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July 21, 2009

Top 10 Tex-Mex Restaurants

ZenWestMargarita.JPG

 

I'm probably not the best person to be making up this list. I've certainly eaten a lot of Tex-Mex over the years, but I'm not the one who usually reviews Tex-Mex restaurants.

More than ever I've had to rely on others more knowledgeable than I am, which means that those of you who don't read Dining@large regularly should check out my Official Disclaimer. And even with the help of others, I've barely managed to come up with 10 -- good, bad or indifferent. 

Note: If you want a list of restaurants serving Mexican or other Latin American cuisines, look elsewhere.

However, I did promise you this Top 10 list when I did Top 10 Mexican Restaurants, so I'm going to bravely wade right in: ...

 

* Austin Grill in Canton. An area chain that features 15 homemade salsas and sauces and mesquite-grilled fish.

* Geckos in Canton. Technically they call themselves Southwestern, but if I'm too strict with my definition, I'm not going to come up with 10.

* Holy Frijoles in Hampden. The food here has gotten mixed reviews since it expanded, but it's a neighborhood institution with lots of personality.

* Loco Hombre in Roland Park. If someone at your table doesn't feel like having Tex-Mex, you can always get an Alonso's burger.

* Mex in Power Plant Live. Still more bar than restaurant, the food here (classic burritos, enchiladas and tacos) has improved since it first opened.

* Nacho Mama's in Canton. You have to love Elvis, Natty Boh and quesadillas, not necessarily in that order, to appreciate this well-liked spot.

* Nino Taco in Owings Mills. A popular taco joint, where to go for your fix of fajitas, cheese, beans, tortillas and beef in this area.

* Rio Grande Cafe in Bethesda. This is far afield for a Top 10, but so many people mentioned it as the only authentic Tex-Mex in the area, I thought I ought to include it.

* Si Salsa in Pikesville. It doesn't call itself Tex-Mex, but Si Salsa is definitely American-Mexican, and take a look at the menu. There's as much Tex-Mex as anything on it.

* Zen West in Govans. Family friendly, clean, colorful and cheerful. Sometimes those qualities are just as important as fabulous food.

(Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:28 AM | | Comments (130)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

Comments


No Chipotle?

I wonder if there is really a restaurant food critic at the Sun. Nino Taco, Nacho Mama and Loco Hombre makes your list but the food is very average. When was the last time anyone you know visited one of these places? For you to name a top ten is deceiving. Your top ten or any list should be places you have visited.

Los Portales by BWI and its sister restaurant Plaza Garabaldi across from Marley Station Mall have excellent food. Not sure where they fall on the Mexican/Tex-Mex continuum though.

steve in seoul, please read the disclaimer.

Steve in Seoul - I agree with you on the three you mention, but that is more of a symptom of the problem we have around here. We probably only have 10 Tex Mex places total, regardless of food quality. There's really a market out there for someone to tap into. If only we could get our own Lauriol Plaza up here. I'd settle for an Uncle Julio's Rio Grande though. At least they make their own flour tortillas.

i must admit this is a pretty terrible list... including a corporate chain and a restaurant in bethesda doesnt really make this a top ten list of tex-mex in baltimore. what about places like arcos and all of the other REAL tex-mex food in east baltimore??

Coming from South Texas, I can say that La Tolteca in Bel Air and Churchville are hands-down better than many places on the list. For added fun, you might even run into Cal Jr. there. I've not been there, but Toucan Taco in Laurel is supposed to be great as well.

Steve - you really think she should have to visit all of the restauants in her Top 10? Take a look at the list of Top 10s and tell me you've visited that many different places and could compile lists. And what three restaurants would you put on the list instead of those? Come on man!

I can't believe La Tolteca in Belair didn't make the list! Great food, great prices and great service - a Harford County favorite.

Two more options to mention: Taco Fiesta in Harbor East and Los Amigos in Hamilton.

I went to Taco Fiesta in Harbor East for the first time yesterday and was VERY impressed. And I am FROM Texas! I had the Taco Platter with a fish taco and a shrimp taco, and it came with black beans, rice, guacamole and sour cream, and chips. It was outstanding, miles above Austin Grill, which was a previous favorite. I will definitely be going back. I thought it was a chain until I looked up the website, it's a locally-owned place, relocated from College Park. Give it a try!

Really sad list. As a guy who went to college and Texas and saw the migration of salsa and Mexican beer to the mid-Atlantic soon after I returned, I had hopes for real Tex-Mex food to arrive. Never really happened. I have been to Rio Grande Cafe (in Reston and Alexandria) and it is about the closest I have encountered. Although it was never really Tex-Mex, Loco Hombre at least used to be good. Last time I went it was awful. Banana peppers on nachos? Are you kidding?

