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Where Can I Get Crappy Fake Mexican Food?

  • m

This might sound weird, but I am looking for the cheap, far from authentic Mexcian food that I grew up with.

Down where I live in the South, EVERY Mexcian restaurant has the same menu. You basically either order by combination number, lunch special, or a la carte.

The food is the same in every place. They have quesadillas, fajitas, chimichangas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and a few other slightly more authentic dishes. You can order anything with rice and refried beans.

Right when you sit down, they bring chips and salsa to the table. The decor is tacky, and almost nothing costs over 12 dollars. Lunch is 6 dollars max.

I can't find a single place in Philly that is like this. All the Mexican or TexMex food here is either fancy and authentic or "fresh" and fast like Chipotle. These both are super tasty, but I don't want authentic or fresh or good quality. I want cheese dip and a chicken quesadilla that tastes SO much better than it should.

Is there any place I can find this??

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    1. Is El Azteca on Chestnut still open? That place was like that.

      Mad4Mex in West Philly fits the bill. I think it's seriously bad; the ingredients are shit, the dips taste like they were made a week ago, and the margaritas are pre-mixed (with the tequila, even). But I guess that is what you are looking for? Somehow they manage to keep an excellent beer list, though.

      Also you should try Las Bugambilias on South Street. It is a bit better and more authentic than what you are describing, but has a lot of overlap with those kind of menu items and is very affordable. The enchiladas are great.

      5 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        Mad Mex is still around? I agree, it's bad. I thought they closed.

        1. re: Buckethead

          Still around. I was just there this past Saturday! They make good waffle fries, and my margaritas have rarely been premixed (I tend to order mine straight up). Also, the beer list, as mentioned, is respectable, and the tequila selection is surprisingly not crappy.

          mzhao - I know exactly the kind of mexican place you're talking about! They're all over the midwest where I'm from, too. Totally crappy mom-and-pop type shops but awesome nonetheless. Unfortunately, I've never seen anything like that around here (but I'm mostly stuck within the regions of wherever SEPTA takes me). El Azteca is probably as close as you're going to get.

          1. re: Ali

            Maybe only the frozen margaritas are premixed. I've gone there with someone who doesn't drink and when he asked for a virgin margarita they couldn't make it.

        2. re: barryg

          i think el azteca is still there and is probably the best bet. las bugambilias is way too authentic for this me thinks....

          1. re: mazza3

            Is the El Azteca on Chestnut related to the El Azteca in Mt Laurel, NJ? That's our tried-and-true, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and would totally fit the OP's criteria. We've seen the city location on some trips to Jones and always wondered if they were siblings, cousins, or just random strangers with the same name...

        3. I like Mad for Mex. It's not gourmet, but doesn't pretend to be.

          I like el fuego more - smaller menu, though - it's basically a burrito place.

          i lived in the Bay Area for a few years. Burrito places like that are all over the place. The food at El Fuego would have been fine for a neighborhood place. Not something to rave about, but fine.
          The prices, otoh... I do miss the big burrito at $3.75.

          1. Some other bad Mexican restaurants in CC: Mission Grill, Mexican Post (two locations).

            2 Replies
            1. re: barryg

              I'm from the south, and I know the places you mean. Fantastic, in a totally crap-food way.

              El Azteca & Mexican post are definitely the closest I've seen here, although they don't quite fit the bill.

              1. re: PhillyA

                What about Mexican Post? Really sounds like the on the border or chi chis chain food you are looking for.

            2. Mexican Post, for sure! The one at Second and Chestnut will likely also have the ambiance of the places you remember.

              Mexican Post
              3100 Naamans Rd Ste 14, Wilmington, DE 19810

              1 Reply
              1. re: LPhila

                Are you in Center City or in the burbs? If so, where?

              2. Definitely Mexican Post!

                Mexican Post
                3100 Naamans Rd Ste 14, Wilmington, DE 19810

                1. There's actually an entire chain in Delaware that fits the bill... http://authenticmex.com/restaurants/
                  You know you're in trouble when one of the lunch specials is called "Speedy Gonzales."

                  But why travel for bad food? Just go to the Mexican Post. (Even have one in DE!


                  Mexican Post
                  3100 Naamans Rd Ste 14, Wilmington, DE 19810

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: bluehensfan

                    try Plaza Azteca in Plymouth Meeting. It's a chain, apparently, but it's the only one I've ever seen. Not good at all...but it's cheap and there's plenty of combo meals with rice and beans.

