Tag Archives: Mexican

Hacienda Sisal (Cancún, Quintana Roo)

For our next meal in the Hotel Zone, we decided to swing back to Mexican cuisine with a visit to Hacienda Sisal. Located at the partner resort The Royal Sands, Hacienda Sisal has a broad menu, relatively few of the surcharges for all-inclusive customers, and it was easy enough to catch the shuttle bus over there and avoid the usual taxi rigamarole. The restaurant itself is quite nice; it appears to be a converted ballroom, but it sports two large dining rooms (and possibly a third, although on our visit it appeared to have been converted to Covid-19 testing), a large bar, and live musical entertainment. Hacienda Sisal is a Mexican restaurant that’s distinctly aimed at the Hotel Zone tourists; the menu leans distinctly towards “Americanized Mexican” cuisine (for example, this is one of the few places we saw American-style fajitas on the menu) over “Authenic Mexican” or Yucatecan food, but they still had a nice cross-section of traditional moles, molcajetes, and carnitas dishes as well.

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La Habichuela (Cancún, Quintana Roo)

While the majority of our Cancún visit was spent either touring around the Hotel Zone or taking excursions out of town (to Puerto Morelos for snorkeling, and Chichén Itzá to see the archaeological site), Cancún also has a lot of great restaurant outside of the Hotel Zone. Our hosts Geoff has been vacationing in Cancún pretty much as long as modern Cancún has been in existence, and he has a favorite restaurant that he always likes to visit over on the mainland in downtown Cancún: La Habichuela (“The String Bean”). On our second night in town, we packed into a cab and headed over to check them out.

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Carlita’s Cocina (South Royalton, VT)

Prior to the pandemic, one of my more regular spots to visit in Vermont was South Royalton. It has several great places we like, including First Branch Coffee/Upper Pass Beer and Worthy Burger, but between reduced operating hours and fewer social gatherings, we hadn’t made it over that was as often. Early in the pandemic, we had noted the opening of Carlita’s Cocina, a primarily Mexican-themed food truck, operating in the large parking lot opposite Vermont Law School. When I had to reschedule one of my periodic Red Cross blood donations to the Sharon Academy, that gave me a good excuse to go on a short hike up to Kent’s Ledge, and then meet up with my friends Rick and Sarah to finally try out Carlita’s.

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Foley Taco and Bean (Brandon, VT)

One of my more unusual destinations in late 2020 and early 2021 was Middlebury, VT, for both work reasons (a subcontractor runs a lab there), and recreation (in the Fall of 2020, we hiked the TAM: the Trail Around Middlebury). Our travels around there also lead us by a favorite winery (Lincoln Peak), and one of my favorite breweries, Foley Brothers in northern Brandon, VT, a nice little western VT town. On one swing through Brandon after visiting the brewery, we noticed that Foley had started up a new business, Foley Taco and Bean, located in downtown Brandon, VT, so we decided to stop in and try it.

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Luchador Tacos (North Conway, NH)

In preparation for our June trip to Isle Royale National Park, we needed to do some final outdoor gear shopping, and used the opportunity to check out the relatively new REI in North Conway, NH. After a successful shopping trip, we drove up the White Mountain Highway, the main drag in North Conway, and encountered Luchador Tacos, unmissable due to the large Luchador (profession Mexican wrestler, with the mask) on their signage. Growing up in Arizona, random little taco and burrito stores were extremely common, but here in northern New England, while places like Lalo’s Taqueria are making in-roads, they are still a pretty rare beast, so I decided to drop in and give Luchador a try.

