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Dec 2, 2008 02:10 PM

Real Mexican Food In New Jersey

I'm sure this has been posted before but I'm actually looking for some authentic mexican food in New Jersey for my brother and his family. The recently moved back to New Jersey from California and haven't been able to find anything close to what they had there. Any suggestions. All areas of New Jersey would be okay. But if anyone knows of any in the Morristonw area that would be of help.

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  1. From my experience, Mexican food in NJ will never compare to that found in Cali simply due to the lack of fresh ingredients. In Cali, the lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, etc are all locally grown, not trucked in and nearly frozen for weeks on end. That said, I do like Tinga in Westfield and Charritos in Hoboken. Not an "authentic" experience, but the food is very good for NJ Mexican food. I can't wait for the next time I can taste some yummy Cali Mexican food....

    1. What constantly mystifies me is this. If Sean McGillicuddy moves from New Jersey to California and opens a Mexican restaurant there, it's regarded as "authentic" But if Jorge Martinez moves from Mexico City to New Jersey and opens a Mexican restaurant, it's not authentic as Sean's in California. Why is it that Mexicans forget how to cook their native cuisine when they come to New Jersey but anybody in California can cook authentic Mexican?

      And I doubt if it's the ingredients. First New Jersey tomatoes are superior to California's by far - and fresh ingredients are available world wide today. Any restaurant that wants fresh ingredients can get them.

      Can someone explain to me why Mexicans living & cooking in New Jersey can't cook Mexican food authentically? Do they have to check their Mexican-ness at the Delaware?

      15 Replies
      1. re: CompareFranco

        I disagree with njchowgirl regarding availability of fresh and agree with some of Franco's points.

        What kind of "authentic" do you want? Authentic to a population of Mexicans like to eat. For instance, my town has 3 Mexican "restaurants". The Menu's aren't in english and some of them, you walk in, and everyone thinks the white guy is in the wrong place. To me, that's "authentic" Mexican food. Ok, so mabey it's not as GOOD as what YOU (in general, not anyone specific) think is "good" Mexican food, but, the Mexicans in my town (which there are a lot of) seem to love it.

        BTW - I love the Mexican food in my town, but if you think you're going to go to/find a place where you can sit down, white table clothe and have a Chiles Rellenos on a hip rectangle plate, it's not going to happen. Nope. You need to hit up a town with a high Mexican population and walk into the place every other non-Mexican doesn't.

        If you are curious about the Mexican places I'm talking about in my town, check out a "tour" I did of my town's cuisine, there are a few menus.

        1. re: RPMcMurphy

          Nice tour at your link - I love South River, almost moved there once when I was still living in Jersey. Looked at an apartment on Whitehall (?) about 10 years ago, I think it was? Pretty much walking distance from the downtown area.

          We're awash in great Mexican food here in Portland, OR but sorely lacking Polish. That's okay though, it's encouraged me to learn to make pierogi on my own...

          Interesting thread, I have to read through all this. My sister just bought a place in South Plainfield, near the Plainfield border, and I'll be visiting soon. I've heard Plainfield has a bunch of great Mexican. Never tried any when i was still back there, though...

        2. re: CompareFranco

          I'm no expert on Mexico. But I do know that most Mexicans immigrants in NJ are from central Mexico -- from Puebla and nearby. If you dine at their restaurants, ask for dishes from central Mexico. Mexico has many distinct culinary regions, like China or Italy.

          I suspect that many non-Mexican diners in NJ are looking for a Cal-mex or Tex-mex cuisine. You're not likely to get Cal-mex flavors in a Pueblan kitchen. Just as you won't get Bolognese flavors in a Neopolitan kitchen. A Pueblan restaurant might offer a baja fish taco on their menu, but it's not really their thing, and probably won't satisfy a San Diegan. Instead try ordering a pork stew or a huarache from a central Mexican chef -- you will be getting something authentic.

          1. re: val ann c

            My daughter in law is from Puebla. When they lived in New Jersey she had a very difficult time finding a place to her liking. Now she lives in Tampa and is having a more difficult time finding the foods she was used to in Mexico. I agree, we americans are looking for more of a tex mex or cal mex dining experience.

            1. re: val ann c

              That one Road Food show featured a sandwich from the Puebla area of Mexico that looked incredibly good. Unfortunately, the restaurant was in Chicago:-(

              1. re: Heatherb

                Mmm, cemitas. That place in Chicago is excellent. I know there are places in Queens that also make these.

