Back in the day, I used to run a little blog called “Mexican Fridays“, where, you guessed it – we would choose a different Mexican restaurant every Friday to eat at. I use the term “eat” very loosely as it was mostly us sharing a pitcher of margaritas and drunkenly shoving some chips and/or fajitas into our faces. It was kind of a short lived thing because we usually got too tanked to remember what we ate and my waistline started rapidly expanding from the all the empty calories.
Mexican food is definitely one of my favorite kinds of food – and when I say Mexican food, know that I’m referring to the Tex-Mex, Americanized version of the cuisine that most of us have come to know as “Mexican”. Don’t be a total snob about it and say “Oh well, that’s not real Mexican food!” I grew up in an area that was very heavily populated by Mexican immigrants, so I’ve been to my fair share of hole in the wall taquerias, but obviously, that good ol’ Americanized stuff is what’s more readily available.
A lot of places are trying to incorporate finer cuisine into their Mexican-style menus, and there’s no greater sign of this then in the Philadelphia area. From El Vez to Distrito to La Calaca Feliz, there are nopales salads, duck confit nachos, hamachi ceviches and pulpo tacos side by side with jumbo margaritas and bowls of fresh guacamole topped with lump crab meat. But the thing that really gets on my nerves the most is that they’ve all appropriated the same aspects of Mexican culture into the decor: the bright colored roses, the skeletons, the low rider bikes, the Luchadores. So every place has become a carbon copy of the other because someone said “Hey, I like this! People here like this! Let’s do the same thing at our place!”
Can we maybe tone it down a bit? Yeah, the Day of the Dead festival is awesome but maybe we do it for a day or a week in the fall? I’d like to walk into a mexican restaurant and actually see a Mexican flag, maybe some paintings on the walls of Aztec ruins, even some cheesy mariachi guys with a horn player strumming “La Cucaracha“. Something that actually feels like a little, roadside cantina in Tijuana. Anything but these overkill, super-hipster neon Mexican places adorning Center City.