Saturday, July 13, 2013

Searching for Auténtica Cocina Mexicana

I've never been able to find a good, authentic Mexican restaurant in Western New York.  Most of the food in "Mexican" restaurants locally is really Tex-Mex or a dumb down version of Mexican food.  This is much like how most local Chinese restaurants in Western New York serve dumb down versions of regional Chinese food (although this, too, has changed for the better recently).  That was the case...until today.

After a conversation with Andrew Galarneau, food critic for The Buffalo News, I decided to follow his suggestion and try this tiny tacqueria in Medina Tacqueria Monte Alban.  I have to say, it blew my mind.  I loved it.  My wife loved it.  Our four kids all loved it.  

It was authentic, delicious, and left you wanting for more.  It was worth the drive to Medina. I spent the rest of the afternoon since lunch trying to find a time when we could return!

Now, it's not fancy.  But, that's half the charm.  It serves high quality Mexican street food such as tacos, tortas, and quesadillas.  

The food is ordered and prepared in a small trailer in the side yard of a Mexican grocery/general store in Medina of the same name.  Here's the trailer:

I didn't see the menu until after we'd ordered, but I knew what they had thanks to Mr. Galarneau.  I had planned on tacos and a torta.  You can get 5 tacos for $8 and you have all kinds of options (see the menu below).  You can get a variety of tortas for $5 (delicious meat served in a sandwich style between hot pressed bread).  To our delight, we were able to get a quesadilla for our 15 month old twins made with queso fresco (the twins devoured it!).  

My wife and I decided to share a Torta Al Pastor (pork prepared in the Al Pastor style with chunks of pineapple.)  In addition to the quesadilla, we got 5 tacos to share between my wife and I, and our older 2 children.  We got 4 carnitas and 1 cabeza for me.  Yes, in case you were wondering, cabeza is meat from a roasted head of beef....and it was AMAZING!!!  We also were able to enjoy a wide variety of Mexican soft drinks like the Mexican version of Coke (made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup) and Jarritos.  My wife had a pinapple Jarrito and I opted for the for Tamarindo:

After we ordered, we went into a small room adjacent to the grocery store.  There was no air conditioning, but it didn't matter.  A Mexican TV station on the flat screen on the wall, and several men speaking Spanish while enjoying their tacos made me think that I'd come to the right spot.

After a short wait, the tacos and torta arrived:

Flat out amazing!  The tacos were seasoned perfectly and served in warmed tortillas (either 

in hot oil or on a flat top). They had onions and cilantro on them, with grilled onions, a grilled jalapeño, and lime wedges on the side. The salsa and salsa verde served on the table with them were the perfect compliment.

The torta was hot and inviting. The pork was seasoned wonderfully It was rich and spicy. The spice was tempered by the chunks of pineapple and queso fresco. Man, was that good.

The cabeza in my taco made my mouth water. It was incredibly tender and rich. My favorite part of the meal.

Our older two devoured the carnitas tacos so quickly that we had to order another 5. Second time around, we got more carnitas, a few chicken, and more cabeza for me. All were superb!! 

Here's the menu, which I noticed as we were waiting for our order to arrive (lengua next time for me for sure!):

After the meal, my older two kids insisted that we check out the grocery/general store inside.  It's not huge, but has a lot to offer.  In addition to a good selection of Mexican foods and produce, there's a large clothing and shoe section.  My oldest daughter particularly enjoyed this selection of boots:

She also enjoyed the nopales (that's the cactus at the bottom of this picture):

I was thoroughly impressed by the huge selection of dried chiles.  There were two walls filled with bins of chiles:

All in all, it was an amazing experience.  It wasn't fancy, but I prefer places that aren't.  It was a hole in the wall, but that was half the charm.  The food was so good, I'm working on a plan for a return trip as I type this!  I would highly recommend it.  

So far, the most authentic Mexican food in Western New York.  I haven't tried Mariachi de Oro which is also in Medina, so this might change.  But for now, it's the best!  Try it!!


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  1. Definitely worth the trip. If only there were other "stuff" to do in the area.

    1. I agree, Scotty. Not much to do in Medina, but you could use the lunch as a starting point for a trip along the Niagara Wine Trail. Eat lunch at Monte Alban, and then head over to Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina. Then, work your way back to Niagara and Erie Counties by enjoying some high quality wine, beer and cider along the trail.