In the age of Dorito-shell tacos, burrito bowls, and mango margaritas, it's no wonder most people have no idea what constitutes authentic Mexican cuisine. To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of Mexico's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla (not the nation's independence, whose anniversary is in September), we've compiled a list of the best places to dine like a native. Buen provecho, and de nada.
Located on West Flagler, this spot is unpretentious, casual, and delicious. Try the sope, a thick tortilla filled with meat, cheese, veggies, and Mexican sour cream. The tacos are three for $6, and we like that Jacalito offers harder-to-find animal parts such as lengua (tongue) and cachete (beef cheeks). Whatever you order, be sure to get a side of queso fundido with chorizo ($6.25). The soft, stringy cheesy with the slightly spicy chorizo is great with chips or from spoon to mouth.
The interior of Taquerias is what one might describe as a converted crack den/piñata chic. In other words, it's a place to see and be seen and have some damn good Mexican food. Try the bistec Oaxaca ($12.95) -- beef covered in melted Oaxaca cheese and served with beans, rice, and a corn tortilla -- a specialty for more than 23 years.
OK, so a strip mall might not be the most inviting or genuine of locations, but Ernesto's has a lot going for it: (1) It's open 24 hours; (2) it serves sweet horchata -- a rice drink with coconut, milk, and cinnamon ($1.39); and (3) it offers killer tortas ($7), Mexican-style sandwiches that are all good, but none so much as the smoky carne asada. Ernesto's also offers Mexico's version of a hangover cure: menudo ($9), or cow stomach lining stew, which is available Saturday and Sunday.
2. Viva Mexico
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Perhaps the only true taqueria in Miami, this is the perfect spot for you to take low-maintenance friends who like things cheap, local, and flavorful. You can get tacos full of all sorts of pork parts: leg, stomach, ear, tongue, tripe, skin, or mixed. Don't confuse the lack of sour cream and guacamole as a sign of laziness; on the contrary, the owners are so confident in their product that they know the melt-in-your-mouth meat and silky marinade will speak for themselves. If you have trouble deciding, splurge -- most tacos cost between $1.75 and $2. Warning: Cash only.
Three words: Pollo en mole ($7.95). If you don't know, mole is a hot chili pepper sauce and is considered the jewel of Puebla cuisine. If done right, it can turn a good dish into an orgasmic one. Mi Rinconcito doesn't disappoint. The chicken is moist, the mole fiery and complex, and it's all served with rice and beans.