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Real Mexican food in Seattle or the East side?

Hi everyone: does anyone know of a good authentic mexican restaurant in the seattle area? We just returned from mexico city and had some amazing food and are now having cravings, but the food we've found here is generally the north american version, i.e. sour cream, burritos, refried beans, etc. We are looking for freshly griddled corn tortillas, tacos del pastor with chilis and cebolittas, etc; in other words, the delicious freshly prepared real mexican food. Any ideas?

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  1. Better, for sure, than the calamerimex fare of the strip malls, a look at El Camion (especially by Home Depot at 135th and Aurora), is definitely in your plans. Tonight, I had 3 Gorditas: chorizo, pibil, and carnitas, not the tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas, tamales, but all are good, with carne asada, carnitas, adobada, pibil, lengua, chorizo...

    1. If you are willing to expand your geographic area, my favorite authentic mexican restaurant is La Tarasca in Centralia. They do not serve chips and salsa, but rather customers are greeted with a dish of spicy pickled carrots. I'm particularly fond of their chili verde and carnitas. Their house made corn tortillas are the best I've ever had.

      1. Took a Mexican friend to all my favorite spots around town. The one she liked best were La Cocina del Puerco in Bellevue and Poquitos on Capitol Hill.

        1. La Carte de Oaxaca and Senor Moose, both interestingly enough, in Ballard. El Camion's fish tacos are great. I didn't like their posole at all and they served my chicken tamal at room temperature, which I thought was weird. But I'm still here with no ill effects. I have yet to find posole in the Northwest that even comes close to what I got in Mexico (where 3 different colors are available).

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

          7 Replies
          1. re: PAO

            I like El Camion. I wouldn't recommend Senor Moose to someone looking for real Mexican food. It's a nice place for brunch and happy hour with decent food.

            I buy a nice green posole from Jerry at the Farmers Market. He sells frozen quarts at most of the markets. Many of them function well as a base for adding your own touches. I add extra hominy to his pork posole soup. I won't say it's like a real Mexican posole, but it makes a good lunch.

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

            1. re: val ann c

              What's wrong with the food at Senor Moose? It's one of the few places in town that doesn't just serve the same 8-10 dishes as almost every other Mexican restaurant in the US (bonus tip: the weekday brunch menu includes a lot of dishes you can't get on the weekend brunch menu).

              A few more DF-style places to add to the mix:
              Barriga Llena (tortas; Green Lake and Federal Way)
              Huarachitos (broader meat choices than most; MLK near Orcas)
              Aca las Tortas (huaraches, too; Kenmore, Bothell, Martha Lake, maybe elsewhere)

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

              1. re: lavaca

                Yes, and the chef knows real Mexican food, and don't take no guff from no gringos, so watch yourself...

                  1. re: TravelingBastards

                    Senor Moose, on Leary

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

                1. re: lavaca

                  Okay, don't go to Huarachitos (for a while). The sad news: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voraci...

                2. re: val ann c

                  Gosh, I've been to Mexico--specifically Oaxaca--many times and eaten in many places where the locals eat, and I'd say Senor Moose is quite authentic. Not sure what you mean by it's not "real" Mexican food.

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

              2. You have to try El Mestizo on capitol hill


                Great moles, fresh tortillas and other regional good

                1. Being from Colorado originally, my bar is pretty high. I would recommend Las Margaritas in Shoreline or Auburn.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: HungryBard

                    Please tell me you are joking? Or is this actually different than the California Las Margaritas from the 70's? A big ol' chain with huge cocktails? Okay, this one started in '83 and that menu looks far better than I was anticipating. I'll reserve judgement until after I try it.

                  2. Great! Thanks everyone for all your suggestions! We'll give them a try and report back :-)

                    1. I would try La Carta de Oaxaca or the taco bus on Rainier Ave.

                      1. There's a great new place called Coa in Maple Leaf that just opened. They're very authentically Mexican (including the all-important freshly made corn tortillas). They're at the corner of Roosevelt and 80th.

                        19 Replies
                          1. re: TravelingBastards

                            Nothing in Seattle will compare with real Mex fare. Try Asian for a truer flavor delivery.

                            1. re: firecracker

                              actually, we have found that several vendors at farmer's markets serve pretty authentic fare and usually fresher food than restaurants. re: Asian, that is another thread of course, but we are also looking for peking duck, so perhaps you have some suggestions.

                              1. re: firecracker

                                How would you describe 'real Mex fare'?

