Beware of the “Mexican” Restaurant

Originating from the west coast of the US, Mexican food has long been a staple in my diet. On my first forays into Europe, I made a few optimistic attempts to find suitable restaurants to satisfy my cravings for chips with salsa, fish tacos, over-sized greasy burritos, and cheesy enchiladas. Just about every single attempt was a complete and utter failure, leaving me homesick and a bit sick in the stomach too.

The first time I tried Mexican across the Atlantic, it was in England. Mind, the English aren’t exactly known for their abundance of spicy food. The salsa was chunky ketchup, the chips oversalted, and the food was unseasoned and tasteless. I was miserable.

My attempts in Stuttgart were hardly more rewarding. Again, I was met with chunky ketchup masquerading as salsa – but this time, I was paying at least €1 for 2 tablespoons of it. At the rate I normally consumed salsa, it would make for an expensive evening. Fortunately for my wallet, the impostor salsa wasn’t worth it, and the flavored (and MSG-laden) chips served alongside were inedible. I have little recollection of the main courses, because they were unremarkable. My hopes were that the German version of Mexican food would be significantly better, because German food is very good. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

There was one semi-decent in-a-pinch restaurant in Stuttgart, Joe Penas, which was overpriced but at least offered fish tacos worth going back for. This restaurant is a chain, however, and I’m not sure there are any actual Mexicans involved.

Which brings me to the real reason for avoiding Mexican food in Germany: there just aren’t enough Mexicans in the country to allow for authentic cuisine in restaurants. Eat ethnic foods from groups that are well-represented: Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, Italian… plenty of great food on offer made by those who know how it should be!

Should you find good Mexican restaurants, please let us know… and until then, make your tacos at home.

4 thoughts on “Beware of the “Mexican” Restaurant

  1. You are so right. I have found that the best (which is still subpar) Mexican food in Germany can be found in cities that are near US Army Bases. When I first moved to Germany my quest was to be able to find canned re-fried beans. (Rewe carried them).
    Also the German waitstaff doesn’t know anything about Mexican food…our local Mexican place offered Chicken with Mole sauce. So we knew they had Mole sauce on the menu. Every time we went in there, my daughter would ask for Mole sauce for her enchiladas and every time they would say we don’t have it and every time we would have to get a manager and they would find it.

  2. No Idea how I came across this blog – probably by accident- I am a resident of Manchester (UK) who takes holidays in Germany and can speak German quite well. Anyway…may I just point out that if you ever pop across to London, there is a really interesting bar/restaurant in Shepherd’s Market near Green Park Tube, called L’autre (French name!), owned by Poles, which describes itself as a ‘Polish-Mexican Bistro'(?!). The Polish staff told me that they sell Mexican food to cater for the diplomats from the Mexican Embassy round the corner. You can order some really strange combinations of Polish and Mexican dishes…

  3. Actually you can get pretty great Rodizio in many larger cities, which is Brazilian/Argentinian, and there shouldn’t be way fewer Brazilians/Argies than Mexicans here.

    Okay, who am I kidding. I’ve looked it up. There are about 5.000 Argentinians in Germany and about 7.000 Mexicans 😉 There are “larger” Mexican communities in Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Berlin. So the quest to find a decent Mexican restaurant isn’t completely doomed. But it’s true, in many cases it’s a mostly mediocre German interpretation of Mexican cuisine. Strangely enough, some of the best German-style pizzas I’ve had were made by Germans and Indians/South-East Asians, not Italians. I totally detest thick crust American-style pizzas ever since. And Pizza Hut is the worst ambassador for American pizza culture there is.

    Pretty sure the average Mexican food quality in Germany will be lower than in – let’s say – Texas, California, Arizona or Jalisco. There are some pretty decent restaurants, they’re simply not that widespread and easily accessible. But the price issue is something many Americans don’t get – at least not for some time until they make up their minds. You can get a 12 pack of tacos at Taco Bell for 10 bucks, with rebates for as low as 8$ plus a freaking keg of Coke with free refills if you choose to lose your dignity by gulping down these amounts of tacos at an eat-in-session.

    That’s about 6€. That’s like two pounds (about 900 g) of food with meat and cheese and stuff for 6€. You can get a double cheeseburger all across the U.S. for 1$, in Germany it’s at least 2$ (cheapest at McD).

    Guess how they can be that “competitive”? Impossible with German/EU labour laws, minimum wage, accessory costs (energy, keeping) and food standards. The same McD burgers in the U.S. also taste slightly different (“cheaper” as in “worse” cheese, sauce, bread, meat). And that price issue is actually a good thing because it’s keeping European people from becoming morbidly obese. You barely ever see somebody riding around on motorized wheel chairs or carts unless they are apparently disabled, not simply grotesquely obese. I’ve never understood the concept of moving even less when desperately in need of some physical activity. It’s a good thing fast/processed food ain’t the cheapest food available in Germany, unlike in the U.S. – that’s a cachet for a country. Traditional German food isn’t the most fancy and healthy one (Braten, Süßspeisen, Eintopf), but the culture of Brot/Brötchen and Wurst is simply awesome.

    You can probably make 10 tacos yourself for 6€ and these would be way healthier and better than the fast food joint stuff. And it’s definitely possible to get all the stuff needed, even in most of the bigger supermarkets like Rewe, not only delis.

    Sorry. This rant is longer than the actual posting 😉

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