The 7 Cities You Need To Hit On A Mexican Foodie Road Trip
Let's all go on holidays. Right now.
Have a hankering for some Mexican, and a burrito just won’t cut it?
Make a holiday of it, and visit these hotspots for authentic Mexican cuisine and see some sights along the way.
What we mostly know as Mexican food is really Tex-Mex, the burritos and tacos inspired by Northern Mexican flour tortillas but developed in the US, especially Texas. Almost every city of the country-sized state is a hotspot for top-class Tex-Mex, including Houston, El Paso and but San Antonio is possibly one of the hottest.
San Antonio is said to have introduced a few Mexican staples to the international stage, like chilli con carne and nachos, and the staple flour masa harina. Skip the fast food and opt instead for small establishments like Mi Tierra Café y Panadería, which bring the Tex to the Mex.
Recommended dish: carne asada – a grilled beef taco marinated in citrus and spices inspired by Northern Mexican cuisine.
Mexico’s cuisine is far from uniform, with each region having its distinctive styles and its signature dishes. The north of the country is the home of some of the food we’re most familiar with, especially flour tortillas (corn being king in much of the rest of the country).
Monterrey is – in North American terms at least – just over the border from San Antonio, in other words, driveable in about six hours, crossing the border at Laredo near Rio Bravo, or a quick direct plane away. Monterrey is the home of Mexican cheeses such as ranchero and a whole load of smoked cheeses, as well as grilled meats typical of the northern part of the country.
Recommended dish: cabrito, a slow-cooked roast goat kid, with pan de semita, a type of unleavened bread.
Jump down south into the heart of Mexico (it’s a 13-hour drive so you might want to consider a flight or train for this one), and the port town of Puerto Vallarta, where you will find the absolute best seafood in the country.
Take a stroll around the city’s dockside and beaches, and sample grilled seafood, fresh tacos, or seafood ceviche on tostados, or if you prefer a sit-down with some authentic contemporary cuisine, check out old city restaurants like El Arrayan.
If you head around November, you might be lucky enough to catch the Puerto Vallarta Gourmet Festival, though that’s a more international affair.
Recommended dish: Huachinango Sarandeado, a marinated fish dish in a spicy stew.
Time to take a trip inland to Mexico City: just an hour and a half flight, or you could make it a roadtrip (c 11 hours), stopping off along the way in Guadalajara (perhaps with a break to take the Taquila Express to check out the famous distilleries), the beautiful Laguna de Chapala, or the historic architecture of Morelia.
Once in the capital, street food is the order of the day, with vendors and rotisseries lining the streets. If you’re not sure, you can take a food tour and get a local to show you the best spots and foods, along with some local history.
Recommended dish: Tacos al pastor (tacos with pork, onions and pineapple), a variety of the dish that dates back to the arrival of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants to the country in the early twentieth century.
A quick pop down the road now to Puebla, a beautiful historical city, where you should take a moment to check out amazing church domes and the local clay Talavera pottery, and then on to la calle de los dulces, ‘candy street’ for some traditional sweets.
The food here is strongly influenced by Lebanese food as well as Spanish, and you’ll find some great examples of the taco árabe, or arab-style taco.
Recommended dish: Tinga de pollo, a smoky chicken dish made with tomatoes and chiplote chillies.
A much longer hop down the road now to the all-but-crowned food king of Mexico, Oaxaca (possibly with a visit to the active volcano Popocatépetl in the Iztaccihuatl National Park).
Oaxaca is home of the mole and famous for its seven different varieties, and is rich in both quality streetfood and fine-dining restaurants.
Recommended dish: chapulines, fried grasshopper seasoned with salt, lime and chilli, followed by a rich and spicy hot chocolate.
Mexican cuisine has had a huge influence on the food of the surrounding countries: finish up your trip with something a little different in Guatemala City. Similarly to traditional Mexican, Guatemalan food is based on corn, beans and chillies, but with unique versions of tamales, moles and spicy meat stews.
Recommended dish: chillies relines (stuffed chillies) with a side of traditional elotes or sweet corn
Want the taste of Mexico without all the hassle?
Ireland’s favourite Mexican brand Old El Paso has launched a new range of authentic Mexican meals inspired by regions of Mexico
Introducing Restaurante by Old El Paso: cook like a local tonight with our exciting range of soft taco kits: Chicken Tinga or “Tinga de Pollo”, most often attributed to the Puebla region of Mexico; Steak Carna Asada, which is popular in the northern state of Mexico; and Baja Fish from Baja California Peninsula on the Western coast of Mexico.