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Taco USA

How Mexican food became more American than apple pie


Exit 132 off Interstate 29 in Brookings, South Dakota, offers two possibilities. A right turn will take drivers through miles of farms, flatland that stretches to the horizon, cut up into grids by country roads and picturesque barns—a scenic route to nowhere in heartland America. But take a left at the light, and you wind up coasting through a college town of 19,000 that's more than 95 percent white. The city's small Latino minority—less than 1 percent of the population—is mostly students or faculty members passing through South Dakota State University. It was here, in late 2009, that I experienced an epiphany about Mexican food in the United States. 

I had been visiting the campus and found myself desperate for a taste of home. For us Southern Californians, that means burritos. Google Maps found me four Mexican restaurants in town. One, named Guadalajara, is a small South Dakota chain with outposts in Pierre and Spearfish. The food there was fine: a mishmash of tacos, burritos, and bean-and-rice pairings. But talk to the waiters in Spanish, and their faces brighten; they trot out the secret salsa they make for themselves but don't dare share with locals for fear of torching their tongues. 

The most popular restaurant in town that day was Taco John's. I didn't know it then, but Taco John's is the third-largest taco chain in the United States, with nearly 500 locations. But what lured me that morning was a drive-through line snaking out from the faux-Spanish revival building (whitewashed adobe and all) and into the street. Once I inched my rental car next to the menu, I was offered an even more outrageous simulacrum of the American Southwest: tater tots, that most Midwestern of snacks, renamed "Potato Olés" and stuffed into a breakfast burrito, nacho cheese sauce slowly oozing out from the bottom of the flour tortilla.

There is nothing remotely Mexican about Potato Olés—not even the quasi-Spanish name, which has a distinctly Castilian accent. The burrito was more insulting to me and my heritage than casting Charlton Heston as the swarthy Mexican hero in Touch of Evil. But it was intriguing enough to take back to my hotel room for a taste. There, as I experienced all of the concoction's gooey, filling glory while chilly rain fell outside, it struck me: Mexican food has become a better culinary metaphor for America than the melting pot.

Back home, my friends did not believe that a tater tot burrito could exist. When I showed them proof online, out came jeremiads about inauthenticity, about how I was a traitor for patronizing a Mexican chain that got its start in Wyoming, about how the avaricious gabachos had once again usurped our holy cuisine and corrupted it to fit their crude palates. 

In defending that tortilla-swaddled abomination, I unknowingly joined a long, proud lineage of food heretics and lawbreakers who have been developing, adapting, and popularizing Mexican food in El Norte since before the Civil War. Tortillas and tamales have long left behind the moorings of immigrant culture and fully infiltrated every level of the American food pyramid, from state dinners at the White House to your local 7-Eleven. Decades' worth of attempted restrictions by governments, academics, and other self-appointed custodians of purity have only made the strain stronger and more resilient. The result is a market-driven mongrel cuisine every bit as delicious and all-American as the German classics we appropriated from Frankfurt and Hamburg.

Imperialism and Enchiladas

Food is a natural conduit of change, evolution, and innovation. Wishing for a foodstuff to remain static, uncorrupted by outside influence—especially in these United States—is as ludicrous an idea as barring new immigrants from entering the country. Yet for more than a century, both sides of the political spectrum have fought to keep Mexican food in a ghetto. From the right has come the canard that the cuisine is unhealthy and alien, a stereotype dating to the days of the Mexican-American War, when urban legend had it that animals wouldn't eat the corpses of fallen Mexican soldiers due to the high chile content in the decaying flesh. Noah Smithwick, an observer of the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, claimed "the cattle got to chewing the bones [of Mexican soldiers], which so affected the milk that residents in the vicinity had to dig trenches and bury them."

Similar knocks against Mexican food can be heard to this day in the lurid tourist tales of "Montezuma's Revenge" and in the many food-based ethnic slurs still in circulation: beaner, greaser, pepper belly, taco bender, roach coach, and so many more. "Aside from diet," the acclaimed borderlands scholar Américo Paredes wrote in 1978, "no other aspect of Mexican culture seems to have caught the fancy of the Anglo coiner of derogatory terms for Mexicans." 

Thankfully, the buying public has never paid much attention to those prandial pendejos. Instead, Americans have loved and consumed Mexican food in large quantities almost from the moment it was available—from canned chili and tamales in the early 20th century to fast-food tacos in the 1960s, sit-down eateries in the 1970s, and ultra-pricey hipster mescal bars today. Some staples of the Mexican diet have been thoroughly assimilated into American food culture. No one nowadays thinks of "chili" as Mexican, even though it long passed for Mexican food in this country; meanwhile, every Major League baseball and NFL stadium sells nachos, thanks to the invention of a fast-heated chips and "cheese" combination concocted by an Italian-American who was the cousin of Johnny Cash's first wife. Only in America! 

