Categories
#foodbeast Cravings Culture Restaurants Video

These Chilaquiles Have A Nacho Cheese Doritos Twist

Traditional Mexican chilaquiles consist of fried tortilla chips, so why not take things to the next level and use the world’s most famous fried tortilla chips?

We’re talking about some good ol’ fashioned Nacho Cheese Doritos, as that was the thought process for this mom & pop Mexican restaurant in Cerritos, California.

Amor Y Tacos is known for its “Chicano cuisine,” which means they take traditional Mexican favorites, and give them a little bit of a California twist.

That’s where these Doritos chilaquiles come in.

“I grew up eating chilaquiles in our house for breakfast,” Amor Y Tacos owner Thomas Ortega said. “Growing up I used to love Doritos, and just combined the two. On a whim, I said, ‘I’m going to try it out.'”

Purists might find the concept blasphemous, but unless you’ve tried them yourself, it’s hard to knock the subtle genius of taking familiar flavors from both Mexican cuisine and the packaged snack world, for a flavorful dish.

Those worried about an overpowering Doritos flavor can rest easy knowing that they use a balanced mix of their standard freshly fried tortilla chips and Doritos. After trial and error, Amor Y Tacos found that they couldn’t put out a whole plate of Doritos, as they’d be a tad salty to the average palate. So they found a ratio that worked so that every bite of the salsa-smothered chips taste just right.

“We don’t want to use too many Doritos because if you’re overbearing with the Doritos, the dish will come out too salty,” Ortega said.

After that, the combination of chips are hit with a chile guajillo sauce, Oaxacan cheese, Monterrey Jack, crema Mexicana, sliced red onion, cilantro, and a fried egg.

It’s one of those dishes you have to try for yourself to understand what the hype is about, and thankfully, it has become a staple on the menu. So if you’re ever up for a new twist on an old favorite, this quaint little restaurant might do the trick.

Categories
Brand

These Vegan Breakfast Tacos Are As Good As The Real Thing

Mexican food, though one of the most delicious cuisines on the planet, often heavily incorporates animal products, leaving vegans who crave it hanging out to dry. Though the term “Mexican food” is indeed broad and covers thousands of dishes, it’d be remiss to ignore the prevalence of ingredients like lard and cheese in most dishes. It’s in this respect that Sugar Taco has been moving to shift the culture, by working to prove that delicious, plant-based Mexican food is entirely possible.

Earlier this month at the Vegan Brunchdown presented by Java Monster, the stars of Los Angeles’ vegan scenes were out to play, including Sugar Taco, who showcased a drool-worthy breakfast taco.

As quite a few of their menu items are, these tacos use a homemade, hand-pressed tortilla as their base. They use a vegan scramble as a hearty egg substitute and compliment that with a scoop of their savory black beans. Topped with a drizzle of pico de gallo and a handful of cilantro, the color on these tacos pop off the plate, especially when paired with a healthy scoop of Sugar Taco’s Just F*ck Me Up Guacamole.

The tacos are light, fresh, and won’t leave you feeling bogged down in the morning. In this sense, they pair perfectly with the new Java Monster Farmer’s Oats drink. Made with real coffee and oatmilk, this drink aims to do the same as the tacos: provide a plant-based start to your day without leaving you drained later on.

These breakfast tacos can be purchased from Sugar Taco during the weekends, where they’ll be selling breakfast until it sells out for the day, so make sure to get there early!


Created in partnership with Monster Energy. 

Categories
Restaurants Video

Tableside Taqueros Will Cook Your Meal Live At This Mexican Restaurant

The only thing better than getting tacos fresh off the line from a taquero’s plancha? When that taco-making maestro is crafting his masterpieces exclusively for you and the squad.

At Descanso Restaurant in Costa Mesa, CA, you can enjoy that experience via their tableside griddles. It sounds like a “Mexican Benihana,” sure, but the dinner here is less about flashy chef tricks and more about serious flavor.

Helming Descanso’s kitchen and menu is Sergio Ortega, a native of Morelia, Michoacan that’s offering up a plethora of authentic fare alongside some local Californian twists. Amongst these includes a herbaceous choriqueso verde that’ll make your tastebuds sing and a Mexi Poke that marries together big eye tuna, soy sauce, and morita chilies to perfection.

