FIRST TIME EATING... MEXICAN
FOOD & TEX-MEX
FOOD VIRGIN'S FIRST TIME
first time eating "Mexican food" was, like so many other
people, at Taco Bell. Now, I put "Mexican food" in
quotes, because Taco Bell really serves its own
variety of Tex-Mex, not truly authentic Mexican food
that you'd find if you made a run for the border- and
actually crossed it. That said, I've always
liked the mix of flavors that Tex-Mex offer-- fresh tomato salsa, creamy
guacamole, spicy meats and good, sharp cheeses.
The good news is, these flavors do form
the basis of real Mexican food, too. Sometimes the
dishes are simpler tasting than Tex-Mex, other times,
you'll find ingredients that are far too classy for the
fast food set. If you're eating Tex-Mex for the
first time, be prepared to get a bit messy-- you will
eat a lot of the items
with your fingers, and they might fall apart or drip sauces
if you're not used to assembling tacos or other items well.
I happened to be a teenager on a date for my first time,
and I added it to the list of things not to eat on a
first date (along with spaghetti, but that's another
story). The good news is, eating authentic Mexican food can involve dishes
that will require knives and forks. These dishes
range from simple fare, like baked chicken with rice, to
upscale entrées, like chicken
in mole sauce or fancy fried fish. This fancier Mexican
cuisine I also discovered on a date- one that led to us
being married, so it seems Mexican food can be good date
food after all.
Tell us about your first time eating Mexican
you first arrive at a Mexican restaurant, you'll probably
find that the decor is a visual fiesta- lots of colorful
wall hangings or other decorations like hats, maybe some
piñatas hanging from the ceiling, or bright paper
banners. Some restaurants will want to seat you,
while in more casual places, you'll seat yourself- you
might even order first at a counter, and then sit down.
Don't be alarmed if there is no cutlery on the table
yet-- some dishes won't need them. Instead, a
server might bring a basket of corn chips (the best will
be freshly cooked and still hot), and some salsa to dip
them in. This dip might be a preserved
tomato-based salsa, or it might be made of freshly
chopped up ingredients, like tomatoes, onions, and cilantro,
which is called 'pico de gallo' . It
might also be green, made from tomatillos (a type of
green tomato). It's very difficult to tell you how
spicy the dip might be because it will vary from
restaurant to restaurant. In restaurants that have a salsa
bar, they will often have a choice of four or five
salsas, and might label which ones are mild and which
are super spicy,
but if they don't, then take a sampling of a few, and let the
bravest among you try them first.
TO ORDER & HOW TO EAT IT
With Mexican food, you'll each be ordering your own entrees,
probably not sharing anything, though some appetizers
are good to share. My favorite is quesadillas- two
flat flour tortillas with melted cheese between- a kind
of Mexican grilled cheese sandwich of sorts.
Nachos are also popular starters, as are dips, like cheese,
guacamole (avacado), or bean dip. All of these
will come with more corn chips. Beware of eating
too many corn chips at this stage, or else you'll feel
full by the time your entree comes!
Choosing a main
dish will be a bit more confusing. After a while,
it might seem like all the dishes are just different
configurations of the same ingredients. Corn
tortillas, or wheat. Sometimes crispy hard, sometimes
soft. Shredded chicken or beef, sometimes fish.
Cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream. The most
well-known dish is tacos, but other choices are also
yummy. Fajitas are similar to tacos, but the
ingredients are brought to you with lots of fanfare on a
sizzling hot plate, and the tortillas are usually soft
wheat. Both of these dishes are of
the 'some assembly required' variety. What you'll
want to do, is take a tortilla in one hand, and then
load the fillings into it with your other hand.
Put the meat or beans on the bottom, then gooey things,
like guacamole, salsa, or sour cream, then your
vegetables, like tomatoes and lettuce. By having
the lettuce on top, you can lay your finger across it
while you eat without getting gooey ingredients stuck to
your finger. In the case of soft shells, you'll
then want to fold them carefully. The fold should
be similar to how you might swaddle a baby-- first fold
one side almost all the way across the other, then fold
the bottom few inches up; then fold the third side back across the
first, leaving the top open. This way, stuff will
be less likely to ooze out the bottom. Given that
you'll be eating these with your hands, the less oozing,
If this sounds too messy,
try an entree where you'll use your knife and fork.
Mexico is home to an amazing selection of fresh
ingredients, from fish on the coasts, to chilies and
tomatoes, to chocolate. On most menus, you'll find
a baked chicken dish with rice (arroz con pollo).
You'll probably also find enchiladas- beef or chicken
wrapped in flour tortillas, then baked with a
not-too-spicy sauce, and topped with cheese.
Often as side dishes, you'll
get rice as well as some form of beans. These might
be whole black beans, or 'refried' beans. The term
'refried' is a bit of a misnomer, as the beans aren't
actually fried twice- they're cooked, and then mashed,
and then fried just once. Of course, eat these as
you normally would, with a fork. If these are on
the side of something you're eating with your hands, be
sure to have an extra napkin to wipe your hands so you
don't get your cutlery messy when switching between
finger food and fork food.
Share more tips of your own
Cue the music and get ready to shout: Tequila!
Tequila is the most famous alcoholic drink in Mexico.