In the course of this culinary blending, a multibillion-dollar industry arose. And that's where leftist critics of Mexican food come in. For them, there's something inherently suspicious about a cuisine responsive to both the market and the mercado. Oh, academics and foodies may love the grub, but they harbor an atavistic view that the only "true" Mexican food is the just-off-the-grill carne asada found in the side lot of your local abuelita (never mind that it was the invading Spaniards who introduced beef to the New World). "Mexico's European-and-Indian soul," writes Rick Bayless, the high priest of the "authentic" Mexican food movement, in his creatively titled book, Authentic Mexican, "feels the intuitions of neither bare-bones Victorianism nor Anglo-Saxon productivity"—a line reminiscent of dispatches from the Raj. If it were up to these authentistas, we'd never have kimchi tacos or pastrami burritos. Salsa would not outsell ketchup in the United States. This food of the gods would be locked in Mexican households and barrios of cities, far away from Anglo hands.

That corn-fed Americans love and profit from Mexican food is viewed as an open wound in Chicano intellectual circles, a gastronomic update of America's imperial taking of the Southwest. Yanqui consumption and enjoyment of quesadillas and margaritas, in this view, somehow signifies a weakness in the Mexican character. "The dialectic between representation and production of Mexican cuisine offers a critical means of gauging Latino cultural power, or, more precisely, the relative lack of such power," write scholars Victor Valle and Rudy Torres in their 2000 book Latino Metropolis. (Another precious thought from Valle and Torres concerns Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, two Midwestern girls who came to Los Angeles and learned to love Mexican food during the 1980s, parlaying that fondness into a series of television shows and books under the billing "Two Hot Tamales." The academics claim the Tamales' success arose from "neocolonial appropriations of world cuisine by reviving a gendered variant of the Hispanic fantasy discourse." Um, yeah…)

With due respect to my fellow lefty professors, they're full of beans. I'm not claiming equal worth for all American interpretations of Mexican food; Taco Bell has always made me retch, and Mexican food in central Kentucky tastes like …well, Mexican food in central Kentucky. But when culinary anthropologists like Bayless and Diana Kennedy make a big show out of protecting "authentic' Mexican food from the onslaught of commercialized glop, they are being both paternalistic and ahistorical. 

That you have a nation (and increasingly a planet—you can find Mexican restaurants from Ulan Bator to Sydney to Prague) lusting after tequila, guacamole, and tres leches cake isn't an exercise in culinary neocolonialism but something closer to the opposite. By allowing itself to be endlessly adaptable to local tastes, Mexican food has become a primary vehicle for exporting the culture of a long-ridiculed country to the far corners of the globe. Forget Mexico's imaginary Reconquista of the American Southwest; the real conquest of North America is a peaceful and consensual affair, taking place one tortilla at a time. 

I'll never forget the delight I felt a couple of years ago when I worked on a series of investigative stories on Orange County neo-Nazis. One of the photos I unearthed showed two would-be Aryans scarfing down food from Del Taco, a beloved California chain best known for its cheap and surprisingly tasty burritos. The neo-colonizers have become the colonized, and no one even fired a shot.

Tamales and Truncheons

As long as Mexican food has existed in this country, government has tried to legislate it out of existence. This is partly because of stereotypes but mostly because government is government. The resulting underground Mexican food economy, meanwhile, has birthed some of the cuisine's most innovative trends. 

In 1880s San Antonio, so-called chili queens—Mexican women who brought the Alamo City national attention by setting up impromptu stalls in city squares to sell fiery bowls of what was then known as chile con carne—began a decades-long game of cat and mouse with local officials. The authorities would declare a certain neighborhood legally off-limits, and the chili queens would shrug and move their tents to the outdoor plaza across the street, bringing with them their legions of loyal customers. It took until the 1940s for San Antonio bureaucrats to formally legalize the street vendors, but only if they subjected themselves to rigorous health inspections and hawked their food from white tents with screens. The public scorned these bowdlerized women, and the chili queens disappeared within years.

