It used to be that you came to Paris to well, eat, French food. There weren’t many other options, but the French food is good, so pas de problème. As people’s palates have evolved so has the food scene in Paris. There are now food trucks in the city, and plenty of ethnic restaurants to choose from, including several decent Mexican offerings. Olè!
I’m from Los Angeles, where we have the real deal Mexican cooking by natives who aren’t afraid of using some peppers and unique meats and proteins. I’ve been spoiled by chunked-avocado, jalapeà±o-laden guacamole served with hot, crispy, homemade tortilla chips. So you can imagine my trepidation in moving to Paris, where the first Mexican spot I saw had instructions posted on how to eat a burrito. Ay-yi-yi, we’re a long way from Mexico. Or are we?
Anahuacalli is the closest to an authentic Mexican restaurant I’ve found in Paris. It’s owned and operated by Mexicans, and with two other establishments in town, they seem to be on to something. The margarita taste test was first. There were several to choose from on the menu including a Marijuana Margarita, but I went classic on the rocks and wasn’t disappointed with the balance of sweet, tart and tequila. Next up was the chip guacamole sampling which can make or break a place. The chips are made by frying homemade tortillas,which are appropriately crisp, and just in need of more salt. There was a nice portion of guacamole containing chunky avocado, forming nice peaks in the bowl, but it was a bit bland. I find this is usually the case in Paris, but throw in some salsa and a little salt, and you’re back in business.
You’ll see some familiar faces on the menu, with tamales, enchiladas, and tacos. The taco sampler is a good choice with 5 different varieties for a little taste of everything. You can also step out of the Mexican mainstream with a rich and tasty turkey mole served over rice. The mole is a thick, flavorful sauce coatinga nice piece of turkey for something unique, and satisfying.
Anahuacalli serves solid food to curb your Mexican cravings. If you like it hot, don’t be afraid to tell them, or pack your own spices to get it just right.
30 rue des Bernardins, in the 5th Arrondissement. 01 43 26 10 20.
Rice and Beans
You’ll spot Rice and Beans by their colorful explosion of graffiti out front thatcontinues inside. It’s full of energy, and noise from the communal tables inside, but they also have a few tables outside.
There’s a basic menu of tacos and burritos, and you might even be excited to see black beans (a difficult commodity to get in Paris) and rice accompany your order, but you can only look so long before disappointment sets in. While all the necessary suspects are there, the taste is not. The meat is lacking in any substantial flavor, and asking the thick salsa to do all the work is a tall order.
Enjoy the lively atmosphere and drink a Negro Modela with your friends, but then continue on for dinner elsewhere in the 2nd.
22 rue Greneta, in the 2nd. 01 73 70 46 09.
Candelaria is my go-to place in Paris for a quick taco taste of home. Unfortunately it’s also the smallest, with one communal table and a few bar stools. Getting a spot can be challenging at peak hours, but I find myself wandering by at random times and always can grab a front-row seat at the bar to watch all the action in the tiny, single-file, two-person kitchen.
The tortillas in the soft tacos are pillowy bites of heaven. You can almost hear a mariachi band playing when you bite into the homemademasa, made fresh every day. Frying them for the chips doesn’t do them justice, but they work better than my spoon for scooping up the luscious, flavorful guacamole that I can only hope Candelaria will start serving in a bigger dish, because it’s hard to lick such a small bowl.
The chalk board lists the daily selections of tacos and tostadas. Expect to find steak, pork and vegetarian options. The sleeper hit for me is the cactus which lends a sweetness to the cheese and tortilla that will have you looking for cactus in your grocery store later. The communal bowl of mango salsa is a welcome addition to any dish, as is an extra serving of queso melted on top of your taco.
You won’t find margaritas in the tiny restaurant, but walk past the counter, next to the stove and you’ll find an unmarked door that opens at 7 five nights a week to reveal a wonderful hidden lounge where you can explore your cocktail cravings. Time your visit for Sunday early evening, and you can have your gin elixir with tacos and a side of guac, which is a great ending, or beginning, to any week.
52 rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd. 01 42 74 41 28.
By Kelly Page for Girls Guide to Paris