Mexican Food and American People — A Love Story

Mexican restaurants in miami beach

While there are a few cultural differences between the United States and their southern neighbors, one thing is for certain: Both countries love Mexican food. If you were to ask 100 United States citizens what are the best Mexican restaurants, you might get 100 different answers, but why?

Mexican food isn’t as simple a niche as it may seem. Finding the best Mexican restaurants is a Herculean task, at least partly due to the amount of options. There are almost 40,000 Mexican restaurants in the United States and another 30,000 that don’t classify themselves as “Mexican food” but serve burritos. It’s also estimated that about one out of every ten restaurants offers Mexican food, which is a higher rate than any other international food-type in the country.

Think about that for a minute — 40,000 Mexican restaurants means that there’s one place to find Mexican food for every 7,500 people in the country. That also means there are about three times as many Mexican places than there are McDonalds.

So once again, the question isn’t whether you can find Mexican food, it’s where you can find the best Mexican restaurants. If you think fast-food chains are serving the best Mexican food in the United States, move along. The best places are the ones that serve authentic Mexican food. Go find your local Mexican restaurant — one that doesn’t simply have a taco bar and burritos. You should absolutely be going to an area that has a high population of Mexican or Central-American people, as they know their own culture and what type of food best represents them.

Rice, refried beans, tortillas, peppers — the ingredients are often similar between Mexican restaurants, but the way of combining them (and the addition of spices) are what makes the difference between good and great Mexican food. In fact, tortillas have been used as a wrap as far back as the Aztec era of over 500 years ago.

But it hasn’t all stayed the exact same. While some would argue that the best Mexican restaurants are the authentic ones, a border-crossing has happened. Tex-Mex cuisine is a powerful player in the restaurant industry and many things we think of as “Mexican food” are actually hybrid meals based on eating habits in the southern United States. Tex-Mex generally skews more towards beef and pork where traditional Mexican food was more commonly chicken.

In any case, if you’re looking for authentic Mexican food and the best Mexican restaurants, your best bet is to find where the people who used to live in Mexico go to eat. Local restaurants with old family recipes are the gold-standard. Find these people and spend your money on them — you won’t regret it.

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