The same story arc has played out nearly everywhere in the United States where there has been a Mexican with food to sell. Wandering tamale men spread across the United States during the 1890s until competitors and not-in-my-backyard types convinced city councils to pass laws against them. A century later, loncheras peddling tacos and burritos —first to construction sites, then to anywhere workers take their lunches—have encountered the same protectionism and prejudice. As the public embraces the convenience, affordability, and taste of food trucks, restaurant owners and the city officials they lobby have repeatedly attempted to squash the competition. 

Any new businesses in town will always make city planners and councilmen wary and greedy, of course. But the sad, surprising reality is that most of the resistance to loncheras comes from brick-and-mortar businesses. Instead of refining and broadening their offerings to keep up with their new competitors, the incumbents fall back on an argument straight out of a Mafia protection racket: Since we pay more taxes and business fees than food trucks, government should squash our competition so we can continue business as usual.

It's a strategy that has long worked. In 1992 tiny Pasco, Washington, set rules limiting where taco trucks could park and requiring them to pay $45 each month per parking spot. Pasco's restaurants, by contrast, paid only $35 a year for a license. Five street vendors took Pasco all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, arguing that the double standard was unconstitutional, but they ultimately lost. Similar crackdowns have taken place in Fresno (1995), Chicago (1997), Phoenix (1999), and Dallas (1999), where Planning Commissioner James Lee Fantroy sneered during a public hearing on the subject, "The proper preparation of food is one of those things that we must carefully watch. I don't think I could bring my family to one of these [trucks] and feel comfortable."

Even in Los Angeles, the second-largest Mexican metropolis in the world, the majority-Democrat L.A. County Board of Supervisors tried to ban food trucks as recently as four years ago. The city has destroyed carts selling unauthorized bacon dogs and even hauled off some entrepreneurs to jail, despite acknowledging that no bacon-dog customer has ever registered a complaint. 

L.A. has a long history of putting the squeeze on Mexican-food peddlers. From 1900 to about 1925, the city council passed resolution after resolution trying to ban tamale wagons from downtown Los Angeles. The tamaleros, knowing what they meant to their legions of customers, fought back. In 1903, when the council tried to outlaw them altogether, tamale wagons formed a mutual-aid society and presented a petition with the signatures of more 500 customers that read in part, "We claim that the lunch wagons are catering to an appreciative public and to deprive the people of these convenient eating places would prove a great loss to the many local merchants who sell the wagon proprietors various supplies." When the city council finally kicked the vendors out as part of the effort to create the sanitized, whitewashed ethnic fantasyland now known as Olvera Street, the vendors just went underground, where they flourished for decades and eventually transformed into loncheras.

In 2008 the L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution making parking a truck for longer than one hour in unincorporated communities such as East L.A. a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The plan sparked a furious backlash—not only among the loncheros, who created La Asociación de Loncheros L.A. Familia Unida de California (Association of Loncheros Los Angeles United Family of California) to defend themselves, but among young bloggers and hipsters who had grown up patronizing loncheras after clubbing or working late. Soon black T-shirts emblazoned with a white lonchera and the statement "Carne Asada Is Not a Crime" flowered across Southern California, and a group of foodies helped the loncheros sue the board of supervisors. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge eventually overturned the supes' diktat.

But it was mostly the will of the loncheros—almost all immigrants who initially came to the United States with no knowledge of English, let alone an understanding of our legal system—that earned the victory. In my homeland of Orange County, Roberto Guzman led a group of loncheros in 2006 to sue the city of Santa Ana to be able to park on city streets from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., seven days a week. His Cadillac-pink truck "Alebrije's" sells food from Mexico City—buttery, crepe-like quesadillas, massive chili-soaked sandwiches called pambazos, and a concoction of six tortillas covered with sautéed onions, bell peppers, jalapeños, and grilled ham, bacon, and carne asada called alambres.

When the city council (also majority Democrat, and all Latino, making Santa Ana the largest city in the United States with such leadership) sought to negotiate with the loncheros to install a lottery system giving rights to some food trucks but not all, they refused. "Please," Guzmán scoffs. "It would've been favoritism all the way. I felt as if they were going to take away the sustenance of so many families. It was going to be a huge economic loss. And it was too much a worry that, at any moment, [the city] could take away the parking spots from us." Today Santa Ana is a lonchera paradise—and Guzmán owns three of them, with plans for more.