La Tolteca in Bel Air is the best! I've been to Mexico several times and their food is authentic Mexican. They also have the best margarita's and salsa too.

You missed everything on Eastern Avenue just North of Fells Point. You may not be able to order in English but the food is amazing.

Linsay's in the 40 West Shopping Center is intriguing and worth a visit. You can find the restaurant just west of the Double T Diner and in the same strip of stores as Patel Brothers. Authentic Mexican, although the chef has a penchant for incorporating Italian and French influences. Stock up on corn husks and jars of aji amarilla while you are there. Bring your Spanish.

Blue Agave in FED HILL is amazing.

I lived in Phoenix for a few years, and after moving back to Baltimore spent 15+ years looking for Tex-Mex that was even close to what you get out west. We'd try every new place that opened, including a few on your top 10 list, and were always disappointed until El Salto opened. Like almost every good Mexican restaurant I've been to, the decor isn't exactly stellar, but the food is fantastic. As a bonus, it's also very inexpensive. They do a better job with the Mex part than they do with the Tex part (excellent chorizo con huevos, chile rellenos, and tamales) and the service, while not very polished, is friendly and mostly efficient. Honestly after I found these guys I stopped trying every new place that opened up, so I can't comment on some of the restaurants on your list, but El Salto is miles above the ones on there that I have tried.

As a side note, I enjoy the top ten lists, even when they're a little sketchy like today's - it's a fun format and creates some good discussion. Keep them coming, and bon appetit.

El Salto in Parkville.

Why on earth are so many people confused about the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican foods?

Tex-Mex on Eastern Ave...argh!

I haven't been to the El Salto in Parkville, but the EL Salto in Brooklyn (across Ritchie Highway from the Brooklyn post office) is definitely worth visiting. The mole is excellent.

I would also like to mention Arcos in upper Fells Point, as well as Tortilleria Sinaloa and the Habanero Grill. Guac at both places are simply amazing

Don't attack Steve. He's right; this list is pathetic.

I will concede that a list of quality "Tex Mex" eateries is more difficult to create in this area than a list of strictly "Mexican" eateries

That being said, get yourself to Fiesta Mexicana in Rosedale ASAP

Joe - the only thing amazing at Blue Agave is their tequila collection.

And as Lissa noted, we're talking Tex Mex here not Mexican. I guess the drift is inevitable. We have so few good Tex Mex spots that people confuse them with anything that has a menu item in Spanish.

Liz doesn't have much to work with in Baltimore when it comes to Tex Mex. I have eaten at many of the locations on her list and of those, I give them a failing grade. People, knowing I love Tex Mex, have suggested many of these places to me and I have walked away completely disappointed.
The top failure to me is Austin Grill. The food is bland and watery and they should be banned from using Austin it it's name. There is nothing "Austin," or Texas about the joint! Their tortilla chips are over-salted and the salsa is watery and even more salty.
Next of the failures is Zen West. While the atmosphere looks and feels rustic like it came from somewhere in the Texas Hill Country, the food is, again, bland and unimpressive.
Then there is Holy Frijoles. Not too holy, sorry.
As for Nacho Mama's, I used to like the place until the day came when I asked for fresh (or even canned) jalapenos and was looked at as though I were an alien. The waitress said they were out of stock!!! If one resigns themselves to the fact that Nacho Mama's is NOT Tex Mex, then it's a great place to enjoy tasty crab dip that's actually spicy enough for a Texan.
I hate to recommend chain restaurants, however when it comes to Tex Mex in this area, I have little other choice: Chevys and Don Pablo's. In both places the chips and salsa are tasty and the portions are generous and reasonably priced.
Moreover, great Tex Mex is relatively inexpensive in Texas, but some folks here are tricked into thinking you have to pay a lot to get good Tex Mex and even pride themselves in taking a date to an "expensive" Tex Mex dinner. Tex Mex is not a romantic encounter akin to a trip to Little Italy for delicacy foods at a cute table and glass of wine. Tex Mex is a tasty feast that looks like a plate of glop and sizzles with flavor and heat all the way through the digestive system! Avoid Liz's list.

A REAL Texan, you summed up my feelings exactly and that's all I have to say on the topic.

This list could also be Top Ten Tex-Mex places to avoid.

The list should be renamed Top Ten Tex-Mess.

