Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mexican Dining in the Nickel City - an open letter to a friend

“If I moved away, I would definitely miss the Mexican food. Every region has its own Mexican food, and they're very chauvinistic -- they believe their food is the real Mexican food.” - Russ Parsons
My friend Christa Glennie Seychew, now back at Buffalo Rising, brought up on Facebook a consideration of the state of Mexican food in Buffalo. I had answers or at least my view, and said I'd respond, but I cannot find the frakkin' post.

So, instead I'll post here, and let her know.

The main premise of her post was that with all the Mexican "themed" places in town, why don't we have a true Mexican restaurant?

Dear Christa, I have two answers.

But first, discount the national chains. They suck. I am not even sure that Taco Hell qualifies as food. Discount Mighty Taco, too. As one who grew to love it in the purple haze of the 70's it is a food group separate and apart. I do not even think Mexican when I consider it - it's a Mighty.

What this leaves are the local places with Margarita specials (often bad ones), cold Corona with a lime, canned Mexican music, and occasionally some hygiene issues. The problem is that they are Tex-Mex - lesser offspring of the places we enjoyed on our trip to San Antonio - places such as Rosario's, Mi Tierra and La Margarita. Frankly, I'd like to have a place like those here, with real breakfast tacos like those at Mi Tierra, the middle one is Lengua. (BTW, when it comes to kitsch, Mi Tierra makes Salvatore's look like rank amateurs!)

So, to my theories. First, I don't think people get Mexican food. If you grew up at Taco Hell and Chi-Chi's you're going expect that kind of mierda . It may be worse here in WNY. One lesson I learned working in local restaurants is never to overestimate the culinary intelligence of local diners. For everyone who dreams of spending special occasions at Sea Bar or Torches, there are dozens who dream of doing the same at Olive Garden or Alice's Kitchen.

This is an area that reveres the fish fry. They think menudo, if they think of it at all, is where Ricky Martin got his start, posole is on the bottom of a poor persons shoe. Try to convince them that corn smut, huitlacoche, is not only edible, but delicious.

The other problem is closely related to overcoming those prejudices - demographics  . Think about it, a Korean, or Indian or Caribbean restaurant can open and do fine because there are no ingrained concepts.  (Japanese is the exception that proves the rule, but that's another post).With Mexican we don't have the population to overcome the Ortega/Taco Hell syndrome.  In fact, even with the Chinese/Chinese American population here we can't overcome the La Choy generation.

But, here's the rub: There is at least one fair Chinese restaurant nearby that when asked by Chinese immigrants to put on a 13 course traditional banquet did so in a phenomenal way!  If we get enough people who want traditional Mexican - even if just a taqueria - we may get one.

In the mean time, Christa, you have two options:

Go to Toronto on a weekend. Perola's Market on Augusta (the west border of Chinatown) does have a taqueria only on weekends - I was clued in by Corey Mintz of the Toronto Star.  It may mean eating standing, but it's worth it. Or:
From Toronto Sat
Get to know me well enough to get an invite to dine here.  I do good Mexican.

Sunday Morning Food Porn

Ming Teh, Ft. Erie, Canada

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -