Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General South Archive >
Nov 12, 2008 04:58 AM

Recommended Mexican restaurants in Chapel Hill/Carrboro?

Chowhounds, can anyone recommend good Mexican restaurants in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area? I'm looking for something reasonably priced and obviously very tasty, but NOT standard Tex-Mex, like El Dorado (or at least the El Dorado that used to be on E. Franklin).Despite having lived there, I haven't been to the area in quite some time, hence this email. I will be in the area tonight, so I know that this is last-minute, but any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and if you could also add which dish(es) you recommend in particular, that'd be a bonus. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The best choice, head and shoulders above the rest, is Fiesta Grill (Gourmet and Bon Appetit all agree too). Everything is good but the mole is exceptional. I also have the occasional dream about their chile verde.

    It is about 5 mi west of Carrboro on NC 54. No reservations so you can expect to wait a bit on most nights. If you call, they may put people on the wait list but I'm not sure (we wait or get takeout since it is on our way home).

    1 Reply
    1. re: brokegradstudent

      I'll second Fiesta Grill. Other options are a taqueria turned restaurant near Carr Mill Mall (sorry, I don't know the name) and La Hacienda. La Hacienda is closer to the El Rodeo's of the world but has a few unique dishes and has many Latino customers (which is always a positive sign).

    2. Since you said "area" I will recommend Tonali, which is a few miles down 15-501 in Durham. Chef Andres makes fresh, inventive Mexican dishes-- definitely not Tex Mex. Search Tonali thread in Chowhound for additional information.

      1. Fiesta Grill, easily. Yes, they do make their own mole. Honestly the vegetable soup is as good as any I've had, and all their soups seem to be popular lunch choices. The only things on their menu that they don't make fresh appear to be the jalapeno poppers (frozen) and potato skins (frozen). The rest is theirs.

        I live about 0.33 miles from them, but I know people who drive from Raleigh just to eat there and go back home again...

        1. Follow up to my original question: So my father and I made the long trek from Durham all the way out to Fiesta Grill (which I at several times thought I had been given wrong directions... the restaurant is definitely a good ways outside of main street Carrboro). There was no wait, and the family (?) who ran it greeted us as if we'd been coming there for years. Staff overall were exceptionally friendly, courteous and very forthcoming with recommendations when we asked. They were attentive as well, refills never had to be asked for, and our waitress brought us a couple of different kinds of salsas when I asked. The red (hot) salsa is worth the drive alone.

          My dad ordered Steak al Carbon, and I chose the catfish tacos. Both dishes were, in a word, phenomenal The waitress described the fish tacos as "definitely not greasy", and I have to concur. They were beautifully spiced, and the fish itself was incredibly fresh tasting. Dad's steak was marinated superbly, and we ended up finishing each other's plates. An interesting note: While the restaurant was definitely tex-mex (and not necessarily traditional mexican), they didn't slather on the sour cream, guacamole and cheese. In fact, between us both, there was only a bit of cheese added to the refried beans on my plate... no sour cream or guacamole to be found anywhere (though you CAN order them). The beauty of that was that they just weren't needed! The FOOD, not the CONDIMENTS, spoke for themselves. The menu at Fiesta Grill is also quite deep; I found at least a dozen dishes I immediately wanted to try... and most of them are light years away from the relatively dull stuff you find at typical tex-mex restaurants. Needless to say, we will be going back.

          A word about my father: He is easily the most nitpicking person I have ever met when it comes to food, and he loved his meal there. Fiesta Grill most definitely gets my highest recommendation, and I would have to say it's the best mexican (okay, tex-mex), I have had in the triangle area. Fussycouple posted that people drive all the way from Raleigh just to eat there and then turn around and go home. I can see why. I am looking forward to trying Mez and Tonali at some point too. THANKS, chowhounders, for the recommendation - Fiesta Grill is now on my top 10 list !

          1 Reply
          1. re: Needgoodeats

            The whole fried tilapia is also really good!

          2. A quick Fiesta Grill heads up. We usually pick up take-out on the way home but for those who like to eat in...

            "Orange County is requiring that we reduce the number of available tables in our restaurant by nearly one half, to only 13 seats. As you know, at peak hours there can already be significant wait times, and many of you have adjusted your schedules accordingly and try to visit us at less-busy times when there are empty tables. The new requirements will make this rescheduling even more important.

            We would also like to encourage you to try our takeout service. Our full menu is available for takeout and using it will mean the same great food but with little or no wait time for you. You can even phone in your order and have it waiting for you when you arrive to pick it up.

            We certainly appreciate your patronage over the last six years. We consider you all to be family and we certainly apologize for any inconvenience this might cause. Due to the circumstances though, our options are very limited and while we are exploring other ways in which to serve you better, at this time we think that keeping our hours the same, living with our limited county-imposed eat-in seating arrangement, and encouraging the use of our takeout service is probably the best way to handle this situation. The new limitation will become effective when we reopen after the Thanksgiving holidays on Saturday November 29, 2008.

            Stay tuned and we will communicate any future changes. Again, thanks for your understanding.

            --The Fiesta Grill staff"

            6 Replies
            1. re: brokegradstudent

              Wow. Why in the name of all the is tasty would Orange County make them do this??

              1. re: LulusMom

                I had the same question. That's bizarre.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I'm starting to think that the prerequisite for any decision making job in government is to have never worked in business before...

                  So many policies seemed designed to just make it impossible to operate!

                  1. re: meatn3

                    It's based on the size of their septic system.

                    "Owner Chuy Bravo has been bending the rules of his operational permit for years, seating more than the maximum 13 patrons at a time. That number is based on the capacity of the septic system that serves the restaurant and a woodworking shop next door.

                    A recent health inspection found moisture seeping up from the septic tank in the woods behind the businesses, and the Orange County Health Department threatened to revoke his permit."


                    1. re: blewgo

                      Reason #11,395 to hate the health department...

                      My favorite dish would be ruined by takeout, but I think most of their menu would be fine...looks like there will be a lot of diners eating in the parking lot now.

                      1. re: blewgo

                        Thanks for explaining. I've seen the most insane rulings that cost thousands on sign ordinances, clearance, outlet locations. It makes it so hard to put older buildings to new uses.