MEX gave me food poisoning. was not impressed with their margaritas, at all.

No Mari Luna?

TEX-MEX TEX-MEX TEX-MEX

Geez I'm cranky today.

Mex in PPL? The same place that had the mice/rat issue? It has not gotten better, actually worse.

Mari Luna didn't make the list?

Perhaps we should all move on and forget this list. I feel bad for the people who find this list.

Sometimes I don't know why I bother to write an introduction. Or maybe people don't know how to click links. EL

I like El Salto, too. I have taken friends from Texas, Arizona and New Mexico there and the all loved it.

The last time I was at Zen West, they had rancid chips and "no name" cola. I wrote about it here. It should be called Zen Worst. That location is cursed.

maybe we need a definition of what Tex-Mex is. I haven't a clue what exactly this is. ARe the drinks really tall, the sauce milder than Mexican... go for it

El Salto is great, only been to the one in Brooklyn along the Route 2 "miracle mile."

Most of these places would definitely go on a list of restaurants to avoid. Old El Paso would be a better alternative to Nino Taco. The only thing they have going for them is a non-fried chimichanga and horrible waitresses. Though Austin Grill is nice to sit outisde and have a drink, their bad service, bad/small food would give you immediate reasons to stay away.

Wouldn't a non-fried chimichanga just be a burrito?

I like Mex in Powerplant Live. The burrito's are huge and the sangria's are best in town.

Rio Grande Cafe is the best, great list.

In regards to Mex, t, please email Elizabeth for my direct contact info as I would love to see about rectifying your previous experience. Mex has an incredible chef who is Serv Safe certified and they now have daily specials with authentic Mexican cuisine as well as popular Tex-Mex items.

I'm now in a quandry. What's the difference between a Mexican restaurant and a Tex-Mex restaurant? Is Plaza Garibaldi in Glen burnie, which has decent enchiladas and tostadas and a very good chorizo con huevos (at least to my unsophisticated palate) Tex-Mex? Or would I be bowled over if I ate the real thing? Finally...why blame the messenger (Elizabeth Large) if you're not real thrilled with the Tex-Mex choices here a few thousand miles southeast of the border?

I had trouble with this, too, so I went with how the restaurants defined themselves. I was going to include Plaza Garibaldi, but it seems to be more authentically Mexican. Wish I had included it in my Mexican list after reading the good things people have said about it here. EL

Well, even though they themselves do not like to be called a Tex-Mex place, I would have to say that Lista's in Pasadena should be on the list...

I've eaten my way through Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus, and I can't stand La Tolteca. The food is simply "ok" in my book. My husband and I are constantly shocked that so many folks love it so much. I'd rather stay home and make my own tortillas.

I was at Mex earlier this month. I'd heard very mixed things, but ended up going because friends from work were heading over, and had a surprisingly good burger there.

Lista's, in Pasadena, is the best I've had in recent years.

A non-fried chimichanga is not a chimichanga.

BTW a chimichanga is neither Tex nor Mex. It is a completely Arizona creation.

I think in Baltimore Tex-Mex is anything you want it to be.

Does anybody else get the feeling that Tex Mex is parallel to American Chinese food? Low quality, inauthentic mostly because that's how Americans want it.

I know someone who claims to be a Tex-Mex expert and she said jalapenos are disgusting because they are "slimey". That tells me that she has never had a fresh jalapeno pepper ever and her Tex-Mex experience must be from eating nachos in bars that use canned jalapenos.

¡Olé!

I do love Mexican food and enjoy mind-bending spiciness. I like a good margarita too, but tequila doesn't like me. A couple of shots of tequila and I'm sending angry text messages to my grandmother. The worst part is that she has a rotary phone, so she never got my hateful messages about butterscotch candies.

So you know what my new heat assuaging drink is? A shandy. A complete perversion for beer purists, but there you have it.

A shandy is beer and lemonade or ginger ale or something weirder. Very refreshing for summer. And if you want to read about The Great Shandy Experiment hop on over to Midnight Sun for my first guest post for Tipsy Tuesdays.

I actually timed the Midnight Sun post to match the expected Tex-Mex post here. Slainte.

I hate to say this, but there are a couple of chain tex mex restaurants that are as good and if not better than this top 10 list. Chevy's and Baja Fresh come to mind.

It's a travesty that Mari Luna is not on this list; I haven't tried most of the other places, but Mari Luna blows Zen West and Si Salsa completely away.

