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May 23, 2010 11:55 AM

Great Mexican and Latin-American Food in Seattle?

I'm working on a Food Map for greater Seattle in preparation for a scouting trip this summer and want to include some great Mexican and Latin American food. Besides Tacos El Asadero and La Carta de Oaxaca, I don't know of other great places.

Here's the Food Map I've made up so far:

and I found this old post from 4 years ago but can't tell what is still good or not:

Any other suggestions?

Tacos El Asadero
3517 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98127

Tacos El Asadero
4200 S Othello St, Seattle, WA 98118

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  1. You really really aren't going to get great Mexican in Seattle. You can get decent (I would add El Puerco Lloron to the list of decent, and Cactus (for southwestern, maybe El Camino), but if you have limited time in Seattle, you are better off eating some of the really good food here, especially if you live someplace where you can get really great Mexican (or Latin American). I am originally from Texas, by the way.

    El Puerco Lloron
    1501 Western Ave Ste 200, Seattle, WA 98101

    7 Replies
    1. re: cocktailhour

      Hmm. So what are the really great non-Mexican places (that I haven't already put on the map)?

      1. re: Citizen Taco

        For excellent Spanish cuisine, Harvest Vine. It's not going to be inexpensive, but a true Chowhound destination.

        Harvest Vine
        2701 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112

      2. re: cocktailhour

        Maybe I just hit them on an off day...but I thought that El Puerco Lloron was AWFUL. And the restaurant was a disaster area, service was so bad that we almost walked out while trying to order.
        There's plenty of good Mexican in Seattle, but it SEEMS like it's only in the form of taquerias. I was raised in an immigrant neighborhood in Nashville, and when I came here I was a bit surprised to find that "Mexican restaurant" is not even really a thing here - it is apparently some weird Northwestern version(Family Mexican Restaurant) that I have never seen...and it's AWFUL(like Azteca).
        If you want Mexican food in Seattle, head toward the North side on Aurora or the South side on MLK way and you will find it where the rent is cheap.

        1. re: dkcaudill

          OK, you can get any number of sad disasters here, but carne asada tacos with whole beans, a side of guacamole and chips has been good to me. Though not loudly advertised, I have ordered a dozen tortillas to go every time, for years.

          1. re: dkcaudill

            Huh, I've always liked El Puerco Lloron. Nothing mind-blowing to be sure, but simple, honest food at a reasonable price. A nice little room and outdoor seating on the steps. And beer.

            Unless I want tortillas I never head downtown specifically to go there, and for a better taco I head to someplace like El Quetzal or Muy Macho, but Lloron has a valued place among the rampant tourist traps, corporate bars, and pricey small plates---and those handmade tortillas to go by the dozen. I sometimes have the lady of the house pick up a sack while I start roasting the tomatillos and serranos at home.

            And not sure there's any service to actually complain about: you grab your own tray; order, pay, and get your food at the counter; do the salsa bar thing; and bus your own table or just leave with a "gracias."

            For a more upscale "Mexican Restuarant" I'd recommend someplace like El Camino in Fremont (although we've only had antojitos and drinks) or Senor Moose in Ballard. Edit: I think Camino even steers clear of factory-farmed meat, which can be hard to find among Mexican restaurants.

            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

              I agree. It has been there on the hillclimb for somewhere around 30 years, and when El Puerco arrived, the options for Mexican in Seattle consisted of places like Mama's Mexican Kitchen and the Azteca chain.

              "The Crying Pig" is not the best in town, but "AWFUL" it is not.

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                I like the space at El Puerco and I love their guacamole tostada and homemade tortillas. I've had some terrible stuff there, though--the fish tacos are bad. And the only decent salsa in the bar is the pico, and even then, the tomatoes are never ripe and the onion chunks are too big. One of the salsas tastes like spaghetti sauce from a jar. But I am totally happy going for the tostada.I remember the chile rellano being good but it's been a while.

                In terms of other Mexican restaurants that aren't taquerias and aren't Azteca style--Cocina Esperanza, Poquitos, Barrio, and La Carta of course. And what's the place on Broadway...they had a fire and I guess I don't know if they reopened, but I had good meals there in the past (interesting stuff, too, like crepes)...anyone know what I'm talking about? Maybe it started with a G?

