Birmingham Chowhounders: If you want great Mexican food, read this!
My husband and I moved from San Diego 4 years ago and frankly have not been very happy with the Mexican food here. This past Sunday we were having dinner with a cousin of mine who lives in Atlanta and asked for a lunch suggestion. Knowing of our longing for real Mexican food, they told us to try Taqueria La Oaxaquena in Jonesboro (near the airport).
OH MY GOSH. My husband and I were SO happy. All the items we hadn't seen since San Diego like chilaquiles, huaraches, sopes, etc. etc.. We ordered way too much--and then ordered more to take home. About halfway through, we realized "Hey, this stuff is even BETTER than what we used to eat in San Diego!" (not that we ate at every Mexican restaurant there, but better than our favorite places). The flan especially was the best I've ever had in my life.
I told the friendly waitresses how happy we were and they told the Senora who apparently was the owner. (I only speak basic Spanish--but enough to let her know how happy I was.) Told them to tell her that she HAD to come to Birmingham since we're desperate for good Mexican food here. She handed me a pad of paper and pencil and told me to write down where--since she was actually thinking about it. Whoopee! Wasn't sure what to say (like right next door to our home?) but I wrote down Hoover, figuring she'd get lots of business there.
So I'm begging you all to give this lady a call or send an email telling her we want her to come! She can live at our house while she looks for a place. :-) Here's the website: http://www.taquerialaoaxaquena.com/ho.... There's an email address under "Contact us."
Went to Taquereia La Oaxaquena on the way back from to Bham from Charleston last weekend. It was awesome. We had the tyaluda (kind of like a mexican pizza) with carnitas, sliced radishes and avocados, roasted jalapenos, tomatoes, and oaxaca and cotija cheese. Huge, and really a treat. We also tried a shredded chicken sope which was quite good (and by far the largest I've ever seen). Sorry about the image quailty...shot from too close with my Droid camera. I'm also sorry that the food was so destroyed when I took the pictures, but we couldn't hold ourselves back! I'm salivating as I recall the place even now!
There is a salsa bar with awesome salsas, fresh cilantro, onions, pickled and fresh jalapenos, etc, etc. My personal favorite salsa was one with chile de arbol and finely ground/pasted cacahuates (peanuts) in it. I brought two small cups of that home with the leftovers (basically what you see in the photos...we were STUFFED) in our travel cooler. Everything was gone by the next day.
We were the only non-Latinos in the joint (I'm half Puerto Rican, but I don't think that counts). Judging from the business they were doing, I'd be very surprised if they were interested in moving, but maybe a franchise is in order.....or at the very least a Bham Chowhound Roadtrip!!!
A question about that tlayuda: did it come with all you described or is that how you ordered it? Just wondering if you order it like a pizza with whatever toppings you want.
Tomorrow's my husband's day off, so I talked him into a quick trip there for lunch (plus shopping at IKEA). I'm hungry already thinking about it.
Only had a sope once in San Diego and I can't even remember what it was like, so I think I'll have to try one here...
Sorry I didn't get back to you before your shopping trip. We simply ordered the "carnitas" tlayuda (I see I spelled it incorrectly before), and all of that awesomeness came on top. It was great. I supposed they'd make it to your taste if you asked, but be prepared to ask in Spanish.
Hope you tried the peanut salsa.
Didn't even think to try the salsa, Curej. I'll have to remember next time!
While here at home, we had dreamed about ordering all kinds of different things, but we were tired and running a little late when we got there today, and I wasn't even all that hungry. After much deliberation I finally ordered the chilaquiles roja (red sauce as opposed to green sauce). It comes with fried eggs but I ordered scrambled since I've always had chilaquiles with scrambled eggs mixed into the whole conglomeration of sauce, cheese, and corn tortillas. I couldn't figure out how it would work with fried eggs. My husband ordered a large carne asada burrito. (That's pretty much his thing.)
I was amazed at the huge portion of chilaquiles with rice and beans. It wasn't like any I had had before: the tortillas were quite thick, so it wasn't like they had taken old tortilla chips and recycled them. The salsa roja was bright red and the cheese covering it wasn't the typical cheddar I've been used to. I don't really know my Mexican cheeses, but it may have been melted queso blanco with some crumbled queso fresco along with it. It was white and creamy and I was actually a bit nervous since I'm somewhat lactose intolerant and didn't have any Lactaid pills on me. (But hooray, no stomach upset later.)
Instead of being mixed into it, the scrambled eggs came on a separate plate. After one bite of the chilaquiles and feeling the heat from the red sauce, I quickly added the eggs to the mix. Later I even added some rice in an effort to counteract the sauce. I like things somewhat spicy--medium, I guess. This wasn't so painfully hot that I didn't enjoy it, but it was a tad hotter than I'd like and so I probably won't order it again. I actually left about half of it--which my husband finished for me. The waitresses apologized--which they certainly didn't need to do--and one said that the salsa verde is even hotter.
I know it's overkill, but in San Diego, they used to give me flour tortillas with my chilaquiles--that may have helped in this case as taking a bite of the end of my husband's burrito did give my mouth some blessed relief. (It was really good, too. Some flavor in it we couldn't identify that was much better than what we'd get in San Diego. It could be the cheese again as most of the "cheap eats" placed we ate in San Diego used cheddar.)
Once again, we got flan and it was delicious--but this time it had coconut in it. We're almost positive it didn't have coconut the first time and I prefer it without, but I guess they like to change things up.
They're very nice there and when I stand at look curiously at items in the glass case, they always offer me a sample. They had a sign for "Champurrado chocolate" and I asked them what it was. They gave me a little sample: it's a hot chocolate drink that she said was "different." It sure was. Burnt my tongue on the first sip so I let it sit for a while and then it became like a pudding. I knew there was something of a fruit or vegetable taste in it but I couldn't identify it. When I got home and looked it up, I learned that it's made with masa harina (corn flour). My research online says it's popular on Dia de los Muertos, which is today (All Souls), so maybe it was just a special for today. Not sure.
Guess that's enough of a report!
I'm not so sure that Hoover would be a great location. They have SO many Mexican places, that they would end up being a little fish in a big pond. Why not venture out to areas that have a significant population base but are underserved when it comes to Mexican restaurants.
Unfortunately, Hoover and Valley/West Valley in Birmingham/Homewood (or U.S. 31 in Pelham) are the most logical places. The reason they have so many decent authentic restaurants and markets is that's where the Mexicans are, craving that sort of food.
Most other people around here are so used to cheesy, gringoized Tex-Mex that they won't accept or support the real thing, leaving those of us who do crave it traveling to the above-mentioned places.
I'd love to have an authentic taqueria in Cahaba Heights (where I live), on the Southside or downtown (where I work). But I also know it likely won't last. The first complaint that the tamales aren't like Mancha's would kill business among the gringos.
Birmingham, for restaurants around here, I recommend trying (in no particular ranking) Taqueria Mexico on Lorna Road in Hoover, Taqueria Mi Casita in the Palisades shopping center in Homewood, Gordo's on Valley Avenue, La Perla in Bessemer on 9th Avenue North or El Girasol on First Avenue North near East Lake.
3724 Lorna Rd, Birmingham, AL 35216
Taqueria Mi Casita
360 Palisades Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35209