Mari Luna is on the Mexican restaurants list. You can click on the link and see. EL

From America Eats Out, John Mariani: "Mexican restaurants, whos popularity coincided with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants after 1950, have for the most part followed the from and style of what is called "Tex-Mex" food, and amalgam of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare. Chili, which some condsider Texas's state dish, was unknown in Mexico and derived from the ample use of beef in Texan cooking. "Refried beans" are a mistranslation of the Mexican dish frijoles refritos, which actually means well-fried beans...The combination platter of enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas became the unvarying standards of the Tex-Mex menu, while new dishes like chimichangas (supposedly invented in the the 1950s at El Charro restaurant in Tucson, Arizona) and nachos (supposedly first served at a consession at Dallas's State Fair of Texas in 1964...) were concocted to please the American palate....One Tex-Mex item that may someday rival the pizza as an extraordinarily successful ethnic dish is the fajita...introduced at Ninfa's in Houston on July 13, 1973, as tacos al carbon. No one knows when or where it acquired the name fajita, which means girdle' or'strip' in Spanish and refers to the skirt steak originally used in the preparation."


Owl,
I guess you don't remember Hop-N-Gator. Beer and gatorade. I wasn't legally old enough to drink back then (and the age was 18) but did have some. Not good.

I've had a shandy before too, it was in London. I think they called it Barbican? Anyway, it was near beer.

I can't believe Attman's didn't make the list.

Lista's in Pasadena, which used to be in Fell's Point, is very good. Try the garlic shrimp, among other many other things. El Salto's is good for a basic meal.

Taco Fiesta at Inner Harbor East is very good and has the best guacamole in town. It's a door or two down from Whole Paycheck. It may not be as much Tex-as Mex, but sometimes a cold Margarita and some guac is just what the doctor ordered.

Another vote for El Salto, although I believe it is Mexican, not Tex-Mex. (I think...)

For this comment "Why on earth are so many people confused about the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican foods?

Tex-Mex on Eastern Ave...argh!"

Carolina's TEX-MEX on eastern is a great example of quality tex-mex on eastern avenue that is much more authentic than something like austin grill.

very few places north of the mexican border are actually "mexican." if a mole isnt on the menu its a tex-mex restaurant

Carolina's Tex-Mex has been closed for awhile. EL

Carolina's Tex-Mex isn't on Eastern Ave.

I think he/she is thinking of a second one that's closed. Someone here said the other one is owned by a sister. EL

I ate at Nacho Mama's last year and got food poisoning...needless to say, every time I walk by that place my skin crawls...that experience put me off tex-mex, or anything in a similar category...but I will say El Salto was probably my pick (before my trip to the hospital).

LA TOLTECA in BEL AIR!!!!!!! How can you not have this place on the list?

My GF and I ate at Nacho Mama's and spent the rest of the night laying on the sofa groaning and not in a good way. Angry bellies.

El Salto is the most non-Tex place for good Mex. Great lunch specials and some very tasty salsa picante, with an actual kick. The combo platters leave nothing to be desired. Mmmm.

El Salto is the most non-Tex place for good Mex. Great lunch specials and some very tasty salsa picante, with an actual kick. The combo platters leave nothing to be desired. Mmmm.

I love MEX. The atmopsphere is really laid back for dinner, and they have great drink specials. Love the strawberry margaritas and tacos. The DJ plays good music at night if you're ready for a party/dance atmosphere.

Find a restaurant that serves sour-cream chicken enchiladas and you've found a true Tex-Mex restaurant (and please tell me where in Maryland because I've been searching 20 years).

There has been enough interest in La Tolteca and El Salto on the blog that surely one of them should be included. As I said before, they and the many like them in the area will put up a good plate of Tex-Mex, but further down the menu is a wonderful world of new tastes. And yes, you can get a margarita there if you want one -- I'll take a Carta Blanca, por favor.

I love Tex-Mex but can't eat it. I hate Cilantro and it seems to be in everything Tex-Mex. Can someone suggest a Tex-Mex Resturant that doesn't cook with Cilantro? Not too crazy about the dish soap taste and my sister swears she allergic to it. Any Suggestions?
http://www.ihatecilantro.com/

Yes, AJ, cilantro is one of those tastes that u love or hate.
Why not cook at home?
Tex Mex is so easy to make.
I think EL needs to take a break from top ten lists. There are only so many restaurants in Baltimore. She is great, but trying to make list after list, then get bitched out by a bunch of whiners. yuck

You missed the absolute best by a mile and i will live to regret sharing the secret but the winner is Elvis's (yes Elvis's) on Charles St. in Fed Hill. Carne Asada and $7 bucks to boot. True.