Margarita Millionaires

The self-appointed guardians of Mexican food in this country are right on one point: The popularity of Mexican food has indeed allowed many non-Mexicans to build multimillion-dollar fortunes. German immigrant William Gebhardt created Eagle Brand Chili Powder from the basement of a bar in New Braunfels, Texas, in the early 1890s, parlaying that into a canned food empire that lasts to this day. Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, got his idea for hard-shelled tacos from Mitla Café, a San Bernardino Mexican restaurant that stood across the street from Bell's burger stand during the early 1950s. The Frito-Lay company developed its most iconic chips, Fritos and Doritos, by purchasing the rights to those crunchy treats from Mexican immigrants. And Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle, which has mainstreamed massive burritos during the last decade, openly admits he was "inspired" by the burritos sold in San Francisco's famously Latino Mission District. 

The easy response to critics of appropriation is that it's the market that decides who gets rich, not ethnic politics. Besides, obsessing over the many gabachos who have become Mexican-food millionaires ignores the many success stories involving Mexicans who displayed the same guile as their pasty-skinned contemporaries. 

Larry Cano, for example, started out as a dishwasher at a Polynesian-themed restaurant in the Los Angeles enclave of Encino, worked his way up enough to eventually buy the place, then renamed it El Torito—the chain that pioneered sit-down Mexican dining in the United States. In Texas, the Martinez and Cuellar families created empires with their El Fenix and El Chico chains, respectively, formalizing Mexican restaurants for the rest of the country and essentially creating the genre of Tex-Mex. In Southern California during the 1990s, the Lopez family, immigrants from the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, helped popularize regional Mexican food in this country, fighting the double challenge of introducing Oaxacan food to both Americans and Southern California Mexicans who looked down on the cuisine as the domain of backward Indians. Today Mexican immigrants are following the Lopez/Oaxacan lead and selling their regional specialties nationwide. 

And then there's the story of Mariano Martinez, scion of the Cuellars, who in 1971 created the frozen margarita machine. At his Dallas restaurant Mariano's, which serves heroic enchilada platters, Martinez birthed an empire off the slushy tequila drink, inventing an instant mix that has powered many a house party since. Nowadays Martinez disavows the frozen margarita—he prefers his fresh, with Cointreau. But Mariano's pride in his creation and his cuisine—long dismissed by "serious" food critics as forgettable—remains.

"I've seen them all over the years," he says. "They come in and do this upscale food.…Some of those places aren't there anymore. My little old place I have? Forty years later, we're still pumping the same food. Same phone number. Here I am plugging away at this little Tex-Mex peasant food that no one wanted to play with, that all the ivory tower critics made fun of. And with a drink that no one can resist." 

Mariano's original frozen margarita machine is now in the Smithsonian. And Mexican food marches on, a combo plate of freedom giving indigestion to busybodies and authentistas every­where.

Gustavo Arellano, the editor and restaurant critic of OC Weekly, writes the syndicated "Ask a Mexican!" column. He is the author, most recently, of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (Scribner).

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  1. The best Mexican food I ever had–by far–was in Cabo. And it was awesome. Even the chips and salsa were miles ahead of what you usually get here. Of course, I assume the border states can replicate that to some extent.

    1. There is a ton of great Mexican food in Texas but there is a lot of variation in style in and among the border states and actual Mexico. Kinda depends on your preference. Fortunately in Houston you can find pretty much every style.

      1. You can get terrible Mexican food everywhere. Including Texas.

        West Texas is tough, unless you really enjoy mediocre TexMex.

        1. unless you really enjoy mediocre TexMex

          You know RC, I thought I liked you. Then you turn out to be another Epi-class food snob.

          1. Hey, I’m a NewMex guy when it comes to Mexican food. I came by it honestly; my family is from New Mexico.

            I gots no beef with good TexMex, necessarily, but fuck me, most people running restaurants just don’t seem to give a shit. I’m sick to death of gluey refried beans, stale tortillas, wilted frickin’ iceberg lettuce, etc. ad nauseum.

            1. This x1000. I actually have a fondness for cheap New Mexican diner food as well. Especially when they use eggs.

            2. Every time I hear someone I know say “This stuff isn’t anything like REAL [Insert ethnicity here] food” I realize that I’m just fine with eating Americanized versions of whatever.

              And I’m just pulling your leg. Nobody is as much of a food snob as Epi.

              1. There’s a restaurant here in town that does actual authentic interior Mexican food. I wasn’t impressed. I’ll take Tex-Mex or New Mex-Mex any day over authentic. El Real and Los Cucos for the win, bitches.

                Cal-Mex still sucks, though.

              2. There are time when I’m ok with eating Panda Express. And then there are times when I got to eat stuff that got C rating from City of Los Angeles.

