We headed to Hialeah to highlight Los Magueyes, our Best of Miami selection for the finest Mexican restaurant. And we did so proudly. But there are some other neat spots to nab savory south-of-the-border treats. Here are five of our faves:
5. Ernesto's Taco Shop
Ernesto's is an authentic, locally owned Mexican fast-food joint that dishes tortas, tacos de lengua (beef tongue), and much-loved menudo on weekends. You can play it safer via fresh renditions of burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and a kick-ass taco al pastor ($2.25). Best deal is the "Three Amigos" platter -- a trio of any tacos for $6.50.
4. Talavera Cocina Mexicana
This is the prettiest and most refined of our choices. Yes, that means more gringo-ized than the others. But partners Eduardo "Lalo" Durazo, Martin Moreno, and chef Oscar Del Rivero hail from Mexico City, and the recipes come from family and country -- just gussied up a bit. Guacamole is a chili-and-pork-rind-heightened mash of ripe avocados; masa corn cakes get capped with black beans, goat cheese, salsa verde, and grilled protein of choice; tacos de Chilorio are plumped with shreds of roast pork; enchiladas, chiles rellenos, tacos, and ceviches exhibit fresh, zesty flavors -- and that is the true spirit of Mexican cooking. Most main plates are under $25, with lots of choices less than $20. Weekday lunch specials are served with chips, salsa, beverage, and sorbet for $13.
3. Burritos Grill Café
Husband-wife partners Mario and Sarina Manzanero run the show here in a highly personable fashion. The Yucatecan natives prepare familiar Mexican favorites such as enchiladas in a deep mole sauce, but they also serve homespun fare from the Yucatan, such as salbutes (small rounds of thick, fried tortillas topped with shredded chicken and salsa); poc-chuc (pounded, citrus-marinated, and grilled pork loin); and cochinita pibil (pork slow-baked in banana leaves). Main courses run $9 to $15.
2. Mi Riconcito Mexicano
This Calle Ocho gem touts tacos of soft corn tortillas wrapped around marinated pork; tender, slightly spicy tongue; ground beef; lamb; chorizo; chicken... with onions and cilantro tucked in, a wedge of lime alongside. Flautas, sopes (softly fried masa cakes capped with pinto beans, queso blanco, and meat of choice), menudo, and pozole are other specialties of the house. Owner Maria G. Guiterrez and her daughters are on the premises and working to make sure all goes smoothly.
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1. La Quebradita Taqueria
Everyone has their favorite Homestead Mex, and this is ours. The place is owned by Ecuadorian native Luis Aguirre, but his cooking staff is Mexican and produces authentically tasty tacos and the finest gordito in town (that's a fried tortilla bun stuffed with pork and refried beans). It's so good we named it our Best Last Meal on Earth in 2008. Weekends bring menudo.