Why the enthusiasm over Tex-Mex food? Friends from Texas have taken me to places where they raved about the authentic, wonderful food, but I just didn't get it. It all had the same texture. I am braced for the abuse this comment will generate.

Agreed John Roberts. It's the kind of food you usually lose interest in after you stop having milk crates as furniture.

Who is this "u" person?

I haven't been there in years, but Nacho Mama's used to put so much cilantro in practically everything that it was overpowering. And I like cilantro.

It's the kind of food you usually lose interest in after you stop having milk crates as furniture.


Milk crates as furniture, I love it. Yes, the coffee table is Early Cloverleaf, while the Ottoman is Modern Borden.

I'm wondering, La Tolteca is a chain isn't it? I'm not being critical but I've noted several of them along the drive into Ocean City (Easton,salisbury, etc) and I think I've seen one or two in Hanover.

I don't know how "authentic" it is but we've been enjoying Nino Taco (formerly of Randallstown now in Owings Mills) for years now. They make a thing called the Mexican Sombrero that is like Mexican lasagna. Yum.

Razor Bahr wrote, quoting America Eats Out: "One Tex-Mex item that may someday rival the pizza as an extraordinarily successful ethnic dish is the fajita...introduced at Ninfa's in Houston on July 13, 1973, as tacos al carbon. No one knows when or where it acquired the name fajita, which means girdle' or'strip' in Spanish and refers to the skirt steak originally used in the preparation."

I was raised on Ninfa's tex-mex in Houston. There is nothing up here even close except Rio Grande. The rest is pretty bad.

These notes on fajita history show that the roots are not, as some have claimed, to be immigrants adapting their cuisine to Americans, a la stateside chinese food:

http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=261130


So what you are saying is that like the Arizona chimichanga the fajita is purely an American creation. Cool. Thanks anon

Ad hominem! People who have cheap or re-used furniture have no taste in food? Pretentious snobs, you are.

Perhaps "in this economy," or any other, people are saving for their minimum six month emergency fund as advised and not spending money on showing off with better furniture.

You have cheap furniture so you can't discuss how food tastes? Really, that's low.

I still use milk crates for furniture. My bookshelves are stained planks (used with the aforementioned crates).

I've stopped shopping at Curb Mart, though, since bedbugs were brought back to the US from Europe.

Have been going upscale and fancy the past few years, since discovering IKEA, though.

"I think EL needs to take a break from top ten lists"

No, no, EL should have a top ten list of things she shouldn't do a top ten list of because there aren't enough examples to fill out the list.

Like Baltimore's top ten Caribbean meatloaf joints.

Or Tex-Mex restaurants. :-) EL

OMG - classic straw man attack. No one said it was "purely American." But the research into the origins of tex-mex shows it is not as you have portrayed it in your numerous posts as some kind of inauthentic immigrant pandering to American tastes.

My how Tex-Mex leads all the regulars to a fussin and a feudin. Let there never be talk of a Tex Mex Week here on the blog. No doubt it would end in a pool of blood, tears and guacamole.

Maybe I'm just out of tune here, but Tex-Mex and Mexican food (to me) are pretty much the same.

I like that type of food but don't get much chance to eat it often. They're aren't many places down here that offer either type. If I want spicy, its Cajun.

As I mentioned in another post, looking forward to a trip to Tequila Mockingbird in OC.

RoCK is right. This is starting to sound at lot like the BBQ issue. And the words of Amanda C at that time should be heeded by all parties:

Oh my. BG and OM, please don't do this in public. You're both completely beautiful maniacs of the gentlest order and bring out the best in each other. Whatever put a kink in your britches, I hope tomorrow will unravel it. Not here. This is the Great Tableau of Misunderstanding.

BG, he talks longingly about BBW BBQ all the time. It's exotic for us Pennsylvania folk. Forgive his transgressions. He didn't say that to hurt you, he's just, you know, him.

OM, be kind to BG's favorite things. Respond with love not anger, dumb ass. Do not escalate. Maybe she was being playful and not mean. I'm sure she likes you more than BBQ but that can be a tough choice for a Texas girl, so don't push it. ;-)

Breathe. Sleep. Pause.

Posted by: Amanda C | June 9, 2009 12:42 AM

I don't know who posted that? Certaintly BG is the love of my life. I would die for her. I would hope that our differences over fajitas would not sully the greatest love since Scott and Zelda. Yes, Anon we are the Abelard and Heloise of the blog. Oh hell, that leaves me with less "options"than I expected. Ouch. I love you BG always.