          2. The situation is not as dire as people make it out to be. However, you have to put some effort into it. Brief thoughts on places I have visited:

            Taqueria la Estacion (broad menu, interesting flavors, great execution; stop by next time you have to go to the airport)

            El Camion (I've only visited the Aurora location; get the lengua)
            Senor Moose (one of the only places serving non-taqueria Mexican in Seattle; brunch was better before the lines got so long)
            La Carta de Oaxaca (one of the only places serving "refined" taqueria fare)
            El Comal (Salvadoran food in Bellevue; same owners as Salvadorean Bakery)
            Taqueria Guadalajara (a decent Eastside option, though the menu is limited)
            Taquera el Rinconsito (a broad menu, though they don't seem to try as hard as they could)

            Rancho Bravo (massively overpraised due to the hours)
            Flair (ditto, and the tacos are only cheap because they are TINY)
            Guaymas (only worth it if you order pork)
            Taqueria Tequila (only worth it if you are too lazy to head up to El Camion)
            Guanacos (only worth it if you're getting a pupusa)

            Barracuda (for $4 a taco, the least they could do is include some flavor)
            Mama's (if you didn't grow up on this sort of stuff, you won't enjoy it now)

            Senor Moose Cafe
            5242 Leary Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

            12 Replies
            1. re: lavaca

              I'd throw Cocina Esperanza, El Puerco LLoron and Tacqueria El Sabor in to the good list.

              Cocina Esperanza
              3127 NW 85th St, Seattle, WA 98117

              1. re: lavaca

                Mostly agree with lavaca's breakdown. I think the Salvadorean food at Comal is nearly great. I also think that Rancho Bravo rates better than so-so, while I think Guadalajara is only decent.

                I'd definitely add El Quetzal in Beacon Hill to the great list--very solid D.F. fare, e.g. huaraches, pambazos, tortas. The solid south end-spots El Paisano (esp. the campeche) and Muy Macho also deserve a mention.

                1. re: equinoise

                  I definitely need to visit El Comal again, although it's not really convenient to me. What dishes have you tried?

                  1. re: lavaca

                    Various pupusas, uniformly good, esp. the ayote and chicharron. The curtido has a reddish chile tint to it that is almost quasi-kim chee. Very intriguing.

                    I had this other dish that was traditionally Salvadorean, that was vegetable stuffed with meat, but I cannot recall the name. The refried beans are good too.

                  2. re: equinoise

                    +1 to both Muy Macho and El Quetzal, although I agree that if you're coming from someplace like LA or Chicago you're not going to find anything revelatory here in Seattle.

                  3. re: lavaca

                    Two more places for the "so-so" list:

                    Mission: Amateur hour in West Seattle: the bland pork taco fell apart as soon as I picked it up and the chicken taco fell apart after I took one bite. That's not supposed to happen. The sweet potato taco was actually pretty good, though. Anyone want to try to convince me I just went on a bad night?
                    Taqueria Mi Charrito: The menu looks interesting, but they don't seem to be trying very hard. The torta was soggy and much of the meat and lettuce ended up on my plate. I found it amusing that several of the specials just seem to be other items wrapped up in a flour tortilla (e.g. the chile relleno burrito).

                    1. re: lavaca

                      I agree that the tacos at Mission are a bit bland but for the happy hour prices they're not a bad deal and I've never had one fall apart. My wife does like their vegetarian options quite a bit.

                    2. re: lavaca

                      Another so-so place (that has the potential to become good): Tacos el Campesino on 3rd in Belltown. I ordered carne asada, lengua, and cabeza tacos. All three came covered in salsa verde and tasted identical except for the bits of meat that escaped the salsa. I don't know why they do this, given that the three different beef preparations did have distinct flavors and textures (it didn't seem like they were covering up the taste of spoiled meat). But, hey, $1.50 is certainly cheaper than any other taco option around. The tacos were also served with a slice of lemon rather than lime, something I've never seen before.

                      The menu is really weird - I think they're operating under the assumption that their customers either hate Mexican food (you can get a Philly cheesesteak or a grilled cheese sandwich) or only know it from Taco Bell (they have hard shell tacos, as well as a taco that looked like a soft taco supreme in a corn tortilla).

                      Worth checking out if you are already in Belltown or Lower Queen Anne.

                      1. re: lavaca

                        LaVaca, Thank you for straight-up review.
                        Do you know where not-floppy papusas live.

                        1. re: mrnelso

                          I can't claim to be an expert, but El Comal is where I would suggest you start. Salvadorean Bakery is run by the same (related?) people, so that would also be worth checking out if White Center is more convenient for you than Bellevue.

                          1. re: lavaca

                            The deal is, we participated on a fund-raiser recently, and the kitchen produced the very model of pupusas. Cheese inside surfaced right away and took command of the flavor of that moment. Was it queso fresco?, Queso blanco?, Mozz? - I do not know, but the cheese was always perfectly in charge. Lesser pupusas abound, where the wrap is weak and flabby, and the flavor paltry. Tell me, please, is the difference gluten-development (tell me how?), ingredients? or ???

                        2. re: lavaca


                          I went to Taqueria El Sabor in Shoreline and agree that it should be added to the usual rotation of anyone who enjoys Mexican food in the North End. The menu has zero surprises, but the food is well-prepared and the condiment bar is huge.