                    1. re: jba1216

                      I would disagree about the food not being good. I've had all sorts of mexican at almost all the mexican places around the tri-state area from Taqueria Moroleon in Kennett Square/Avondale to little hole in the wall spots like Don Memos and the other one next to it in Upper Darby. Plaza Azteca is nowhere close to being horrible.

                      But I do agree it not being authentic as all the other ones. Very tacky and cheap

                      1. re: paychecktoday

                        I agree. I've been there a couple times with a group and didn't have high expectations since it's a chain Tex-Mex place, but I was pleasantly surprised.

                    2. re: bluehensfan

                      Haha, Speedy Gonzales is actually on EVERY single Mexican restaurant lunch menu in my town. I don't even have to One enchilada, one taco, choice of rice or beans. I don't even have to look at the menu to tell you that. If they've got that, then this is EXACTLY the place I am looking for. Thanks!

                      1. re: mzhao

                        Do let us know if it's as bad as I remember! :)

                      2. re: bluehensfan

                        Not exactly on topic but have you been to Taco Rivera on Rt. 273 just east of Airport Rd. Or, as I like to call it, Casa de Wells Cargo. By my not very well developed palate they serve up some good and cheap Mexican food.

                      3. Try Rey Azteca- 80 York Road, Warminster. Sup[er cheap, really tasty, sounds like just what you're looking for. I'm pretty sure they are still BYOB, but they may have changed since last I was there.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: grlwhoeats

                          Rey Azteca! That's the place I was going to recommend, grlwhoeats! Just didn't know if that was in mzhao's traveling range. Perfect for what he/she is craving.

                          There are also a number of Mexican places in Norristown, but they might be too authentic. Taqueria Michoacana comes to mind.

                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            Most of the places in norristown, as hole-in-the-wall as they may be, are pretty authentic, i concur with PattiCakes. Taqueria Michoacana is definately NOT crappy mexican food. (beef tounge tacos are delish)
                            La Azteca over in plymouth meeting and the other hand, certainly is.

                            1. re: PattiCakes

                              Thumbs up for Rey Azteca. It's the closest thing I've found up here to the Mexican restaurants I grew up with in Texas. I just don't like seeing it show up in a "crappy fake Mexican food" thread, though; it's always busy whenever we've been there, the menu is extensive, and the food is good and inexpensive. That said, they (and at least one other Mexican place up here) make crunchy sopapillas. What's the deal with that?!

                              Rey Azteca
                              80 York Rd, Warminster, PA 18974

                          2. I adore Las Margaritas in NE Philly, Blvd. and Welsh. You are right. It's not high cuisine, but it tastes much, much, better than it should when you are in the mood for it!

                            1. Is there a Don Pablo's in Philly? There's one by the Moorestown Mall if you're on that side of the river. Otherwise, my vote would be for El Azteca.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rejoyce318

                                There used to be one at Franklin Mills, but thankfully it closed. Don Pablos has one at the Depthford Mall, in Easton, PA and in Newark, DE.

                              2. i actually had a thread around here from several years ago asking for a similar thing. i wanted chips at the table, decent (but tasty) food, and a liquor license IN philly. i came to the conclusion that it does not exist in the city, but it does in norristown. taqueria la michoacana is one (the most expensive one, but good nonetheless) of many. i see this el azteca joint all the time, and i'll have to give it a shot. they've been around forever, or at least as long as i've lived here!

                                i would not recommend anyone go to the mexican post, ever, for any reason. the only thing more horrendous than the food is the service. the drinks are weak, the ambiance is NOT what you're looking for, and it's expensive to boot. i kicked that place to the curb on my first and last visit.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: rabidog

                                  ah jeez, bit my tongue already.

                                  i got tacos from mexican post - i liked it :)

                                  yes, i had to channel just a bit of katy perry to admit that. i am slowly working my way through all the food vendors in the comcast center market (read: basement) and today i came to the mexican post. an express version, obviously, unless you haven't been into the marketplace - it's food-court style. it's not gonna have the ambiance or the menu the OP wants, i thought i'd bring it up here since mexican post was mentioned a few times (and i vehemently disagree). my experience there was bad enough that i would never revisit the actual restaurant, but the mini-version in the comcast center is not bad. it's chipotle-style ordering: you tell them what kinda carb (burrito, crispy salad bowl, taco), then the bean, the meat, and alllllll the fixins (and there are a lot). i feel it's hard to go wrong with this style, much like chipotle, the chain i probably take the least offense to, just a bunch of freshly chopped stuff thrown together fast. nothing mexcellent, and nothing disappointing. just though i would share as i continue to polish off my chips and queso. :)