Zen West is easily the worst restaurant I've ever been to in Baltimore. I went back a second time to confirm my initial impressions and it was even more terrible. Rude and slow service, undrinkable margaritas, generic off-brand sodas, soggy, foul tasting food, etc. It's a shame, great potential location.

Cafe Zen has seriously gone downhill in the last 5-6 years too, but that's another story.

I really getting to dislike Top 10 Tuesdays! All of these dweebs come out of the woodwork to complain and can find their way here to not only do that , but to comment on some dumb thing like best crabs from 2007. Where are they the rest of the time when we're making suggestions?

That's exactly how I feel. EL

I'm not a big fan of the top ten lists either; however, I realize they generate numbers. To me the top tens are like CSI (insert city here): something that is popular but not interesting or entertaining.

OMG, I thought of naming our boy and girl rescue kittens Heloise and Abelard, but then remembered how badly that ended. For those of you who slept through your history class, Abelard was hired to teach young Heloise, but they fell in love. Upon discovery, her relatives castrated him, and they both ended up in the monastic life (or, in her case, a nunnery). Fortunately, they were still able to write.

If anyone thinks the top ten has been played out, this is post #87 on the Tex-Mex list -- and my hunch is we'll top one hundred. We've had enthusiasm, outrage, confusion, a lesson in Fajita history and an exchange of love letters worthy of the Brownings (although I don't recall any mention of gaucamole in their correspondence.) In short...there's still a lotta' life left in toptentology.

Michael, I would assert that "What is Tex-Mex" or "Why I hate Tex-Mex" are the topics that is driving the interesting conversation. I would say that the discussion as to why Zen West is on the list but El Solto is not falls into the category of a tedious conversation.

Dahlink, neutering kittens is a good thing. And wasn't a nunnery a Shakespearean term for brothel?

It could so work.

you are wise dahlink. Yes, I am still able to write. And apparently consume liberal amounts of bourbon (the drink, not the "girl") at my friend's birthday party. Apologies to all. Yes, tex-mex feels a bit like the Spanish Civil War, but without the poetry and tanks. Not my intention. Passionate people likes their foods. I am currently putting my hands in the air like I just don't care (non-sequitur)

RoCk, I see your point. And whatever the topic -- top ten or otherwise -- it's ultimately the restaurant recommendations and mini-reviews that make this forum so valuable. F'rinstance, I now intend to try El Solto at the first opportunity. Speaking of restaurant reports, can't wait til Restaurant Week and the pro and con comments as to which restaurants brilliantly handled (or dismally mishandled) the promotion.

Lissa, the kittens were in fact neutered (just not by angry relatives). You are probably right about "nunnery" possibly meaning brothel (puts a whole different spin on "get thee to a nunnery," doesn't it?)

And OMG, I let my husband name them.

I still have no idea whether Zapata's in Columbia fits into this catagory, as I'm no expert, but they have terrific fajitas as well as the usual tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. However, they do have really unusual and delicious items on the menu, such as menudo, mole, empanadas, and other dishes that probably disqualify them from this list.

I went to Taco Fiesta a while ago. It's hard to believe that it's not a chain. I've never seen a non-chain place look and feel so much like one, lots of garish plastic stuff. Anyway I order a beef burrito. First of all it was a burro, but no matter. When I got it I didn't know what to think. There was some beef in it but it was a large tortilla filled with rice. Rice? What the hell? I'd never seen anything like that before. Is that Tex-Mex? Aside from not wanting to fill one carb wth another carb, it completely destroys the gooey, hot, meaty, melty cheesey awesomeness of a burrito.

Can someone help me out here? Is this a valid tradition somewhere? It seems antithetical to Mexican tradition. I mean really, this is peasant food and if you have rice you don't need bread and vice versa.

I earnestly implore you fellow blitizens, enlighten me for I am ignorant.

Owlie, I've been told putting rice inside a burrito is a California thing. Not sure how accurate that is.

Always horrifies me. It is like scooping up rice and dahl with chapatis. Just wrong.

Dahlink, what did your husband name the little cuties?

I've heard that too. It's a dumb thing to do. I wonder if it's a California gringo thing or a California Mexican thing? I never saw that in AZ. Right up there with the chip butty.

Whoa, whoa, habibi! Don't dis anything with chips!

Sorry habibati, but I can't really get behind the chip butty. My understanding is that it's a buttered French fry sandwich on Wonder Bread. Frightful indeed as jaunty Lord M might say or Hugh Grant.

