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help me like mexican - Boulder

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I've never really liked Mexican cuisine - I used to think it was the spices, but I do like some of the same spices (cumin, coriander, etc) in other cuisines. Generally I will only eat Mexican in one of three circumstances: eating with a group, when there is no other option, or if I am making something myself and can adjust as desired. So, I'm not sure why I don't like it, and would like to give it another try before I write it off in favor of cuisines that I really love (most anything asian). I can't really tell the difference in quality, to me the food at a supposedly very good Mexican joint in Albuquerque tasted pretty much the same as a quick meal from Anna's Taqueria (fast and greasy taqueria chain in the Boston area, similar to Big City Burrito but with employees who actually knew how to assemble a burrito).

Anyway, I'm looking for suggestions for both dishes and restaurants in the Boulder area that might convert me to the Way of Mexican. I have positively identified that I do not like adobo sauce at all (hated the sauce on tacos al pastor at Juanitas), and have never been fond of avocados or rice and beans. I've been to that place on Arapahoe near Foothills (terrible service, can't remember what I ate); Juanitas (the unfortunate tacos al pastor); and Pupusas (salvadoran, not mexican, pupusas were ok but not worth driving across the city).

Any suggestions? I don't want to drive far, the furthest from Boulder that I would go would be Superior or maybe Louisville.

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  1. I would honestly suggest that you stick with Asian! Hey, not everyone likes all types of food. All of the places you describe are variations of Tex-Mex and New Mex Mex. If you want to try something more authentically Mexican regional and definitely more upscale, then go to Tamayo in Denver (Larimer Square.)

    Even you still don't like the grub, they have a dynamite tequila selection.

    1. That wasn't a side-by-side comparison though—TRUST ME, LSP, you'd have known the difference if you'd tasted Anna's food next to an ABQ joint. :) (Not that it didn't have its fans, as endless threads attested...)

      Living here, I'd think the way to determine whether Mexican is or isn't for you is by comparing green chiles. They are very different from place to place in the way that chowders are back in Boston, and I'm sure each style likewise has its proponents and detractors. The other would be by concerning yourself with the way the meat is prepared...beautifully prepared pork will make itself known to you...

      The world is all too full of indifferent Mexican dishes that just seem like a smothered jumble of stale masa, unidentifiable melted cheese and so on. But the good stuff is out there. Not to sound all X Files: Taco Truck.

      I can't speak much to what's going on in Boulder, though; I've thrown myself too heavily (definitely the right word for it) into learning about Denver's offerings over the past several months. I did go to Aji, which is pan-Latin, but wasn't wildly impressed.

      1. The suggestion of trying Tamayo in downtown Denver is a good one, tho' if you are reluctant to drive farther than Superior or Louisville, you're not likely to make a food trek to Denver for food that you are predisposed not to like.

        If you go to Louisville, you'll find nn Efrain's branch of a Lafeyette institution. It is not my favorite, but many locals think it's the best around. I have only been to Mina's in Erie twice but liked it both times. But Erie is probably also beyond your orbit for this mission.

        Otherwise, alternative #1 is the Rio Grande. Have a couple of margaritas, and everything will taste good. Alternative #2, following Wagger's suggestion and sticking to Asian.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ClaireWalter

          The Margarita suggestion is usually quite effective. LOL

          1. re: AzDumpling

            Alas, I'm afraid that I have trouble with most non-dairy alcoholic drinks, so the margarita method wouldn't work too well....

            I will try Efrains - is there a particular dish I should try - is the green chile common to multiple dishes or mostly used on just one or two? I usually just pick something random because they all seem to be slightly different variations of the same thing - tortilla, starch, cheese, meat, sauce. Next month I have to go to Santa Fe for several days, which I'm sure will be relentlessly NM-mex (family thing, see my post a while back on 'Santa Fe, large group') - I figure I ought to make an honest effort at finding something to like while I'm there....

            1. re: lotuseedpaste

              Huevos motulenos at Cafe Pasqual. They definitely won't seem like the same old (bananas, feta, and peas all figure).