                                2. I've resisted this as long as I can. The obvious place to get Crappy Fake Mexican Food is from a crappy fake Mexican! Have you tried Conchita Smith's?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    where is that? I'm not getting anything on google

                                  2. Thanks for all the suggestions, guys! I'll be sure to try these places out when I move back next week. Right now, I am trying to get as much Mexican food in before I leave home for the fall.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: mzhao

                                      I had to signup to Chowhound just so I could throw in my two cents. Shocked no one mentioned On the Border! It's a chain of (non-authentic) "Mexican" restaurants. It's our favorite go-to place when we want something casual and quasi-Mexican. Similar to a Don Pablo's or the Chi-Chi's . . . but much better IMO.

                                      1. re: ssturn

                                        i made the mistake of going there at the Exton location. that was absolutely horrible. very tacky and faux-mex food. i honestly would suggest going to chili's for better tex-mex

                                        chi-chi's was way better IMHO. i think they are out of business now, since i haven't seen any around for awhile. last one i went to was by the Granite Run Mall

                                        but back to the main topic, this is what i am assuming exactly what the OP is looking for?

                                        1. re: paychecktoday

                                          I'm not entirely certain where the OP is from in the South (and my experiences are Midwest-based anyway), but from my understanding of the OP's request, there's some very specific he (she?) is looking for.

                                          "Crappy fake Mexican" is a little sloppy and gloppy and not "real" Mexican food, closer to Tex Mex but not really that. It's not even necessarily made by non-Mexicans. (Where I'm from, in fact, these places are usually run by Mexicans who speak heavily accented English, and they're total mom-and-pop joints.) What you're getting is what I'd probably term "a Mexican's interpretation of what Americans perceive as Mexican food."

                                          This is further accented by the decor of a restaurant, again a case of being authentic to nowhere. Decorations are Southwest US meets Dia de los Muertos without the death or cactus references. Sprinkle in some raucous mariachi music and weird lighting. (And pink walls - I run into pink walls 1/2 or 1/3 of the time and the same shade of pepto bismol pink.)

                                          It's a taste of home as some of us knows it, even if it's home to no one at all. And sometimes, it's all you want. Forget the taco al pastor. There are times when nothing but refried pinto beans next to gloppy enchiladas will do!

                                          OP - try the Mexican Food Factory across the border in NJ. They also serve crappy Mexican food.

                                          Mexican Food Factory
                                          State Highway 70 Cropwell Rd, Marlton, NJ 08053

                                          1. re: Ali

                                            haha, well said, ali.

                                            i've spent a fair bit of time in the near-south and i know what the OP is referring to, but it is indeed a hard thing to find in philly. i used to half-jokingly refer to one such joint as the most ethnic harrisonburg (VA) knew how to be. :)

                                            1. re: rabidog

                                              I like El Tapatio over the line from Philadelphia in DE (Claymont/Wilmington). Its our go-to local joint. Its pretty close to the train station, just down the Philadelphia pike from it. There's some authentic stuff on the menu, hiding, and its by no means a Taco Bell. But it has a lot of the qualities that you're looking for - Mom & Pop style ownership, chips and salsa hit the table right after you hit the chairs, strong margaritas, lots of combo dinners with rice and beans. Food comes out fast, hot and tasty. Its good food - but its Mexican like most Chinese Restaurants are Chinese - which is to say "stuff we think the locals will eat".

                                              My favourites - the Chicken Tacos and the Carne Azada either in the more expensive version that comes with a cheese enchilada or the cheaper version by another name thats the same thing minus the enchilada. Hubby loves the chicken chimichangas, he usually gets them soft (unfried) to save calories but darn are the fried ones tasty. They've been around since the week we moved to the area 14 years ago. Its a drive from Philly I know, but if you know anybody down there you could take the train and have them pick you up at the station.

                                              And let me say again (as a regular to the place). Its really good Americanized Mexican Food, not crappy ;)

                                              1. re: Ariadanz

                                                I'm curious how much Johnny Manana's fits the OP's bill.
                                                It's in East Falls, right off Kelly Drive, near the Fall's Bridge.

                                                I'm worried that it's crappy in the wrong ways... but, to be honest, I've not been there for years.