                          Huarachitos, on the other hand, is quite novel. The focus is Central/Southern Mexico and thus the menu includes many dishes not normally seen at Seattle taquerias. They've got several steak and shrimp dishes plus a really broad selection of meats (including mutton, if you're into that sort of thing). Flavors are not loud, but they're well-realized The atmosphere is almost upscale as far as taquerias go (wooden chairs, draft beer), but it's still reasonably cheap. Only drawback: their tortillas aren't the best. If you like Mexican food, this place is well worth the trip to Rainier Valley.

                          Taqueria El Sabor
                          15221 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, WA 98133

                        3. Has anyone tried El Mestizo up by Seattle U ? It seemed to be pretty good at least for Seattle lol

                          El Mestizo
                          526 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: duvelusa

                            Went to El Mestizo tonight. The restaurant split a so-so Caesar salad for us. I had cochinita pibil and it was very good--quite similar to what I've had in Mexico. Came with the requisite pickled onions and was served with some pretty tasty rice cooked with mixed veggies. My husband had a chipotle fish special--a little low on chipotle flavor, but otherwise tasty. They serve Mexican coke, meaning it's flavored with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. The horchata was one of the best I've had outside of Mexico--very refreshing and topped with a generous sprinkling of Ceylon (Mexican) cinnamon. Ask for it, because it's not on the menu. Handmade corn tortillas were very good. We didn't have room for dessert and in fact brought half my dinner home, because I couldn't finish it. I'm willing to try this place again because it does have some different things on the menu.

                            El Mestizo
                            526 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

                            1. re: PAO

                              I went to El Mestizo this Friday and liked it. The menu is a sort of greatest hits of regional Mexican: cochinita pibil from Yucatan; huaraches from DF; mole from Oaxaca; chiles en nogada from Puebla. The molletes were a bit pedestrian. The cochinita was dynamite; and the chiles en nogada were delightful, such a different flavor profile from most mexican food I've tried. Granted, these were the first versions I've had of any of these three dishes, but Mestizo has the flavors and pricing to make me come back. Also, they gave us a complimentary flan and chocolate dessert as first-time customers, which was an appreciated gesture.

                              El Mestizo
                              526 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

                          2. Barracuda Taqueria in lower Queen Anne/Belltown is outstanding. Homemade chips & salsa, homemade corn tortillas and outstanding taco's my current favorite for a Mexican fix.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: frygirl

                              Thanks, I'm interested in trying. Questions:

                              1. $4 seems like a lot for a taco. Are they gigantic? Are they otherwise fantastic? Are the tortas, at the same price, bigger?

                              2. How recently did you have homemade chips and salsa there? A yelp reviewer mentioned a switch from homemade chips to store-bought.


                              1. re: not the bad Steve

                                The tacos are smallish - two make a meal. I think they are $4 because the corn tortillas are freshly made to order and the quality of the ingredients is supurb.

                                I had homemade chips there less than 2 weeks ago. I lunched there right after they opened and that's when they had store-bought chips. But they are definitely on board with homemade now. And they sure do it right.

                                Can you tell it's my favorite Mexican in Seattle? I love that place.

                                1. re: frygirl

                                  Thanks much for your response. I'm glad you're enjoying it so much!

                                  My take:

                                  In my two visits, I've greatly enjoyed the chips and guacamole, the green salsa, the pastor, and the breakfast tacos with egg and chorizo.

                                  Not a fan of the goat tacos (too smoky for me), the red salsa that comes with chips (can't recall why), or the tortas (bread not quite right, didn't like the addition of black beans).

                                  I found the pot de creme good, but not fabulous. Also, I'd prefer to be served water that's colder than room temperature without having to ask, but this is a small quibble.

                              2. re: frygirl

                                First trip to Barracuda today. $4 tacos priced OK (at least for Belltown) for the quality and volume. I ate 2 and barely had room for the $5 tamale at Bandito's, next door. I will be returning for the other tacos on the maeu, and the tortas.
                                Both these places are excellent additions to the rotation.

                              3. I agree pretty solidly with lavaca's hierarchy.

                                I would stay away from El Puerco Lloron in Seattle and la Cocina del Puerco in Bellevue. Both are so-so. Neither are authentic, but as well, neither use cheddar cheese on anything. And they do have tasty carnitas, so maybe so-so plus good.

                                Cactus is the worst restaurant in Seattle. Period. I consistently get dragged there by friends who think its good. I think it all tastes like it was cooked in Kansas and frozen and sent to the Northwest in a Sysco truck and thawed and thrown on a plate.

