Ways You Can Tell If You Are Eating in an Authentic Mexican Restaurant

Mexican dishes

Mexican food is very popular all over the United States. By some estimates, about 10% of all restaurants in the country serve Mexican dishes. This makes Mexican cuisine the most popular kind of international cuisine around the nation. To underscore that point, it is worth noting that more than 70% of all households across the country cook Mexican foods and use Mexican ingredients. Following on that, it is safe to say that most Americans have eaten at a Mexican restaurant in their lives.

It can be hard, for many, to tell between an authentic Mexican restaurant and one that is Tex-Mex. Here are some ways you can tell you are getting the real deal:

  1. The tortillas are corn. Corn tortillas are, by far, the preferred kind used by Mexican families and Mexican restaurants. When the Spanish first arrived in Mexico, they looked the corn grown there and decided that it was inedible. When they got to the area, locals had already been making corn tortillas so the Spaniards made their own version, the flour tortilla from wheat, which they were more used to eating. If you want a dish that is really authentic, go for one with corn tortillas. A Mexican restaurant that does not sell them is not trading in authentic food.
  2. The ingredients for the corn tortillas include gluten. So you have found that your favorite Mexican restaurant serves a ton of corn tortillas, you’re good, right? Not so fast! If they serve tortillas with any wheat (and gluten), the food has been Americanized. There are only two ingredients in authentic Mexican corn tortillas, corn masa and water. If there is more to their tortillas, it is not the real deal.
  3. The salsa has little flavor. When you are eating at the best Mexican restaurants, you should see a number of options for your salsa pleasure. You should see pico de gallo on the menu (this is very fresh), red ed chiltomate (thinner), salsa verde (very spicy), and a bunch more. If you are only offered a band salsa and no other options, you are not eating authentic Mexican food.
  4. The place will have authentic hot sauces. Examples of authentic Mexican hot sauces are Cholula and Valentina. There are others, of course, but if you ask for hot sauce and are given Pete’s Hot Sauce, you are not getting authentic Mexican fare.
  5. You have cilantro. Many people do not like cilantro because the interaction it has with chemicals in their taste buds. For them, it tastes like soap. For lovers of real Mexican cuisine, it plays a very important role. While it was not indigenous to the region, when the Spanish brought it over, it changed the way locals would cook forever. It is not considered to be a staple in many of the dishes people eat and love.
  6. Tacos should only be served as tacos. If you see taco salad, taco bowls, or some other option for how to eat a taco, you are dining on Tex-Mex, not Mexican cuisine. An authentic taco will be in a soft, corn tortilla. There are a number of ways you can get a taco but it should only come topped with onion and cilantro. If it is loaded with cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce it is the American version.
  7. You should not see queso dip and cheese on the menu. Now, this can be really good but that does not make it authentic. First of all, the queso dip served is not authentic. If you go to Mexico and order it, you will get queso flameado, which is served flame (on fire). It is nothing like what you would get at a Tex-Mex place.
  8. The television is on but they are not showing soccer. Go to any restaurant in Mexico, that serves local food, and the people will be watching soccer. Soccer, called football everywhere but the United States, is the most popular sport in Mexico. Mexicans are passionate about it.

Americanized Mexican food is not necessarily bad. The fusion of two cuisines often produces great results and dishes. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican restaurant, these tips can set you in the right direction to find it.