                                1. re: paulj

                                  I've never seen Mexicans, or any Hispanic people, sitting in a Mexican retaurant in Seattle. For good reason.
                                  The Food is a local version of blown-up Taco Bell in most of them I've eaten in, or real Authentic Mexican/Norwegian. (Mexican food that Scandinavians would eat. Thus TACO GUAYMAS (An island in the San Juans, by they way!, although here spelled in French Guemes, but with the Spanish pronounciation) and also TACO DEL MAR. Hint: Codfish tacos are going to be a Puerto Rican specialty, served with black beans and cinnamon, not a Mexican dish
                                  You see actual Mexicans eating in the Taco trucks. Those vary hugely in quality, but you can find things like hand-slapped corn tortillas in them, along with Tamarind soft drink (Jumex) and foods that lonely Mexican boys sent up here to earn money for their families back home want to eat. (I don't know if you can order in these taco trucks speaking English, I was never offered the option of English, and that's OK)
                                  But all they've got to recommend them is their food, so it has to be good!

                                  1. re: PeteSeattle

                                    You're way off. Guaymas is a city in Sonora, and Taco del Mar's fish tacos are inspired by what the founders ate on the beach in San Diego and Escondido.

                                    Most importantly, there are plenty of Mexican restaurants in the region where you're likely to see Mexican families sitting down for a meal. Taqueria Muy Macho, Taqueria El Rinconcito, Taqueria La Estacion, Taqueria El Sabor, Huarachitos, and Aca Las Tortas all come to mind as places where I've been one of the few non-Hispanic customers. That doesn't mean that Seattle is as good a place to eat delicious Mexican food as LA or San Antonio, just that it's getting harder and harder to keep a straight face when people try to make the "there's no good Mexican food in Seattle" claim.

                                    1. re: lavaca

                                      Some indicators of a local Mexican clientele
                                      - a stack of Spanish language newspapers near the counter
                                      - a good Sunday morning Menudo crowd.

                                      I haven't eaten out much in the past couple of years, but my impression was that the older Guaymas in Lynnwood had a good Mexican clientele base, the newer one near the freeway not so much. However there is taqueria just across the street from Chukicheese that seemed to carter mostly to Mexicans, especially on a Friday or Saturday evening (is that Rinconcito?). More often, though I stop at the nearby carniceria for meats to cook at home. I haven't been to the old Lynnwood Guaymas since it changed name.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        First of all, "Guemes," which in French is pronounced as something approaching "Gams", is pronounced "Guaymas" in Washington State. So forgive me my confusion! You can't tell the difference in a Washingtonian between the island and the franchise. They sound the same.

                                        In Lynnwood Mexicans eat in restaurants? (I can't help wondering who those people are!)
                                        You see, in Ballard, the Hispanic people are not Mexicans. They're Salvadorans, and although they have a similar cuisine, it's different.
                                        On the other hand in my neighborhood, in the south of Seattle, you'll never see a Mexican sitting in a Mexican restaurant. Probably embarrassment at being served by someone who might be their own relative, but I'm not quite sure. I just know it doesn't happen.
                                        I do know that in Georgetown that's not the case! There are Mexican restaurants that serve a Mexican clientelle on the other side of the now-defunct 14th Ave bridge. Juan Colorado comes to mind, because friends of mine are always getting into fights in that restaurant. (It's also a bar, and it's totally Hispanic). In fact, if I were asked where in Seattle do Mexicans eat in sit-down restaurants, I'd have to say "Georgetown" (go figure)

                                        The Salvadoran restaurants in Ballard probably serve a mostly Salvadoran clientelle, as their food probably doesn't appeal to Ballard/Scandinavians. (A local Greek restaurant hired Salvadoran employees, to their detriment. The Salvadorans put chocolate in the Moussaka!)

                                        MENUDO. In Mexico, menudo is considered a hangover cure. (When I tried it, it didn't seem to help much) So people who would ordinarily not go into a restaurant will crawl on their bellies to get to a Mexican restaurant on Sunday morning! (If the restaurant is prepared to take them)

                                        Some of the place names of the locations of these restaurants are so generic that without address information, the poor Anglos making the recommendations don't know that the place can't be found. For example, there are probably dozens of Rinconcitos, Rinconsitos, and Rinconzitos around the Puget Sound area. (The word means little corner, and some folks have trouble with spelling!)

                                        They're not chain stores, there's no Rinconcito franchise. It's just a popular word for a place that sells Mexican foods and products. Tienda Latina is another one like that. It's about as generic as "Grocery Store" is in English. (Means "Latin Shop")

                                        In the Ghetto, down here in the South, you never see Mexicans eating in a Mexican restaurant, but you see them lining up to eat in various Taco trucks. But as one Stranger article said about my neighborhood, "Rainier Ave is full of Thai people, not Thai restaurants." and there are probably different populations of people in different areas, and Lynnwood has a very different population from Rainier Ave.

                                        Juan Colorado
                                        8709 14th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

                                        1. re: PeteSeattle

                                          Hwy 99 from Shoreline to south Everett has a growing population of tiendas, carnicerias, even vulcanisadores (tire shops).