            3. I’m sick to death of gluey refried beans, stale tortillas, wilted frickin’ iceberg lettuce, etc. ad nauseum.

              It’s even more maddening when it’s an actual Mexican mom and pop doing it. There are NO good Mexican restaurants local to my neck of the woods (by which I mean a ten/ fifteen minute drive), which is odd because there is a thriving Mexican community around here (near Baltimore, MD, not New Mexico or TExas).

              1. It’s even more maddening when it’s an actual Mexican mom and pop doing it.

                I honestly blame mass production here, since it tends to dilute the “authenticity” aspect of ethnic cuisine. Since so many fast food and and Chipotle’s type places have adapted to the least common denominator of palates in order to increase the largest amount of customers to establish a base in a such a competitive market.

                For example, in UKR, you can order mass produced Borscht (I highly recommend against doing so) in the local Mackey D’s. They sell well because of convenience and are relatively inexpensive, since “real food” tends to be a little pricey there.

              2. This is so true. There is a complete lack of anything resembling good mexican food around Baltimore (I’m on the north / west side).

        2. Tex-Mex >>>> Mexican food, even though when we say “Mexican food” we mean TexMex.

      2. If you can’t find good TexMex in Houston, you shouldn’t be trusted alone outdoors.

        1. I was in San Antonio recently, and I failed at finding decent Mexican food of any variety.

          1. San Antonio is tough. Practically every thing is a Mexican restaurant and most really suck. The best I had was from a grilled chicken truck on South Flores.

            The food is mostly worse as you head West with a few exceptions. Nora’s Tacos in Sabinal is extraordinary.

            1. There are some interesting German/French Alsatian places in the towns west of San Antonio.

          2. Are you kidding??? No good Mexican food in San Antonio? My wife is a latina from there, and trust me, there are some amazing Mexican food places there. My favorite is Pico de Gallo on the south end of downtown. It’s not in the touristy part of the city and is just a small neighborhood joint, but it’s fantastic.

            I also love the Culebra Meat Market in the northeast suburbs on Nacogdoches Blvd. They make the most amazing tacos with all kinds of interesting meats like tripe and tongue that are 100% Mexican and 100% delicious.

            1. It’s not that you can’t get good Mexican/Southwestern food in San Antonio, its just not that easy.

              after the pollo truck the best I had was from takeout tamale/barbacoa joints.

        2. Just go where the work trucks are parked on Sunday afternoon.

    2. The best Mexican food I ever had–by far–was in Cabo.

      Cozumel, here. Best SCUBA diving int the world, BTW. I highly suggest Palancar Reef. There was also a sunken plane dive, the make and model escape me ATM, that is/was home to an enormous green moray eel.

  2. More American than Skittles?…..on_KEY=144

    1. Isn’t that the candy that does not have swirling chocolate in the ads?

    2. For a sec. I thought the petition said it was a candy sold by Hitler.

  3. Is this the fabled TacoBrag I’ve heard so much about?

  4. Welcome to America: the cultural melting pot that has given the world both the dorito taco AND the oreo pizza.

    1. Needs more deep-fried butter.

      1. I’m holding out for a Gummi Bear egg foo yung fusion train wreck.

        1. Yum!

          I mean


        2. I’m holding out for a Gummi Bear egg foo yung fusion train wreck.

          Here you go:


        3. Oooooh, imagine Gummi Worm Lo Mein.

      2. I prefer fried lardo.

      3. The Iowa State Fair was selling deep fried butter last summer. I did not try it, as I had insufficient insurance.

            1. Eat what you want and die like a man.

              Find some local illegal immigrants and find out where they eat. You may find the ‘Mexican’ food they eat actually comes from somewhere south of Mexico. If everything is lengua and the tortillas look like pita bread and you have to struggle to get them to understand that ‘no cilantro, por favor’ doesn’t mean ‘oh, just a pound or so of cilantro on every goddamn thing’ and the Cokes come in a glass bottle because they are imported from Mexico where they use real sugar, then you are in the right place.

  5. No place does food mix & mutate like NYC.

    1. Even with captain killjoy in charge? “We must limit salt content in the city…”

      1. Hardly a blip.

        Most of the best pizzerias are staffed by Greeks or Dominicans. Italians still run pizzerias mainly as an excuse to watch televised soccer.

        Have you eaten Chino Rican? How about Jamaixican? Pennsyl-Paki? (OK, that last one I made up, but I bet you could get it somewhere in this burg.)

  6. God DAMN I love Messican. Food, that is.

    “Mexicali Alli’s” in town – local woman runs it. The. Best. Tacos, enchiladas, tamales, burritos, makes her own everything. And the “Secret Dinner” on Mondays for friends (she knows us by or take out order now…”Is this you, Almanian?”)

