With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guide To Mexican Restaurants

Mexican food is one of our all-time favorites at Sad City. Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, shredded meat, and margaritas are just a few amongst the many reasons to love Mexican cuisine. Luckily for us, there are  a handful of Mexican restaurants to choose from in our fine city. Knowing that Hartford needed a guide to Mexican places, we put ourselves up to the task of trying all we could.

Note: We did not include Spanish or Caribbean or other Latin restaurants in this experiment simply because we never would finish. Those are posts for another day.

100 Allyn St.
Sad City Rating: Tres Cervezas
It's not that Agave is bad; it just suffers in comparison to Hartford's other Mexican restaurants. Located downtown, Agave is significantly more polished than its counterparts and that may be part of the problem. While guacamole made table side seems pretty kewl, paying $10.50 for it does not. The food is good; though we did have a chicken burrito that was watery. Your won't regret going to Agave except  knowing that you turned down better and cheaper options.

635 New Britain Ave
Sad City Rating: Cinco Cervezas
When Hakaan lived in the South End, he ordered takeout almost weekly from Coyote. The burritos are excellent and the entire menu is very reasonably priced. Also a great bar and outside dining in good weather make Flaco an excellent choice.

704 Park St
Sad City Rating: Seis Cerviezas!!
Located inside El Mercado Grocery, Cuchilandia is one of Sad City's favorite spots and has been a topic on this blog before. Tacos, burritos, flatos, rice, beans, chicken, beef, or pork it's all always excellent at Cuchilandia. An extra bonus for having Coca-Cola in the kewl glass bottles. Remember that this is just a lunch or early dinner place as it closes at 7PM, 5PM on Sundays.

931 Broad St
Sad City Rating: Seis Cervezas!!
We just recently visited El Sarape and were very pleased. A special of three pork tacos was excellent. The rice and beans were very good. Then there was the chicken burrito. It had to be about 16 inches and was excellent. Order the burrito and you'll have an awesome late night snack. The only slight disappointment was the margarita, which was only ok and had too much ice in the glass.

Ed. Note: On a subsequent visit to El Sarape we had a Mango margarita. Unreal. A++++. Get one. No. Get three!

517 Park St
Sad City Rating: Dos Cervezas
So this might not technically be a Mexican restaurant but they are advertising Mexican fare so we stopped in and gave it a try. We started with a soup that was excellent. We then ordered four gorditas and three tacos. The food was a disappointment. Everything came out greasy and bland. Pork was overcooked. Cheap but not very good.

531 Farmington Ave
Sad City Rating: Seis Cervezas!!!
Monte Alban is the third Mexican place to earn a Sad City rating of seis cervezas and it has certainly earned it. One of the more popular restaurants in town, we have ate most of the menu at Monte. Burritos are fantastic. A favorite is the enchilada huertenas, which while mispronouncing the dish for the umpteenth time, we like to order one chicken, one beef, one cheese with all the different sauces. The margaritas? So strong a Sad City intern enthusiastically described them as "like paint thinner" (in a good way).

Sad City Rating: Uno caliente cerveza
The most authentic of all mexican restaurants, we were first enticed by the very reasonable prices and the ability to buy food without leaving our car.  We were even more impressed when, from the drive-thru window, we could see the authentic preparation method used for most ingredients; the caulk gun.  When says mexican (or edible) more than shooting ingredients into a taco shell from a caulk gun? Sadly our excitement waned as we tried the food. The meat was too flavorful and complicated for our palette.  The  melted cheese and sour cream too authentic for our Americanized tastes. Only for those who enjoy a taste of "true Mexican"


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  2. Props to Monte Alban. Love the family, love the food.

  3. Monte Alban is really expensive. It's consistently "okay," the food never WOWS, especially for what it costs.

  4. I thought the food at Monte Alban was excellent, but the Margs were not that strong, and expensive. I think that they might be selling those under the table, as they don't have full bar of any sort, and they are not on the menu. El Serape, same thing with the Margs (under the table).... I am interested in checking out Coyote Flaco.

  5. Authentic Mexican cuisine runs rampant with chiles, mild to hot, and various applications of them. But if you ask for chiles and you get (1) blank stares (Agave), or (2) a bottle of Tabasco set on the table (Flaco), then chances are the cook behind the counter is too much of a wimp to prepare anything worth calling "Mexican".

    Furthermore: cheddar cheese does not belong on tacos. Period.

  6. Hey Anonymous #2, if Agave and Flaco don't get it, are there any standouts on this list, as far as heat goes? Or, from your knowledge, in Hartford?

  7. Agave's table side guacamole grosses me out because they leave the ingredients in bowls on the tables for every customer who doesn't order it to put their hands all over and I doubt they run it to the kitchen and wash the ingredients off and then run it back out to make table side.

    Also I found Monte Alban's food pretty unremarkable. Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing but I got a pile of pork with some red stuff on it and some rice and beans for $10 or $12 or something. I look forward to trying Cuchilandia and El Sarape sometime soon.

  8. As someone who is very familiar with Mexico and all things concerning that part of the world particulalry its cuisine, I can say without the slightest hestitation that Monte Alban is 100% authentic Mexican and the gringos who don't like it can go to puerto vallarta or on the border for some crap concoction suffocating under 10 lbs of melted cheese. But that's just the opinion of this Chicana Madonna.

  9. I got food poisoning from Coyote once so that please is ruined for me.
    El Sarape is delicious. Their carnitas can not be missed.

  10. I've heard good things about El Bajito on Franklin Ave, but they never seem to be open during normal dining hours.

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  12. Chuchilandia was Dominican. It is no longer there. El tepeyac is the mexican stall.

  13. Although it's not within city limits right across the line on Park Rd. in W Hartford is Los Adobes and that was my absolute favorite restaurant in Hartford while I lived there for 5 years.

    1. Are you kidding??? We just moved here from Cali and of course went lookin for a quick burrito to snarf. Tried that joke next to Plan B (?) then Monte Alban ($12.00 burrito; shhhyahh, unheard of!!!) I guess people here think Mexican Food is some whacked mix of Carribien Puerta Rican euro spanish blah... Maybe I should bring it to your taste buds! Dude!!!

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