            2. re: AzDumpling

              I agree but not even the mega Margs at the Rio can compensate for the deafening noise level for me. You also have to be on the eagle eye look-out for falling over and puking CU students.

            3. re: ClaireWalter

              I love Efrain's. The chile verde is my favorite dish but it is blistering hot. Well, not as severe as the Level 2 chile at Horseman's Haven in Santa Fe, but still enough to warrant having a couple of beers and plate of fresh flour tortillas on standby. Efrain's is also a true bargain with the most expensive entree about $8.

            4. This is an interesting situation. It seems to me that the tastes & textures you don't like in Mexican food are different than the tastes & textures you probably do like in Asian food--similar spices notwithstanding.

              So one strategy (reflected in the previous posts) is to find good or excellent Mexican food & see if you like it better than the not-so-good Mexican food you have already eaten. That's a good place to start.

              Another strategy might be to identify Mexican foods (& Latin American foods & New Mexican foods, etc.) that are more like Asian foods. Let's see if we can identify any Mexican foods that are similar in taste, texture and/or ingredients to Asian foods.

              I don't have any suggestions right now, but I'll give it some more thought & perhaps post my ideas later. Others might want to join in on this approach. What do you like about Asian foods? What Mexican foods are similar?

              Heck, some Mexican food is Asian influenced (maybe not enough for you to like it, but it's there nonetheless). Shrimp Zarandeado, for instance, is shrimp (no duh!) cooked or served in a spicy tomato sauce that's flavored with soy sauce.

              In fact, aren't there a number of Chinatowns in Mexico, Cuba, Latin & South America? I bet that food is pretty good. There may not be many restaurants in the Denver/Boulder area that serve that kind of food, but that might be a place to start looking for something you'd like.

              Anyway, just a bunch of random thoughts.

              3 Replies
              1. re: alanstotle

                Re Chinatowns in Latin America. When I was living in the NY area in the '70s, when the first wave of Caban exiles was establishing itself, there were a number of casual Cuban-Chinese restaurants run, of course, by immigrants of Chinese heritage who had fled Cuba. The food was not put Chinese or pure Cuban. The most popular dishes were combo plates consisting of something stir-fried, rice (common to both cuisines), black beans and fried plantains.

                The existence of Chinatowns or simply Chinese-style elsewhere food in Latin America probably won't solve Lotusseedpaste's distaste for Mexican food.

                1. re: ClaireWalter

                  ClaireWalter wrote: "The existence of Chinatowns or simply Chinese-style elsewhere food in Latin America probably won't solve Lotusseedpaste's distaste for Mexican food."

                  I agree. But my main suggestion was to find Mexican food that is similar to Asian food. Doing that may require a little creative thinking. Bringing up the Latin American Chinatown subject was merely my attempt to think outside the box & (hopefully) get the creative juices flowing.

                2. re: alanstotle

                  Hmmm, comparing Asian with Mexican.... I don't usually have issues with textures, more with tastes. I don't really *dislike* Mexican, it is more that I am not enthused. I like a few things, like flan, chipotle chocolate pudding cake things, and I had some ceviche in Miami last month that was nice. The ubiquitous presence of cheese helps a lot, cheese makes everything better. I don't really like the flavor of tortillas (or other wrap type breads like pita (unless it is toasted) or lavash), or beans (unless they are in a strongly flavored dish where the 'beany' flavor is not prominent).

                  I really really like Asian noodles, the role of which seems to be played by the tortilla. Unless there is some Mexican pasta or noodle? That could be fun.

                3. I grew up in the non-New Mexican part of the Southwest, so I don't have the same natural predisposition to New Mexican style food. I don't even particularly love green chili (it's OK, but usually too much heat for me).

                  The Mexican dishes that I love are:
                  -tamales (which you also get in New Mexican cuisine)
                  -mole poblano
                  -chili rellenos
                  -chilaquiles for breakfast

                  Also, Mexican home cooking can be very different from Mexican in restaurants. Just because you don't like what you've had eating out, doesn't mean you might not like it cooked at home.