    I don’t know if it’s “authentic”, but it’s so good it’s utterly spoiled me for anything else. SO good.

  7. Mmmm… Bacon dogs, I think I am going to go get the fixins for that this evening!

  8. Also – shit – now I want some Mexicali Alli’s. Tacos only have some lettuce and a bit of that white queso – and the best ground beef that I think is….just beef. I can’t tell what, if any, spices are in it. SO good.

    Damn I’m hungry now…

  9. It has been my experience that good Mexican food comes from taquerias that serve the local Mexican community. I have eaten in places like that in Memphis, where I thought I was the only one in there who didn’t speak Spanish.

    1. That’s true in a lot of American cities, including the Washington DC area. My wife is Mexican-American and swears by a couple of the local taquerias. They’re a lot like what you’d get at the “authentic” places on the west side of San Antonio.

  10. Tony Bourdain is always bitching about how he hates fake Mexican food. If you have ever been to Mexico, you realize nearly everything you get in the US is “fake”. But that is okay. It can still be good. Just like our fake Italian and fake German food is good.

    Italians never eat spaghetti with meat sauce. They use penne one of the other short round noodles. But so what? Spaghetti with meat sauce is still good.

    1. What John said. I’ve never worried much about “authentic”. But I damn well want it to be “good”!

      And Sgetti with meat sauce is GOOD.

      1. And sometimes the “authentic” stuff is a little funky. My wife has a good friend who is first generation Chinese. If ever there was a “fake” American food, it is American Chinese food. But frankly, the authentic stuff can be an acquired taste. I am not really a fan of duck feet.

        1. They’re like chewy squash.

        2. I tried to man up and have the chicken feet (three ways!) at a dim sum joint once.

          Turns out, I’m not man enough.

        3. There is a food fad in China for ‘American’ Chinese food–and it’s really popular.

        4. The deep-fried ducks heads were too much for me.

    2. This is why I like the label Tex-Mex. If it’s in Texas, it’s “authentic” Tex-Mex by definition, and we don’t have to have a taxonomic discussion at all.

      1. + sourcream enchiladas

  11. I recommend “The Border Cookbook” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. It has recipes from across the Southwest and northern Mexico, all explained in terms of their origins. The nuances of Baja vs Sonoran vs Chihuahuan cooking are explained and presented in different recipes. Gotta agree with RC, though. Nothing beats good New Mexican. Posole at the Plaza Cafe in SF is the bomb.

  12. Oh, speaking of the “Americanization” of ethnic foods – best Scottish Meat Pies in the WORLD? No, not Scotland – Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery in metro Detroit (Redford). OMG, the BEST. Way better than what we got in Scotland, ever.

    And their shortbread is to die for.

    And they do an excellent haggis, on par with anything elsewhere we’ve had.

    USA! USA! USA! Ackroyd’s – Serving Up Sheep Innards and Oatmeal Since….For A Long time!

    1. Honestly, sophisticated food is sophisticated food. It can taste just as good anywhere. Where going to the mother country makes a difference is in simple, rustic food. Then the ingredients and the fact that grandma in the kitchen has been making this stuff since she was seven really can’t be duplicated.

      1. Where going to the mother country makes a difference is in simple, rustic food. Then the ingredients and the fact that grandma in the kitchen has been making this stuff since she was seven really can’t be duplicated.

        ? THIS ?

      2. Wylie’s Grandma Cloning: Home cooking so authentic, your Original Grandma can’t tell the difference.

        1. As embarrassing as it is to admit this, I am a bit of a foodie. I have at some of the best restaurants in the world. But as much as I liked some of them, I like simple more rustic food.

          1. I make better food on my worst day than I have ever gotten in any 5 star joint.

            As for the non-authenticity of Ameericanized foods, that is what we do. We do it with language, culture, food, and all sorts of things. We take the best of what others have to offer and make it our own or improve on it.
            I admit I am a cultural bigot, and I believe that this is the reason our culture is superior in so many ways.

            1. Yeah, the best food I have is what I cook at home no doubt. I do like finding a good bbq joint as I don’t usually have 14 hours to smoke a pork shoulder or brisket. The best Carnitas I’ve had, I made, but again braising pork butt in lard for 3-4 hours takes quite a bite out of the day. We have a place up the street that does a pretty good job with Carnitas and I don’t have to wait. I have had some fish dishes out that are better than anything I can do but I rarely cook fish at home other than Salmon so that and growing up landlocked in Ohio probably has a lot to do with that.

