Going Mexican in Manila

Belated Happy Cinco de Mayo!

While some cold margaritas, further ‘education’ on tequila that isn’t Jose Cuervo, and a Gael Garcia Bernal movie marathon would’ve made a fitting tribute to Mexican heritage and culture, a spotlight on its thriving cuisine in Manila also makes for heartfelt recognition.

beer_burrito
From Drive by Taco in BF Homes, Paranaque. Neighborhood dining at its finest.

Mexican food has always been around, but the main difference now is that there’s more attention given to premium ingredients, chefs that have a lot of love and dedication to craft when it comes to this cuisine are being duly recognized, and social media has made diners more discerning (or at least more adventurous).

When before there was only Mexicali and a token Mexican food kiosk outside the cinema that sells nachos to choose from, the range of choices available now is impressively diverse. From humble food stalls, to lively drinking hangouts, to hip, family style restaurants, today’s customers are muy suerte 🙂

My Mexican food dilemma

The new Mexican restaurants now all sound so tantalizing, it’s just a matter of visiting the nearest one. I’ve been wanting to try Taqueria 101 – quite possibly the best restaurant at the moment in Better Living, Paranaque – for the longest time, but haven’t been able to because there’s always no parking available.

The thing that I love the most about Mexican food – how it’s so flavorful and spicy but not necessarily peppery-hot – happens to not sit well with young palates that tend to prefer plain, fried food. It’s a bummer.

With my kid for instance, it’s difficult to take her to Mexican restos because she only likes plain rice. She will end up with a quesadilla most likely, but I feel that it’s not adequate enough as a meal for a kid that can polish off more than half a cup of rice if it’s with food that she likes.

Then again, maybe it’s just a matter of constant exposure. One of the best things about Mexican food is the copious amount of cheese involved after all.

So here are some of my picks for Mexican food places. I intend to expand on this list 🙂

Drive by Taco Shop

I love the nonchalant vibe of this restaurant, makes it so badass. It’s right next to a carwash/bar, and you can order alcohol from them to go with your taco or burrito. It only accepts cash. There are days when it’s not open, just because.

When it comes down to the food, my assessment so far is that it has the best nachos. The tortilla chips are made from scratch, and it seems to make all the difference. I also love that they put in the effort of drizzling the cheese sauce all over the tower of nachos – as in even at the bottom of the pile, and not just on top – and that the beef is just flavorful.

Best to go to Drive by Taco Shop with friends so you can sample each others food. Also go there hungry.

TacoVengo

TacoVengo is more of a Mexican-inspired restaurant. I had an Asian soy chicken burrito here by accident – I ordered something else, and they accidentally served me what I thought was my food. They did apologize and offer to still give me what I ordered originally, but it’s all good. Turned out to be tasty!

Taco_Vengo_burrito
From TacoVengo, Mandaluyong, the Honey Soy Chicken burrito. These are not your usual tacos and burritos.

It was convenient at the time to visit TacoVengo when my daughter would go to nearby Ace Water Spa for swimming lessons. I was so relieved she liked the chicken quesadilla and was able to finish it.

This place also has nice interiors. Bet it makes a nice after-office watering hole, too.

Julio’s Home of the Chalupa

It might be a small food stall with a couple of seats in SM Center Pasig, but the attention Julio’s gives to its main fare is a big deal. The chalupa may look like a taco but is actually not. Tacos typically come in a crunchy shell or a soft wrap, whereas a chalupa is made of a deep fried masa (dough). It’s crunchy on the outside but bites like bread.

Baja_Chalupa
The Baja Chalupa. The main filling is made of refried beans.

A bit hard to believe, but they also prepare these filling goodies from scratch every time.

It comes as no surprise that Julio’s is a hit with my daughter because of their Chalupa Loco. It’s vanilla ice cream sandwiched in chalupa drizzled generously with dark chocolate syrup. She would eat the ice cream with a spoon, while we would tear off pieces of chalupa and smother them in ice cream for her. It’s great for sharing with mommies.

Do drop by Julio’s when in the Tiendesitas area, and see what this not-a-taco is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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