At each plancha is a taquero, or “taco maker,” that Descanso uses to define their chefs that cook your entire meal. You start with some chicharron, chips, and salsa to snack on as the chef fires up some seasonal vegetables on the plancha. From there, it’s on to a take on Peruvian arroz chaufa that’s listed on the menu as “Mexican Fried Rice.”

For the main course, you have your choice of tacos, quesadillas, or cheesy alambres to order from. The tacos here are handmade with both blue and white masa for a unique two-toned tortilla, while the alambres are a true feast fit for sharing. Cheese is fried directly on the plancha while meat, bacon, onions, toreado chilies, avocado salsa, and poblanos sizzle together. Everything is then swiftly combined together to create a flavor bomb whose aroma stretches as far as the cheese pulls the alambres yields.

It may not have the flash and flair of a certain teppanyaki chain, but the artistry and aroma of the food here are intricate and delicious enough to weave their own unforgettable story that’s 100% worth the reservation.

Categories
#foodbeast Adventures Culture Features FOODBEAST Hit-Or-Miss Opinion Packaged Food Products

Having Never Had Cholula Before, I Went Straight To Mexico To Taste the Source

 

I’ll admit it: I am not much of a hot sauce fanatic, and I can not handle the spice. My Korean ancestors are probably shaking their heads at me unfortunately, but it is what it is. With ketchup as my main condiment of choice for over 25 years, I have only recently decided to let my tastebuds venture to more flavors that fall under the same red color, but with scorching differences. From Sriracha to Tapatio to Tabasco, these new hot sauces were such interesting experiences in my mouth. However, when it was time to try Cholula, my friends enthusiastically and passionately gushed about how it was the best hot sauce. They would pull out mini bottles from their purses, and coworkers would reveal full-sized ones from out of their desk drawers. Clearly this wasn’t just a hot sauce — this was a lifestyle. Thus, you can imagine that when the opportunity came to go straight to the source for a Cholula-filled weekend, I absolutely jumped on that Cholula train straight to Mexico for my first official taste.

Two plane rides and three in-flight movies later, I checked into my hotel in Guadalajara, freshened up, and headed to cocktails and (most importantly) appetizers. Warm empanadas, seasoned chips, and fresh ceviche were spread across the bar beautifully, with the edges lined with Cholula bottles. I picked one up, only to realize that there were different flavors of Cholula, a concept I hadn’t even thought of before this moment! I took this as my opportunity to get the perfect first taste, when I bumped into a vivacious woman with a raspy voice. Araceli, who I later found out is the Director of Public Relations for Jose Cuervo as well as our generous hostess for the evening, exuded her genuine love for Cholula, her work, and her heritage as a whole.

“If you ever want to be the life of the party, always carry a bottle of Cholula with you in your bag. Take it out during a meal and you will for sure be the center of attention – I carry mini bottles in all of my purses!”

After I expressed that I had yet to actually try Cholula, she warmly encouraged me to taste it, handing over a bottle of the original flavor. I decided to drizzle it lightly onto a plain tortilla chip, and with my first bite, I was in Cholulove. There was a certain kick to the sauce that I had yet to experience with any other hot sauces, and the flavor didn’t overpower; it added dimension. It was spicy and complementary, and I knew this would be the first of many bottles I’d consume over the weekend.

Bright and early the next morning, we made our way down to Chapala to visit the Cholula factory, where we were given a quick history lesson, as well as a tour. We put on our gloves, hairnets, and facemasks, and were warned that the first room is extremely hot and that the spices might be a bit much for our senses. As we walked into the room with the highest quality arbol and piquin peppers, I choked back tears and held my breath (because I ain’t no baby). The peppers had already been sun-dried under constant supervision for about three days, and I watched as two workers drained a huge vat of the sun-dried and soaked peppers, conveying them over to another worker who had a hose in one hand and a brush in the other. He carefully washed and separated each pile of peppers in a way that retained quality and flavor, and then sent them off to the facility’s mill where they’d be meticulously ground into a paste.

Moving downstairs, we saw huge metal chambers where the peppers were being mixed for consistency, and blended to achieve that signature flavor. Once the blending is complete, the sauce undergoes a rigorous quality control process. Once its fully met the brand’s highest standards, the Cholula is sent to the bottling area.