            2. You are either one hell of a cook or you haven’t ate at the right five star joint. They make some pretty amazing stuff.

  13. Folks, this is also proof that Demolition Man is the most prophetic movie of out time. Suderman and Saccharin Man have both declared this inevitable and this event is yet another broken seal of impending doom.

    1. The Taco Bell building in Newport Beach has a restaurant on the ground floor. You can actually go to a Taco Bell for fine dining.

      p.s. Need to watch DM again, to see if they filmed it using the real Taco Bell building as an inside joke.

      1. p.s. Need to watch DM again, to see if they filmed it using the real Taco Bell building as an inside joke.

        What’s your schedule on that? Eh, fuck it, I’ll research it myself.

      2. You can actually go to a Taco Bell for fine dining.

        Does not compute.

        Read the threads, they are a fun trip down pre-WI insanity memory lane. The second link has all sorts of fun trivia.

      3. What I’ve liked most about Taco Bell is the ambience. No, really. It’s probably just a coincidence of locations, but I like the glassy construction and hence the great views. Inside seems so light airy, day or night.

        But the better chain Mexican fast food around here is The Fresco Tortilla and its similarly named imitators.

      4. Brandybuck…the Taco Bell scene in Demolition Man was filmed at Hughes Aircraft facilities in El Segundo. The spent about 3-4 weeks doing the makeover of a large meeting room to look like a futuristic Taco Bell. It was also the first time I saw the current logo sign used.

  14. Taco shells in the pantry, pie crust in the fridge.

    I’m prepared….well, except for the lack of ground beef and apples.

  15. Fresh tortillas. Once you’ve had the real thing, you’re ruined. It’s like the difference between Wonder Bread and a fresh artisanal bakery loaf.

    Personal beef: the *&^%$#@! snow birds in AZ who buy supermarket tortillas when the place is awash in tortillarias (bakeries).

    1. a fresh artisanal bakery loaf.

      *MMM..a fresh artisanal bakery loaf..AAAWWWCH*

      /Homer Simpson

    2. Yeah fresh tortillas are great. But I’m too lazy to make them most of the time and no place to get them locally.

    3. Taco Cabana sells a dozen hot, freshly made tortilla’s for something like 2 bucks. From the drive through. At least go there.

      1. I love that place!

      2. God I miss Taco Cabana. Drive through food that was better than any Mexican I have in town.

    4. 100% this. My wife is Mexican-American, and she goes ballistic whenever some “Mexican” restaurant we go to uses flour tortillas. The real, fresh-made tortillas are beyond awesome. Really bad for you, of course…

    5. Even the Mexican grocery stores here in Western Wisconsin have the store brands of tortillas; I cannot find a decent tortilla anywhere.

  16. I worked at Taco Bell for a couple years; made some legendary shit with available ingredients before tearing the kitchen down closing at night. (Being a teenager stoned in Taco Bell minus customers, with a chance to make what you want…yeah,it was good as it sounds).

    This was of course before off-book Mexicans took all the Taco Bell jobs when delicate, sensitive teenagers in the USA stopped working. Ah, the irony. God I’m old.

    1. So basically you are the John Connor of this All Taco Bell dystopian/utopian future. Thanks a lot.

  17. Thanks for the article, Gus. Didn’t know that govt hostility to food carts was so long-standing or rooted in fear of “foreign” influences.

    Also didn’t know that “roach coach” was an ethnic slur; I’d always assumed it was just construction worker snark about the alleged cleanliness of the food trucks that cater primarily to construction sites.

    1. I didn’t know that either, I thought it just meant a probably-not-very-hygenic eatery.

      1. I still think that.

  18. TexMex didn’t begin in El Fenix or El Chicos. North TexMex did, but there’s different varieties of Tex-Mex everywhere – one of my favorite examples is that Nortexmex uses chili con carne on enchiladas, and many SoTexMex places use chili gravy. Fajitas are TexMex, for instance, as is chili con carne…both arose from the Tejano ranching areas between San Antonio and Mexico.

    Think of TexMex as yet another regional Mexican cuisine, and you’ll get it.

    Oh, and the battle of San Jacinto was 11 years before the Mexican American war.

    1. Chili gravy is the best shit on Earth. Stacked enchiladas with a fried egg on top is the food of the gods. As the best of our local Mexican places merely rise to the level of decent, I have made use of the Interwebs to produce my own. As soon as I get the tortilla roller set up, there will be no stopping me.

      1. I highly suggest machacas plate if you like a huevos dish. But instead of shredded beef, make it with carne asada. And spice that shit up. Tasty.