Famous for its shots had around the world, tequila is
now not just for Spring Breakers anymore. There
are now high quality tequilas on the market, which will
be available in top Mexican restaurants. Drink
your tequila like a tourist, in a tequila shot, or as part of a fancy
mixed drink, like a Margarita, or drink higher quality
tequila like a local- sipped at room temperature.
Find out more about tequila
Mexico also has its famous beer, Corona. For
something more exotic, sangria might be on the menu;
It's a mix of red wine and fruit juices. For
non-alcoholic drinks, try fresh fruit juice if it's
Mexican food offers fun choices for dessert.
Deep-fried ice cream is a good choice for first-timers,
as it blends the hot crust of batter with the sweet,
frozen ice cream interior. Eat it fast before it
melts! Mexico is also where chocolate comes from.
As such, in fancier restaurants, expect a few wonderful
chocolate concoctions to be on the dessert menu.
Chocolate cheesecakes, chocolate flan, chocolate sauces...
mmm! You can also find lots of local fruit and honey,
so keep your eyes peeled for fresh, exotic fruit tarts,
ice cream or sorbet flavors, or sauces.
Mexico is also a big coffee
producing country, so you shouldn't go too wrong
ordering coffee. Champurrado, a creamy hot
chocolate drink- sometimes with added cinnamon- is also
a Mexican treat; you might find it on menus of upscale
After the meal, you may well be left on your own to wash
your hands- head for the washrooms, as probably a napkin
alone won't do the trick.
Meanwhile, you'll find that paying the bill is the same
method as in a regular American restaurant. It will come to the table, and you can settle it there.
In more casual places, it's even possible that you paid
for your food up at a counter when your ordered it, in
which case, you can just leave when you're done (someone
will come around to clear away washable dishes and
the ambiance and the food, eating Mexican is quite a fun
experience, easy for first-timers, so long as you don't
mind possibly getting a bit messy.
Menu items tend to be fairly standard across most restaurants,
so once you know what's what, you should be comfortable
enough to walk into any Mexican restaurant in America. .
Wherever you choose to go, hopefully, you’ll
enjoy it as much as I did, and your first time eating
Mexican food won’t be your last.
The ambiance in Mexican restaurants is lots of
fun for families.
They're typically noisy, lively places, so your kids can
probably feel comfortable to be themselves there.
They'll also be able to eat with their fingers, and so
will have the added 'play with their food' fun factor.
Typically, kids can find
something on the menu that they'll eat, and there may
even be a kids' menu. Items like
plain cheese quesadillas, bean and cheese burritos,
chicken tacos, or cheese nachos usually please even the
most picky kids.
(is it easy to find things that American
kids will eat): 9/10
(how different is this from American
Rate Mexican food yourself!
BASIC MEXICAN FOOD TERMS
Corn chips baked with toppings, such as melted cheese,
onion, peppers, tomatoes, and more.
A mild, creamy dip made from avacados. Dip your
corn chips into it, or spread it into your tacos or
quesadillas as a condiment.
Typically hard corn tortilla shells, stuffed with spiced
beef, chicken or sometimes fish, plus lettuce, tomatoes
and grated cheese. Can also have other toppings,
or be made from soft corn or flour wrappings.
(bur-REE-toes) : Wheat flour tortilla pockets
stuffed with shredded, spiced chicken or beef and a
(chi-mi-CHANG-ga): A deep-fried burrito. Eat
plain or with its side condiments.
Spicy pork sausage.
Two flour tortillas with cheese in-between fried in a pan.
Feel free to open each triangle up and put in the items
that come on the side- sour cream, guacamole, veggies.
(flaw-TAHS) (ta-KEE-toes): flour tortilla pockets
stuffed with shredded meat and deep-fried.
Taqauitos are smaller than flautas.
Enchiladas (en-chi-LAH-das): Rolled
tortillas stuffed with any number of items, baked with a
sauce- usually spicy, as enchilada sauce is made from
Fajitas (fah-HEE-tas): Grilled
fillings such as chicken or beef, and onions and green
peppers, served on a smoking hot stone. Take a
soft flour shell, which will be on the side, and place
toppings within, folding on three sides to avoid
A savory sauce made from
cocoa powder (yes chocolate).
Popular Mexican alcohol- drink it straight as a shot
chased by lime, or mixed in a drink. Distilled
from the agave plant.
Tostadas (to-STA-das): The real name for
tortilla chips, sometimes also referring to a dish
similar to an open-faced taco. If it's big, eat it
with a knife and fork; if it's small, pop the whole
thing in your mouth.
more Mexican food term items to the list
CRITICAL DO’S AND
your hands before and after the meal.
Fold your taco or fajita
shell well, so that nothing drips out the bottom.
Order a starter or two to
share- Mexican dips are really delicious!
Ask about how spicy each
dish is that you'd like to order. Some will have
more chili than others.
Don't double-dip corn
chips-- once you've dipped and taken a bite, don't stick
it into anything else.
Worry too much about
bringing kids. The environment is usually a good
place for kids, and some dishes can be made plainly, to
suit even the fussiest eater.
if you get some food on your fingers- you can wash up
Worry about your pronounciation- if you
studies Spanish, then great, but if not, then you can
just make a best guess. Mexican places are not
stuffy, so won't look down on you if you don't get it
Suggest more DOs and DON'Ts
For more information, try:
Eat where the Food Virgin eats in
Frontera Grill, in Chicago