One of my favorite Mexican food joints in town is Taqueria Mexico
, located in Downtown Albuquerque. Quietly in operation for almost 20 years, it is a very small, brightly-lit space that is more kitchen than dining room. White tiled walls display maps of Mexico and surround modest tables adorned with the requisite salt and pepper shakers and a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce (also requisite if you ask me). Along a half wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room is a row of soda pop bottles, only half of which people may recognize, including Coke and Fanta (both the variety from Mexico, made with sugar, not corn syrup) and a line of Jarritos, which range from mandarin to mango and jamaica
(hibiscus) to tamarindo
(tamarind). More often than not, I choose to drink a giant cup of horchata, a delicious rice milk drink enhanced with cinnamon.
For those that don’t like cramped spaces when they eat, Taqueria Mexico offers one of the few walk ups I know of in this town. On any given day, whether it’s lunchtime or not, there are a handful of people waiting for their food outside of this colorfully painted spot. A welcome sign for diners on the go. Either inside or out, this taqueria has a vibrant quality to it, from the murals on the outside to the warm feeling and sweet, exotic fragrance on the inside.
The menu at Taqueria Mexico rivals your neighborhood Chinese restaurant in sheer size and scope. On your first visit, allow yourself some time to pore over this menu before ordering. If you’re not an adventurous eater, you’ll want to look up unfamiliar terms like buche
on your smart phone before ordering it blindly. In my opinion, nothing on this menu disappoints (and they do serve red and green chile in case you were wondering), but I am also a huge fan of tongue (lengua) tacos. So, there’s that.
The best place to start at any taqueria is the namesake menu item: tacos ($1.95-$2.25 each). However, if you’re used to hard shell tacos with ground beef — a family member of mine from the South refers to them as “hard beef tacos with cheese” — this isn’t the place to find them. Rather, the tacos here are how they were originally designed, with warm, soft corn tortillas that don’t crumble all over your shirt when you take a bite. Be sure to order beans and rice, especially rice, as it is one of the best (not at all soupy) versions of Spanish rice I’ve tasted. As for protein, take your pick from a half dozen common taco fillings (common for Mexico, that is). From barbacoa
(goat) to asada
(grilled beef) or chicharron
(fried pork rind) to camarón
(shrimp), the definitions of what you are putting on your tacos here are much less enthralling than the flavors or textures. I say order a la carte. Pick three and see which one you like best. When topped with fresh cilantro, chopped onion and the house-made salsa, there’s not a better lunch plate in my opinion.
Outside of the taco realm, there is a whole other world of food here. Way too much to choose from, really. My favorites are the ceviche
tostada ($2.95), a steaming bowl of caldo de res on a cold day with lots of lime and cilantro ($4.50 small/$5.95 large), and a savory relleno burrito ($3.25). That’s right, a relleno, wrapped in a tortilla with beans and cheese. That is comfort food, people.
For the indecisive, there are three different combo plates to choose from and just about anything you might expect at a Mexican food restaurant, from exotic (mojarra
) to common (burritos, tortas). Two additional must-try items are the wonderful crispy taquitos ($2.75 for 3), served with fresh guacamole and the creamy, milky tres leches
If you have been to a taqueria before, this place is old hat. However, Taqueria Mexico has another something special going for it (something many New Mexican food places also have), and that’s family. Run by the very accommodating and prompt Hernandez family that immigrated from Durango, Mexico, in 1996, this restaurant is nearing local institution status and one of the best reasons in town to ease up on the “New” from time to time and take in a bit of Old Mexico.