                                If you are into tortas, there is Borriga Llena on Aurora. Traditional DF style comida.
                                And Cuban style sandwiches at Paseo on Fremont (upper Fremont, nearer to the Zoo than to downtown Fremont).
                                For pupusas, besides Salvadorean Bakery in White Center, try Guanaco's on Broadway and in the U District.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: gryphyx

                                  I visited El Puerco Lloron after people kept mentioning it and was reasonably happy with my meal (pork tamales with beans and rice) once I put a healthy portion of pickled carrots, onions, and peppers on my plate. If nothing else, I'm sure it's better than any other Mexican place in downtown Seattle.

                                  (But, wait, didn't somebody open up a taco truck on 3rd Avenue recently?)

                                  El Puerco Lloron
                                  1501 Western Ave Ste 200, Seattle, WA 98101

                                  1. re: lavaca

                                    lavaca, estoy de acuerdo... es mejor que cualquier otro lugar mexicano en el centro... pero no quiere decir q es rico. Tiene comida en el estilo de lo mexicano. ¡Y sip, hay q poner chiles!

                                    lavaca, I agree... its better than any other Mexican place en downtown... but that doesn't mean its yummy! They have food en a Mexican style and yeah you have to put a ton of chiles y salsas pa q sepa traditicional!

                                    1. re: gryphyx

                                      Nunca quisiera conducir a Pike Place solamente para visitar El Puerco, pero es una opción segura cuando ya estoy en el centro. Parece que personas de barrios sin comida mexicana buena piensen que El Puerco Lloron es lo mejor en Seattle porque es mejor que los opciones en Fremont o Magnolia. Man, my Spanish is really going downhill.

                                      (I get the feeling that El Puerco Lloron really was one of the best Mexican options in town 15-20 years ago. Things elsewhere seem to have improved since then.)

                                      El Puerco Lloron
                                      1501 Western Ave Ste 200, Seattle, WA 98101

                                      1. re: lavaca

                                        In re: Lavaca "15-20 years ago." Exactly true. As to "authentic" though, it depends on authentic to what, which depends on where you've been. El Puerco Lloron serves precisely the food I ate every day when I worked in a plant in Ysleta, 25 years ago. Recently annexed to El Paso, Wikipedia says "Ysleta was settled between October 9 and October 12, 1680 (can you get any more authentic than that?), when Spanish conquistadors, Franciscan clerics and Tigua Indians took refuge along the southern bank of the Rio Grande. This is the oldest European settlement in the area that is the present-day U.S. state of Texas. These people were fleeing the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico." Maybe a hundred yards from the border, it definitely qualifies as Tex-Mex, with a big hit of Tigua and a smidge of Franciscan. El Puerco Lloron's is not the food of the interior, to be sure, but an effective teleportation of a countryside lunch in border-Texas, circa 1980. The Fresh tortillas are a lot of work, so hey took them off the menu, though they still serve them in their tacos and will still serve you a fresh dozen if you are respectful. I seriously recommend this. It's altogether true that local Mexican fare has improved immensely in the last 20 years, and some of the new taco trucks are way more fabulous than El Puerco Lloron. To be fair, though, the Pike Place Market is governed as a historic artifact (sic) by the "the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (the PDA)." Owners complain to me that the PDA will frustrate them if they try to change even the typeface on their menu, much less the food. It's a time-machine. What you get is the best that Seattle could offer, in 1971. Let me assure you, El Puerco Lloron of 1971 stood high above the restaurant hoi polloi of the time. In the past decade, a wave of "taco-trucks" has changed the scene altogether. I visited el Camion (The Truck - heh) today, on the ramp out of the Home Depot around 130th and Aurora and was blown away by the menu and the food. More meat varieties than I've seen (OK, there's the usual: Asada, Carnitas, Adobada, Lengua, Tripas, Cabeza [til today, Muy Macho was the only place I'd seen many of these], Fish, but Cochinita is new to me, and you sure don't see Chorizo on every taco menu). Stretching farther, were Gorditas, Mulitas (I have no idea, but plan to), as well as Tortas, Tamales (huge, and made on-site daily), Breakfast Burritos, Huevos con Chorizo (dig it).
                                        Yes, decent Mexican food is more possible in Seattle, every day, by the grace of newer immigrants than us.

                                        Pike Place Market
                                        1501 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101

                                        El Puerco Lloron
                                        1501 Western Ave Ste 200, Seattle, WA 98101

                                        1. re: mrnelso

                                          I've noticed an El Camion truck sitting in the lot of the Mud Bay on 15th in Ballard. Has anyone seen it open? I found it closed last week when I made an emergency run for some puppy chow.

                                          1. re: BallardFoodie

                                            FYI - This El Camion truck is now up and running.

                                  2. re: gryphyx

                                    Best thing about El Puerco Lloron is that you can get fresh tortilla to go by the dozen. A real time-saver when I'm cooking at home.

                                    El Puerco Lloron
                                    1501 Western Ave Ste 200, Seattle, WA 98101