              2. re: val ann c

                val- interesting post about the regionality of Mexican food. i totally agree. i have a friend whose wife is mexican (i believe from Mexico City). she cooks "authentic" mexican food, but it is nothing like what i've seen in nj or cali- full of creamy sauces, fried foods, and very heavy. it appears that "authentic mexican" is often matter of perspective, then.

                as for the fresh food aspect- you can get "fresh" food here in NJ, and NJ tomatoes ARE the best. however, during many times of year we need to truck in these "fresh" veggies and, in my humble opinion, they taste less than fresh. to make things worse, even when fresh locally-grown food is available, many restaurants fail to use it. comparefranco, tell me that you haven't ordered a dish with tomatoes in august just to find the trucked-in stuff on your plate. yuck!

                the freshness of the ingredients in cali is what stood out to me as the major difference between coasts.

              3. re: CompareFranco


                You can find excellent, authentic Mexican food in many places in New Jersey. The backroads of Salem and south Jersey in general are filled with great little places intended for farm workers. Route 27 at the south end of New Brunswick has a large concentration of Mexican restaurants and bakeries that are all but unapproachable without serious knowledge of the cuisine. Finally, downtown Plainfield has some real Mexican places mixed in with its large number of restaurant from all over Latin America.

                ...and Franco...relax, Mexican cook excellent, authentic food all over the state. Okay...maybe not in upscale places like Hoboken and Westfield, but for the rest of us.

                1. re: BrianYarvin

                  Wow, very intriguing post. I think the road is calling me...

                  1. re: BrianYarvin

                    Hey, and don't forget downtown Perth Amboy
                    My brother and I (both locally raised) lived in New Mexico. With some family business to attend he flew in from Nevada (he is married to an old New Mexican family.) and I drove down from Maine. We chowed happily at Tapitios in South River several times for a quick lunch and were both pleased. And luckily, he drove home from the Mexican Bar n Prospect St. Need trouble finding good Mexican comida? Come to Maine!
                    Murph, sorry I didn't get to meet ya.

                    1. re: BrianYarvin

                      If you take Elmore Ave. in Elizabeth/Elmora (I think its route 439) you'll pass a bunch of Spanish restaurants and grocery stores. However, I’m not sure if they’re all Mexican, they might be Salvadoran or Guatemalan.

                      1. re: MShapiro

                        I haven't noticed any Mexican on Elmora, but besides the Salvadoran and Guatemalan, there's Peruvian and kosher deli worth eating too.

                        1. re: BrianYarvin

                          BrianYarvin -

                          My bad - thanks for the clarification. What was the Peruvian place you mentioned? Have you tried any of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan?

                          1. re: MShapiro

                            M -

                            The Mexican might well be there, but I haven't gone wrong at the Peruvians.

                            1. re: BrianYarvin

                              Specifically which of the Peruvian places do you recommend? Gracias...

                  2. In Hammonton, just off the AC Expressway is a restaurant called Fiesta Mexicana. While they do have some Tex Mex items, but many of the dishes listed are things I haven't seen since leaving Texas several years ago. Very authentic Mexican food. Hammonton is the heart of blueberry and tomato farming in S Jersey, and there is a huge Mexican population of farm workers living there. You will always find Mexican workers in the restaurant. Their menu says they have a website, but when I enter the name of the restaurant, something completely different comes up.
                    IMO, this is probably the best Mexican food I have had in NJ. If you're interested, Philly has a good handful of authentic new Mexican restaurants now as well.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: mschow

                      It's a joint, but Mexican Village in Princeton. Not sure how authentic, but it beats a chain any day. Off the beaten path, very rustic, a rough hidden gem.

                      1. re: 2ndToNone

                        I LOVE Mexican Village, but you will miss it if you don't know where it is. It is called Las Tortugas on the outside of the building. It's actually Zagat rated as well. I live in Ensenada, Mexico 2 months out of the year, and it's some of the best western Mexican food I have found in central Jersey. Their enchiladas supremas are amazing. highly recommended.

                        The fresh salsa with chips before the meal is very spicy for most Americans, just a heads up. Especially in summer when all the ingredients are at their peak. It's on Leigh Ave by the hospital. Find any spot on the street and just walk, the parking lot (if you find it) only accommodates 4 cars max.


                      2. re: mschow

                        My family and I love Fiesta Mexicana and we often head over to Hammonton when we get a craving for some great, and amazingly affordable,Mexican food.

                        1. re: mschow

                          Add me to the list of those who recommend Fiesta Mexicana. I was just there last night. Their verde sauce is really to die for. The mole is pretty good too. There is always at least 2 large tables of actual mexican people eating there. They serve all kinds of mexican beers. It is definately worth the trip out to Hammonton.

                          1. re: nightflower

                            Love the Verde sauce. Not so crazy about the salsa, though.

                        2. I suppose I can't say I've had "authentic" Mexican food (since so many people here decry the lack of it in NJ), but I absolutely love Don Jose in East Hanover (route 10). It's seldom that I leave any food on my plate there, and the table salsa is fantastic!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dj487

                            I love Don Jose (the restaurant, not the man!) - best mole I've ever had!

                          2. No place near Morristown but Mi Mexico, rt 35 south, Point Pleasant Beach make amazing tinga!