I still have no idea what Tex-Mex is. It seems so blurry as to be impossible to discuss. And yet you guys soldier on.

I would ask Jesus but he's from Honduras.

I still have no idea what Tex-Mex is

I don't think many of the commenters here do, either.

I think Hal is right. I know I don't, although, at several points in this conversation, I briefly had a clue.

And I want to eat a chip butty before I dis it. Poutine sounded pretty horrifying, too, and it is quite tasty.

You are such silly fun peoples. You do not define your topic so much and you chase it about like you are herding invisible cats. Much fun my friends.

I love Chevy's.

Does El Salto have TV's with the volume on 10 playing Mexican soap operas all day? Now thats authentic!

I've sort of been lurking around this topic. I don't know what Tex-Mex is either. Most of what I've heard described here, we call "Mexican". No "Tex" to it.

Do y'all have breakfast burritos back there? Big deal here. On Fridays a vendor (unlicensed, I think...just works out of her kitchen) comes by the parking lot and sells her homemade breakfast burritos. People line up with their money and their mouths watering. Pretty funny.

Oh my, dear Bourbon Girl I'm sorry I put you in such a mood. I was just taking a playful swipe at VDP and Owlie's former frat boy home furnishings. I still ha ve a tiny scar where you jabbed the Obama/Biden button into my chest. :-)

No cultural warfare intended, just a tweak at the boys who would probably still be eating nachos and high-fiving each other if not for the civilizing influence of their distaff better halves. Solidarity dear gurl.

Bucky,
You mentioned the idea that I've been thinking of all along. What is the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex?

Is the Tex-Mex just Mexican cuisine that has been adapted to American tastes? Don't know, but I like both.

Yes, there are breakfast burritos around here in the East, you can get them at McDonalds. They have two kinds of sauce, mild or spicy.

And they aren't bad, actually. The sausage burrito with the spicy picante sauce is okay. I haven't had one in a couple years though, there are no Mickey D's on my morning commute.

I will now hunker down with my battle gear on.

I would think rice in a burrito is an economy thing. It keeps marginal costs down, while still giving Americans the big portions they love.

perhaps RoCK has a good explanation; rice is filler and and its cheap.

I've been told that Tex Mex is nothing like USian pseudo-Mexican food, but, again, I'm certainly no expert. I come from the other border.

I can't get behind the rice in a burrito either. I'm not generally a fan of those gigantic burritos, like Chipotle serves. Everytime I go there I get the tacos. I attribute it more to California than Texas.

t wrote: MEX gave me food poisoning. was not impressed with their margaritas, at all.

To which Chris Furst responded: In regards to Mex, t, please email Elizabeth for my direct contact info as I would love to see about rectifying your previous experience. Mex has an incredible chef who is Serv Safe certified and they now have daily specials with authentic Mexican cuisine as well as popular Tex-Mex items.

I applaud your efforts to rectify the situation; however, I can speak from personal experience. I myself got food poisoning from your establishment within the first 3 months it was open. I've not returned since.

Several friends and coworkers have caught food poisoning from there as well despite my continued warnings against it.

On April 3, 2009, your restaurant was shut down for a rodent infestation.

To me, that is a long history of food contamination, a gastric-gamble I don't intend to put my money on.

In more productive discussion, has anyone been to El Salton recently?

I've heard the quality of food has declined recently. I've never been to El Salto in Brooklyn Park, but have been looking forward to trying it because of the continued positive discussion on its food.

If you've been lately, I'd love to hear about your experience.

May I offer a wry observation? To me tex-mex is the Rubic's Cube of cuisine. Take six ingredients and combine them in 30 different ways.

Tortilla with melted cheese? Tostada. Add more toppings: quesadilla. Cut up tortilla into triangles, fry and melt cheese: nachos. Roll up your quesadilla: burrito. Fry it: chimmichanga. Bend a tortilla, fry it and add nacho toppings: taco. DIY burrito = fajita. And on and on...

It's like food Legos and maybe that's why it's so fun. Embrace your inner niño and get down with food Legos boys and girls.

To trouble, I work at Mex and I eat there at least 5 times a week. Not once have I gotten sick from the food, nor has any of my co-workers ever complained of getting sick.

It;'s really hard to know where you get food poisoining or even if it is from food. The time of onset of symptoms can vary wildy. It could be from poorly washed hands. It could have been from lunch or dinner or shaking hands with a hobo or using a hobo's Chaptick.

BTW that "stomach flu" you got, it was from one of the above reasons. The flu is a respiratory illness.