  19. In our area you can go to crappy Mexican restaurant run by Mexican you can also go to an Asian run English fish and chips place thats great. It’s all about pride of ownership and the ability to actually cook.

  20. I’ve had this idea for a Food Network show called “Tres Leches, Un Camino”. It’s Cake Boss meets telenovela. It’ll be hosted by Ricardo Montelban, Bobby Flay and some B-list Mexican TV actress with big knockers.

    1. Won’t work. Call Bobby Flay leche all you want, but Ricard Montelban’s hair will beat you to death if you try that on him.

    2. some B-list Mexican TV actress with big knockers.

      Don Fransisco approves. Perhaps Odalys Garcia of Lente Loco fame?

      1. So many to choose

  21. …the many food-based ethnic slurs still in circulation: beaner, greaser, pepper belly, taco bender, roach coach,…

    The last is the only one I’ve heard.

    1. Actually, I have heard all but pepper belly and roach coach as ethnic slurs for Mexicans.

      I don’t dispute “pepper belly” as one but the first time I heard “roach coach” was over forty years ago in Canada to describe the food trucks that came around construction sites and other business locations. It had absolutely nothing to do with Mexicans or any other ethnic group.

      1. I see I should have read all the comments before posting that. I still would have but I would have indicated my agreement with those above that “roach coach” is not generally seen as an ethnic slur.

        I should also note that I have also heard the term in the US and that nowhere that I heard it have I believed that the speaker was using it in that way.

    2. “Greaser” must have changed its meaning!

      1. Yeah, I’ve only ever heard it used to describe rockabilly kids. As in, the movie Grease.

  22. We are the US. You have been assimilated. We have added your biological, technological and culinary distinctivness to our own. You will adapt to sevice us. Resistance is delicious. You will concur.

    1. I’m lovin’ it!

  23. Bring it on dude lets hit it oh yeah!

  24. I haven’t been there in years but Kiki’s on Piedras street in El Paso used to be one of the best I’ve ever been to. I used to take people there when they visited from other parts of the border and they would completely stop telling me about the Mexican food from where they live.

    But sometimes simplicity is best. I once was at a bus stop in Jalisco where this lady had a cart with nothing but tortillas (corn, of course) and beans which could have competed with ambrosia.

  25. Raise your hand if you don’t live within the whacked out extreme leftist fringe of Chicano academia and had no idea that this kind of thing was even something that anybody spent their time thinking about.

    Raise your other hand if you find it ironic being called a gabacho (an ethnic slur) by an ethnic grievance monger born in the USA to first generation immigrant parents who thinks the term “roach coach” is an affront to his heritage.

    Fuck you and your identity politics. In America, we go by the old homo sapien biological imperative: if you can’t fuck it or fight it, eat it. Consequently we’ve assimilated and/or bastardized the cuisine of pretty much every country on the planet. You aren’t special. You aren’t persecuted. Go collect your participation trophy and shut the fuck up.

  26. I figured out years ago that the illegal immigration problem from Mexico was hopeless. The best Mexican food is made by Mexicans. No one with good sense wants to give it up.

  27. After two a half years here, I’m still finding myself disappointed in the Mexican offerings of Tucson. This is probably because I don’t go to the right neighborhoods to find it, but still…

  28. Tortas de carne con pulque. That is all.

  29. “more insulting to me and my heritage than casting Charlton Heston as the swarthy Mexican hero in Touch of Evil”

    Not to mention El Cid.

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  32. One more time to a apply the cliche “The dumbing down of America” continues.
    Let’s add to the roster of “Italian” is Spaghetti and red sauces, “German” is Sauerkraut and Bratwurst, “Greek” is Feta, “Scandinavian” is Herring and Smorrebrod, “French” must be snails, baguettes and Chablis with Brie. Not to mention “Shrimp Scampi”, “Au Jus”, “Coquilles St.Jacques”. You name it.
    To quote “PM”: ‘Consequently we’ve assimilated and/or bastardized the cuisine of pretty much every country on the planet.

  33. Retired professor Jacques Delacroix has a bit more flavorful commentary on this topic: Hermanos*.

    Basically, it says that Ron Paul is an idiot, Mexicans come here for jobs, and NAFTA has been great for everybody (sorry for the spoiler).

  34. ?Ay Caramba! Now I have to get my carne asada taco with guacamole fix!

  35. The best part of this article was definitely the painting of the hard shell taco. mmm

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  37. Thanks for sharing this! If there’s anything the U.S. could always use more of, it’s Tacos. That’s a fact. Thiago |

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