Mexican Food, Oh How I Miss Thee

My wife and I moved to Rochester, New York this Fall. We have yet to come across any good Mexican food. I’m sure it exist here in Western New York; it’s got to, right? In California, mexican food is ubiquitous. It’s a mass supply that begets demand in the most intrinsic, snobbish way. I’m damn proud of it.

Any southern Californian will tell you: Good mexican food is not created equal.

Want to know my review process for mexican restaurants? Of course you do! What else do you have going on anyway?

Kevin’s 5 Step Check Method

1. Do you remember the name of the business? In the world of Mexican dining, answering “yes” here is a bad sign. You should never, ever remember the name, only the food: “That taco truck on 4th,” or “Fatty Mexican burrito place on 7th.” If you do remember the name of the business, it’s because they’re selling you an image and a brand. Good mexican food needs neither.

2. Is the atmosphere authentic? Have you ever heard a Top 40s radio station in an ethnic restaurant? Isn’t it totally lame? Lady Gaga in a Mexican restaurant; Justin Bieber in an Italian bistro… Once, I ate at a Chinese restaurant and heard country music over the speakers (I wrote my congressman). For me, atmosphere is (almost) everything. Mariachi or bust.

3. Are you insecure when you order?  If there’s no awkwardness when your order, then it’s not authentic: “Polo… Poyo.. adob…” The menu should read in spanish, and those behind the counter should speak little or no english. Can a white man can make a good Mexican meal? Why not? But let’s be honest, who do you want making your torta, Abejundio? Or Larry?

4. How does the salsa/hot sauce/pico de gallo rate? The pico can make or break a restaurant for me; it can even upgrade a sub-par meal to “Great.” (After all, mexican food is about simplicity). A really good test for a new restaurant is to order the most basic Mexican meal ever: the bean and cheese burrito. Pour some pico or hot sauce on top and see what happens.

5. Are you afraid you might get sick? If you answered “yes,” then you are probably in the right place. Being afraid to sit down is a very, very good sign. In my experience, the more I worry about my safety and health, the better the food turns out. Here’s my advice: Find a decent middle ground to start in; you might have to build up your immune system up a bit.

What do you think? What do you look for in a good mexican restaurant? Any suggestions for Mexican food in Rochester?