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Why do some Mexican restaurants have whole beans and others refried?

I did a small search for this and didn't find but feel free to guide me to the answer.

I have a strong preference for whole beans with Mexican food. Black beans are my fave but pintos are great also. Refried are just not for me. Is there a reason that the majority of Mexican restaurants, in my experience anyway, serve one or the other? Is one from a certain region? And I'm not talking chains. We have a little joint near us with just a few stools, mostly takeout, totally authentic (they make and sell their own chorizo in the back) and they're refried only. Any guidance on this?

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  1. I'm no expert, but I'll make a hypothesis:
    Mexico, like many, many, other countries, is comprised of different regions, and different cultural nuances. A suggestion, however: If you frequent the little take out joint, ASK them to make some for you. Next time you go, ask if they'll make a little batch next friday, or whatever day you can plan to go, and tell them you'll be there. If they see you often, I bet they'll take it into consideration. I'd also bet that they'd be very enthusiastic about you taking an interest in their place, and might offer you some tastes of other things as well.

    1. Both beans cooked whole and refried beans are served throughout Mexico. US restaurants serving "Mexican" picked up pretty much on refried alone and have not looked back. Now US diners expect refried. You'll have to try my refried.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I think that is much less true than it once was. I've seen whole beans on pretty much every Mexican restaurant I've visited over the past 10ish years, in Manhatttan, upstate NY, LA and elsewhere.

        1. re: small h

          co, hear that? Have you been to any other Mexican restaurant in the US in the last 10 years?

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Golly, I think I might have been to a few others in the last ten years :) I don't eat Mexican in NYC cause I've read repeatedly here that it's their weakest culinary link. Dominican, yes. Mexican, no. Since I live on the Left Coast I've eaten all over the West and although I haven't kept track (!) I'll still stand with the majority having served refried.

            Perhaps my preference for whole beans is the fact that it's easy for a restaurant to *hold* refried beans for too long, rendering it something like wallpaper paste with a little cheese melted on top. Sam, I'm looking forward to your cooking many things for me, not the least of which will be refried beans. (Now isn't that a CH for ya? Waxing eloquently over *&#*&-ing beans!)

            1. re: c oliver

              I've eaten in a couple of Mexican restaurants near my airport hotel in LA a few times over the past 10 years. Refried! I've eaten in 6,237* places in Mexico over the decade - both.

              * yeah, yeah, an exaggeration.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Well, you know that we in NoCal don't really consider LA to be part of the state....:) I suspect older gringas might prefer refried cause that's what they've seen in the chains. (Don't flame; I'm an old coot - but an enlightened one!)

                1. re: small h

                  Deal: One lb of black beans, a diced onion, four diced cloves garlic, cumin, chicken stock, and chicken feet (stock and feet instead of lard), water, and seasoning to taste. My secret ingredient is a dice of smoked beef lung or dried African game meat, but you might not have that. Slow cook or crockpot until beans are ready. Puree. Then “refry” in a good, large heavy stainless, using corn oil and adding finely diced onion and tomato (with seed and juicy pulp removed) to the mix and scraping to and fro. The onions and tomato will eventually disappear into the mix leaving more flavor and added moisture so that things do not turn to paste and stick. Move the refried beans back and forth to maximize quick scorching but no sticking. The thick gelatinesque stock and feet provide the “mouthfeel” of lard and a slightly meaty depth without the lard.

                2. re: c oliver

                  Mexican is not NYC's strong point. However, my impression is that there's been a pretty impressive growth in the Mexican population there in the past decade. Maybe it's getting more interesting? I know we got some pretty darn good tamales sold by a woman on the street right outside the Mexican consulate just a few years back. It probably still won't stand up to L.A. though!

                  As for your opinion of restaurant refried, I agree with you! Too often in the U.S. they come out like dried paste. And with melted cheese...ugh.

          2. Possibly a regional thing. In my area of Texas most Mexican restaurants serve both. Sometime they do not have it on the menu and it only lists refried but they have borracho beans if requested.

            1. If they have whole beans in them and no lard, they ARE NOT frijoles refritos!

              1 Reply
              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                Never said they were. I know the difference but thanks for your help anyway :)

              2. This may be over-simplifying the question, but the standard through the Caribbean is whole black beans with rice and platanos. The standard in the Yucatan is pureed black beans with a sprinkle of cojito cheese, (frijoles charros being the only whole bean dish). Moving further west, the custom returns to whole black beans around Veracruz, and then a mix-and match of refried black and pinto beans from Puebla to to the left coast. American-Mex will probably reflect the practice from their region in Mexico.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Veggo

                  The cheese I get is NEVER that fun.

                  1. re: Cachetes

                    That's funny. But you are right. To upgrade from bi-colored rat-trap jack cheese nuked on your beans, to cojito, requires an adventure to east LA, Glendale AZ, Matamoros, or a plane ticket to Merida.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Or go to your local grocery store. Cachetes lives in Boston. Bet it can be found there. But then I WAS talking restaurants, wasn't I???

                  2. re: Veggo

                    You probably mean queso cotija, right? (Your other post also mentions cojito)

                    1. re: PorkButt

                      I see it spelled both ways. Cojita is probably more correct, and cojito probably evolved as a masculine match for queso, which is not a grammatical requirement for two nouns, but would be for noun plus adjective.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Now you've spelled it a third way! Cojita, cojito, cotija

                        This site in Mexico spells it as cotija after the city in Michoacan
                        http://www.quesocotija.com.mx/index.p...

                        1. re: PorkButt

                          Regional mexican dialect and text strays far from Castillian spanish. And I am probably exhibiting the early signs of old timers' disease, masked by a malleable language.