                  Do you ever make it to Salt Lake? The Red Iguana in Salt Lake is the best Mexican restaurant I've ever eaten at. If you don't like Mexican food after eating there, you will never like Mexican food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Megiac

                    I do sometimes cook vaguely Mexican dishes at home - I sometimes make a more casserole type of enchilada thing with fresh tomatillo sauce and lots of goat cheese (and not so many tortillas). Pretty much anything with goat cheese is good, I have no idea if that is even vaguely Mexican though. I tried making tamales once, and they seemed to turn out tamale-like, but I didn't like them - they were rather bland and I might have messed up the masa because I felt queasy after eating a few. Clearly, that is likely a case of cooking error, but I haven't been keen on trying again. I will sometimes make quesadillas, usually if I am cooking for a mixed group and think it would be easier to let people pick what they want in their food....

                    I've driven through SLC once or twice, but not in the past, oh, fifteen years.

                  2. Efrain's at 63rd and Arapahoe.

                    As was noted, the green chili is the thing- and frankly, you can get it on anything- just ask, but sometimes there will be an upcharge. Usually I get the Mexican Huevos (as opposed to the Spanish, which have a thin boring tomato sauce to be avoided). When my friend N and I go, we get the chicken fajitas, side order of green chile- you can also choose what you want on the condiment plate- more of what you want, none of what you don't. It's enough for two, and for both of us to have leftovers.

                    Sometimes I get tamales- green chili atop, not the red. Check the heatmeter on the menu- the green chile is great, but it's pretty hot for most.

                    Other good Efrains dishes- the blue corn chicken enchiladas- that sauce is amazing. Not very hot at all.

                    1. Mamasita's, on the Hill, in Boulder. No one has mentioned moles and they do a dynamite chicken with mole. Some of their other dishes don't do much for me, but I do hold their mole in deep regard. Keep in mind that there are numerous types of mole, this one is the dark brown, almost black version rich in chocolate. Moles tend to have subtle flavor mixes and are not particularly hot & spicy. Having been a fan of Rick Bayless in Chicago since he first opened Frontera, I have cooked many of his moles from his original cookbook.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: wagger

                        Qdoba. It sounds like you don't lilke the heaviness of the meal....so I recommend Qdoba. seriously, the one at 28th street is awesome... chain...yes...fast food....yes....cheap yes... but if you "really" liked Mexican. I'd recommend Juanita's - and heavy Margs.....especially "the Don".

                        good luck!

                        1. re: mebulloc

                          No offense, but I gotta disagree with you about Qdoba. I find it pretty blah.

                          LSP, it was occurring to me that another dish you might start with is menudo. Not to belabor your fondness for tripe, but what with that & chiles & hominy & onions etc., and no tortilla encasement, it might offer you an entree into other dishes.

                          1. re: tatamagouche

                            I didn't want to be the one to say it first, but, Qdoba? Gimmee a break! That's about as close to real Mexican food as Taco Bell.

                            However, if menudo is too Mexican, then I'd suggest going Scottish, with a nice plate of haggis.

                            1. re: wagger

                              Actually, menudo or posole is a great idea! I love dipping a tortilla in mine but it is great without it as well. The best posole I've had in Colorado is at a place on 17th street in Denver, down near City Park. Can't for the life of me remember the name though, can anyone help me here?

                              And I agree, no way would I recommend Qdoba as anything mexican.

                              Oh, another thought is Tahona Tequila Bistro in Boulder on Pearl. I've only had their fish tacos but I really liked them.

                              On the other hand, there is no crime in just not digging a certain cuisine. I don't dig Chinese for the most part and if I get a craving and my friends catch wind of it I tell 'em they better take advantage as it likely won't come back around for another 9 months or so.

                              1. re: RobynS

                                Ok, I'll keep an eye out for menudo, thanks! The Broomfield POM was having a sale on tripe last weekend and I almost picked up some...

                                1. re: lotuseedpaste

                                  Check out Cilantro Mary's in Lyons, its a gem. Oh, and stay away from Juanitas - eck!

                                  1. re: lavendula

                                    My favorite authentic pick: the tacos, burritos, etc. served in the back room of the carniceria near the intersection of 28th and Bluff across from RallySport. A Jarritos soda and a couple of lengua tacos and I'm pretty darn happy and out less than $5.