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Amada’s Mexican Food (Mesa, AZ)

While it’s pretty quiet here at Offbeat Eats due to us being in month 8 of the general pandemic shutdown, I’ve still had the occasional travel. In this case, I had to take a trip to visit my parents in Arizona and help take care of some issues around the house. A long tradition of mine when I’m visiting my parents is to indulge in something that’s pretty rare around VT and NH: a really good breakfast burrito. Well, the Phoenix metro area has, seriously, probably a thousand places where one can get a good breakfast burrito, and during these Covid pandemic times, getting some takeout burritos is still a viable strategy. Most trips, I would head over to Amado’s Mexican Food about a half mile away and get a righteous machaca and chorizo breakfast burrito. I just ran into a small glitch this time: Amado‘s Mexican Food isn’t there any more. It’s now, after a sale to a new owner (one of Amado’s co-owners took full ownership), in a triumph of sign updating minimalism, now known as Amada‘s Mexican Food.

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Lalo’s Taqueria (Lebanon, NH)

Well, it’s been pretty quiet here at the blog. My last real restaurant review (of a repeat trip to Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a sucre) was for a visit that happened almost a year ago. Here in NH, March 16th 2020 brought the abrupt closure of restaurants, and now a full six months into Covid, we’re still not back to order. Many places have closed permanently, and with very few exceptions, almost every restaurant still running is, quite frankly, trying to make do with a combination of takeout, outside dining (now on the wane as the temperature drops), and “socially-distanced” dining, and most places are trying more to just stay open than put their best foot forward. I’ve actually got photos and partial reviews for a good dozen places in my backlog, but most of them are now outdated reviews of how things once were, and not how things are, but it seems like a poor time for restaurant reviews in general until things recover a bit more (and nobody wants to read reviews of an experience they can’t currently indulge in). But there have been quite a few bright spots throughout the dismal Covid-19 landscape. I’ve seen more than a few creative approaches for outdoor dining, takeout (including more than a few retrofitted takeout windows), and ways to just keep basic operations going (and staff employed). And in this landscape filled with restaurant closures both temporary and permanent, my local area has even had one notable restaurant opening: Lalo’s Taqueria.

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Barrio Cafe (Phoenix Airport)

If there’s one place in Phoenix that friends are consistently telling me I should visit, it’s Barrio Cafe. Opened back in 2002, Barrio showcases the work of chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, who has gotten quite a following for doing upscale Mexican-American cuisine. Well, I still haven’t made it to Barrio, but I have made it to a close cousin: there’s an offshoot of Barrio Cafe in Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A combination of weather and equipment issues had me with first a very-delayed, and then a canceled, flight, so I had more than a few hours to wander over to Barrio Cafe in Concourse D (the newest one at PHX, which has substantially more space dedicated to food than the other concourses), so I sit back and had a nice dinner at Barrio Cafe, Airport Edition.

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El Rancho (Detroit, MI)

For this year’s “Death March” tradition of hiking approximately 20 miles through various urban areas, we chose Detroit. To start off the March, I decided we were going to rendezvous for breakfast in Detroit’s Mexican Town. Located on Bagley and Vernor Highway in western Detroit (just west of Corktown), Mexican Town has a tortilla factory, several bakeries, colorful murals, and a good dozen Mexican restaurants, and the area is one of Detroit’s ethnic neighborhoods that’s been able to maintain a solid cultural identity. Previously, I’ve had a few breakfasts at Taqueria Lupitas from 2011, but for this visit, I wanted to start a bit further west to see more of Mexican town, and also start on the early side. That lead us to El Rancho, which opens at 8am (most of the other Mexican places that offer breakfast open at 9am or 10am).

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El Colima (Nashua, NH)

(Closed) As I mentioned in last year’s review of El Rodeo, there’s a certain challenge in finding good Mexican places in Northern New England. We don’t get a lot of Mexican (or even Latin American) people moving north of Boston, and when they do, the local tastes up here tend to cause them to water them down the spicing level and amp up the queso factor a bit. So when I’m traveling around and see a Mexican place I haven’t tried yet, I’m usually skeptical, but when I spotted El Colima in Nashua, it looked like it had a fair bit of promise. Nashua is actually generally a pretty good town for restaurants, and several places gave the place good marks, so I figured it was worth stopping in.

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