                                          1. re: PeteSeattle

                                            According to the Mexicans we've spoken to here (my husband and I are both spanish speakers), one of the reasons that you won't find many Mexicans in Mexican restaurants is that they cook all their meals at home. One guy told us "why would I go to a restaurant and pay to eat when my wife cooks for my family and me at home? We can relax, watch TV, eat good food and we don't have to tip anyone." Makes sense.

                                            1. re: TravelingBastards

                                              I think you just explained the difference! In different parts of Seattle, there are different distributions of Mexican WOMEN, separate from the distribution of Mexican men.
                                              As a general rule, Mexicans feel that while the United States is a place that they can come to earn money, it's too dangerous for women and children to come here. It's certainly a bad place to bring children if you want to raise them Catholic!
                                              The situation is getting better, and more Mexican women are here than previously,but they have a different distribution throughout the city than the men do.
                                              And where there are Mexican wives, there husbands have no need for a restaurant. Where there aren't any Mexican wives or Mothers, there men and boys supporting remote families need a taste of home, and the care and nuturing that a motherly cook can provide.

                                            2. re: PeteSeattle

                                              i havent eaten there for a while but i thought el reconcito was a local family owned chain. they can be very good but are inconsistent. i used to really like the bellevue store but the lynwood store was not nearly as good.

                                        2. re: PeteSeattle

                                          At which taco truck can one find "hand-slapped corn tortillas?" I need to go there, if it exists.

                                          Which are the Salavadorian restaurants in Ballard?


                                          1. re: equinoise

                                            There a couple of brothers who call themselves "Los Chilangos" (meaning poeple from DF, ie Mexico City) who have a kiosk at the Sammamish farmers market on wednesday and another market on saturday (I think it's the redmond or bellevue mkt, but I don't remember). The owner's name is Oscar Mendez and he gave me his card with his phone (425-221-5072). They also do taquizas banqyets and catering. Good fresh tacos el pastor, etc.

                                            1. re: equinoise

                                              Ask at the truck. I'm sure that it varies from truck to truck. I'll ask at the one in my local grocery store parking lot, and get back to you on their answer.
                                              Salvadoran Restaurant: Corner of 85th and ????? one block or two blocks west of Greenwood, across from the Fred Meyer parking lot. You know the big building that's red and white, looks kinda like a candy cane? That's a Salvadoran club and bar. The restaurant across the street is Salvadoran.

                                              1. re: PeteSeattle

                                                Do you mean Taqueria Tequila? It seems pretty Mexican to me -- actually, very much like the Jalisco-style taquerias common back in Texas (not as good, but in that general direction) -- which the name would support (the town of Tequila being in Jalisco).

                                            2. re: PeteSeattle

                                              If you haven't seen Mexicans in a restaurant, then you haven't been to taqueria el sabor - 155th and hwy 99 (in an old taco bell).

                                              1. re: PeteSeattle

                                                "I don't know if you can order in these taco trucks speaking English, I was never offered the option of English, and that's OK"

                                                Dude... seriously? Have you even tried? I have never come across a taco truck that English was a problem.

                                                1. re: tykapfh

                                                  Why would I try? My Spanish is good enough that I have no need of using English unless the person taking the order is specifically wanting me to help them practice the language! If I know a person well enough, then we might speak English, but in the US among Hispanics the default language is Spanish and only in rare instances is English used.
                                                  I watch V-me, the PBS Spanish language channel (non-cable) for several hours a week, and I like their cooking shows!

                                                  They've got this Italian guy doing a cooking show who's a real hoot!

                                      2. La Dona in White Center is fantastic Oaxacan food. I also recommend La Estacion on Burien.

                                        1. El Quetzal on Beacon Hill has not been mentioned. I have not eaten there is a couple of years, but I walked by a few days ago and four tables were occupied by hispanic men having lunch.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: tsquare

                                            Quetzal implies that the restaurant is not Mexican, but Guatemalan. The sacred bird of Mexico is the Eagle holding a rattlesnake in its talons sitting on a prickly pear cactus. It's on the flag. The sacred bird of Guatemala is the Quetzal.

                                            1. re: PeteSeattle

                                              Dude, they named the restaurant after a bird that is in both guatemala and Mexico. The name implies nothing. It is a Mexican restaurant.

                                              1. re: dagrassroots

                                                Their web site
                                                Judging from the menu, and comments on the site, I'd say this is Mexico DF style place (e.g. more emphasis on tortas than tacos). It's the first menu that I've seen that has "chicarron prensado". And the quesadillas are made with fresh masa. I never read of a pambazo before.

                                                It was mentioned in a previous Seattle Mexican thread

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Regardless of which it is, you make it sound like a really good place to eat! This is the answer to the "hand-slapped tortillas" question that came up earlier.

                                          2. Has anyone tried the Malafacha Mondays at Sitka & Spruce? What did you think?


                                            1. The best LA-style Mexican I've found is at La Venadita in Issaquah. Yummy shrimp and the tortas are better than anywhere else I've tried in the Seattle area (no beans on the torta, unfortunately, but still).