Richmond is approximately 1,450 miles to the nearest border with Mexico, just south of San Antonio, Texas. That being said, we live in a global world and our neighbor to the south has brought some fine cuisine to our neck of the woods. I mean, if you think about it, Vietnam is much farther (approximately 8,225 miles via the polar route from Richmond to the northern border of Vietnam–I love google earth) and we’ve established that Richmond has incredible Vietnamese food in Pho So 1.
What exactly do we have? Richmond’s offerings range from Tex-Mex to more authentic true Mexican flavors (I think–never having been to Mexico). To begin with Tex-Mex, Nacho Mama’s is a Carytown staple that offers thin crispy chips and mountainous portions at a decent price. Not a bad place to go if you have a big group and the atmosphere is bustling but not unfriendly. They even have an outdoor patio on Cary Street.
Walk down a few blocks to the slightly more authentic Viva Mexico and enjoy a huge margarita and a combination plater or fajitas prepared in seconds. Directly across from the Byrd and with meals taking seconds from ordering to paying the bill, it’s a great place to come before a movie if you remember with only 40 minutes to show time, ‘Wait a second, honey. We didn’t eat today.’ Did I mention that dinner only costs about $8.00 if you play your cards right?
Keep making your way down Cary Street to Little Mexico near VCU. Famous for $1 taco Mondays or $1 Enchalada Wednesdays, Little Mexico is a great place to meet your friends (provided they all attend VCU and have limited funds) for a ridiculously large Margarita or a PBR ($1 on special nights) and stumble home from a mix of a belly full of tacos and a head full of booze after spending $10.00. Make sure to get the potato tacos if you’re there on Monday. Sounds weird but believe me, every time I try a different taco filling, I’m disappointed. And as I stressed in my article on cheap eats, be sure to tip reasonably.
To compete with Chipotle, Little Mexico opened a burrito restaurant called Burrito Chop catty-corner to its corporate counterpart. Emblazoned on the wall is a painted sign that says, “Keep it Little, Keep it Local.” Stick it to the man, Little Mexico!
Downtown at 6th and Main Street, is Cafe Olé. Open only for lunch, there is a line out the door for this quick spot for big bean burritos and interesting and not unwelcome flour tortilla chips. A solid lunch time stop for working folk who only have 30 minutes to eat and run. Cafe Olé has announced they will be opening a second location in the old Ben and Jerry’s location in Carytown.
So what’s authentic in Richmond? Heading east on Broad street, just west of Libbie Avenue, it is easy to pass by the latino market Bodega Latina if you don’t know what is hidden in the back. Upon entering, you’re transported to a border town convenience store stocked with Spanish labels and products that look familiar but with different names. Walk to the back and come upon a cluster of booths and a lunch counter. This is the Mexican Gem of Richmond, La Milpa.
Not only are they some of the best Papusas in Richmond, they have a cooler stocked with Mexican sodas in glass bottles with no high fructose corn syrup. Pick a few items from the menu above the counter and give it a shot. Make sure to use your sauces and if you speak Spanish, I get the impression it is appreciated.
Many more options that I didn’t mention but once again, culinary options in Richmond.