville (though I'd put El Rancho on top for tortas and birria, and El Azador for chicken).