I sent a friend to a very nice restaurant and he said that he but not his wife got food poisoning there. I said how do you know? Where did you eat lunch? Answer: Oh I got a shrimp salad sandwich at some place on Reisterstown Road. Uh, .....

I have a feeling that half of the I got food poisoning complaints could be translated as "I got fired from there"

I'll agree with Just Browsing and Owlie. A lot of people make claims of food poisoning, but I think most of the claims are dubious. Some just have an agenda and are lying. Others are probably just over eating or over drinking. I know that many times after I eat out I feel badly. It's not food poisoning; rather, it's the fact I often order like a modern day Henry VIII.

My niece was sooo excited to see a new Chipotle at Ridgely and York Road today.

RoCK is right, You should see him go at a leg of mutton.

RoCK is a fine trencherman. I've seen what he can do to a chicken.

There were no survivors.

I have a feeling that half of the I got food poisoning complaints could be translated as "I got fired from there"

I can very honestly say, I have never worked at Mex, which makes it difficult to have been fired from there. I've not worked in the restaurant industry since the 90's which is way before Mex' time.

I will concede that it is difficult to know if one got actual food poisoning (and if so, from where) or a form of stomach virus, or some other ailment. A few too many coincidences in the case of Mex for me to risk a return, much less a recommendation.

People borrow Chapstick from hobos? Are there even hobos anymore?

we are everywhere. don't let your pies cool on the windersill. we steal them

Bindlestiff Bart, I paid you a nickle back in 1933 to paint my chicken coop, and you never did. Now, paint my chicken coop.

Hobos have Internet access too?

People don't borrow Chapsticks. They kep them and that's stealin'

Yes, anonymous. About 15 years ago, someone (and I'd love to know who, believe me) decided that public libraries should, for free, with no additional funding, provide free Internet access to the world + dog.

So, yeah, anyone who wants to be on the net can, if they can get to a library.

As a Floridian with two years of living and working in rural Texas where I ate most meals with Mexican American families cooking homestyle Mexican food, I was severely bummed when I moved to NO Mexican food to be had period.

El Salto on rt 2 is my go to place.

The food seems familiar to me, like a non chalant mom and pop little place in TX that is not trying too hard but ALWAYS serves good food each and every day. El Salto is super consistent and good, every time. I love that fact. Always the same, always satisfying.

Everybody who works there are Mexican, owner is there often and I chat with him about how his business is going and where he might be expanding next. I would be so bummed if there were no El Salto.

El Taquito near Broadway on Eastern ave in the city is a wonderful hole in the wall, literally. Card tables, folding chairs, kids in the kitchen, no credit cards, but: awesome lamb tacos, sauces that taste like they just were made outdoors on a fire in Mexico, and imported Coca Cola made with cane sugar (awesome).

Qdoba's chicken or steak taco salad is my go to gringo tx mx lunch item. Never get tired of it, great taste, good price, people are nice, perfect lunch if you can't make it to a real mexican place.

Earlier this summer I finally made it to rio grande in bethesda and I did like it very much. I would call it a great place to spend a lot of money on tx mx, nice environment, worth the visit now and then but too uppity to be my go to place. For that in the tx mx category it has to be a cheapo place.

I always try a place's chile relleno, this tells me a lot about a place. The results are not always what I expect. If a place flunks the relleno test I don't go back.

My #1 pet peeve in mexican places is: brown rice! Mexican rice really should be more rose or pink colored that brown. The operative element should be a tomato, onion, garlic based that the rice is cooked in, and NOT CUMIN which makes it brown and tastes like it was cooked in an old tire. In real Mexican places I guarantee you they don't buy cumin in the kitchen by the vat full, it is used very sparingly. I HATE CUMIN TASTING RICE so please you chain restaurants and wannabes, please give me red or rose rice, and keep your brown crap off my plate.

Cumin does not make rice brown. White rice with cumin looks like white rice with cumin, unless you're using ground cumin, which would be ugly and taste like monkey butt.

Trouble,

I can only speak for the El Salto in Parkville, but the food has been the same (just as good) as the first time I went a few years ago. I go 2-3 times a month.

Rio Grande is easily the area's best Tex Mex restaurant. As a fajita conneisseur, Rio is the best I've had anywhere. Frisco Grille in Columbia is easily the area's second best IMO - better than Austin Grill, Holy Frijoles or Nach Mama's. The latter two are OK, but seem to generate more buzz because of their location and charm than quality of the food.

Do you understand that this is correct time to receive the personal loans, which will make you dreams real.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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