If you could imagine Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory but with Cholula, that was basically what I walked into. I was absolutely mesmerized by the huge contraptions lining up bottles, evenly distributing sauce, slapping on labels to perfection, and capping each bottle with Cholula’s distinctive wooden cap. Each bottle was separated by hand on the conveyor belt before moving on to final packaging, and it was hypnotizing to see it go from the peppers straight to our tables for a fresh tasting.

Using jicama, popcorn, chips, and cucumbers as neutral tasting foods, we tried each of the six hot sauce flavors on the patio of the factory: Original, Green Pepper, Chipotle, Chili Lime, Chili Garlic, and Sweet Habanero. The crowd favorite was Green Pepper, which I understood in a larger scope of things, as it tasted like salsa verde with a little kick, but my favorite had to be the Chili Lime. With a perfect blend of heat and tang, the Chili Lime took the win, and the Chili Garlic came in close second. After tasting five out of the six, we had the Sweet Habanero left, and I was not ready for it, as I took a hefty dip into it with my jicama. My taste buds felt betrayed, as the sweet chili flavor hit my lips innocently, only to have the habanero heat come at me without any warning; it basically took over my lips, mouth, tongue, and throat, and it was a wild ride that I did not sign up for.

Nevertheless though, it was pretty lit (get it).

From our evening cocktails to our American-style brunch at the Cholula La Fonda restaurant in Tequila, Cholula was a part of any and every dish you could possibly imagine. The flavour was never overbearing, but rather complementary (even in the cucumber-habanero sorbet we had at the Cholula restaurant – yes, you read that right). Having never tasted Cholula before, I was absolutely spoiled with my flavorful adventures in Mexico, but I am confident in being a self-proclaimed Cholula connoisseur for life!

Categories
Adventures Culture Opinion

Why El Paso Should Be The Tex-Mex Food Capital

Photo: Foodbeast // Constantine Spyrou

Before it gained attention as the home of Khalid and the stomping grounds of celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez, El Paso has long been one of the country’s most unique cities. Its symbiosis with Juárez across the border, stone’s throw proximity to New Mexico, and own time-honored and family-built traditions have created a special culinary environment. Out of that, an evolution of Tex-Mex has occurred similar to that of allopatric speciation, where part of a group evolves separately because they’ve become distanced. El Paso’s cuisine is where several exclusive influences intertwine to make Tex-Mex far richer than any current bastion (San Antonio, LA, Albuquerque, etc.) has to offer, and is why it should become known as the true Tex-Mex capital of the United States.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Clarno

“You have a scene that is homegrown, immigrant, yet part of two states,” says Gustavo Arellano, author of the syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican! and the book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. “More importantly, it’s completely overlooked by chroniclers of Mexican food in the United States because who the hell wants to go to El Paso unless you’re Mexican? There’s been no reason to go down.”

Located in the southwest corner of Texas, “Chuco” (the nickname for El Paso) is likely not your first choice for a foodie destination. Modern food media often passes it up for other cities like Austin, which is more new-age and trendy, and San Antonio, who claims to be the current “Tex-Mex capital.” Distance is the major reason why it’s often overlooked, as El Paso is a minimum six-hour drive from any of the other major Texan cities. However, passing on it means leaving scores of historic restaurants and a rich and diverse Mexican and Tex-Mex food scene hidden from the rest of the country.

El Paso’s greatest culinary strength comes from its relationship with its sister city, Juarez. Their symbiosis transcends the “border” that defines the two, creating a cross-cultural hub of one-of-a-kind flavors and eats. According to Arellano, that’s different from what you see in places like California and Arizona because of which cities migrate through the different states. California and Arizona miss out on a vast majority of Northern Mexico (with the exception of Sonora), but El Paso gets that sector of migrants.

“In northern Mexico the meat’s just better,” he explains. “They usually grill on mesquite so there’s gonna be a different flavor. So even something as simple as the carne asada in El Paso is going to be way better than in Southern California because they’re getting [Northern Mexicans] who worship grilling.”

Photo: Constantine Spyrou//Foodbeast

It means that you’ll be able to taste a distinctive smokiness and flavor profile out of the dollar-priced carne asada tacos at places like El Cometa and a savory $6 chorizo con huevos from Speedy’s. But you also get that difference in the eats that Juarez is known for, like tacos de tripitas (tripe). Taco truck chefs like the one at Arriba Juárez (which is more of a taco school bus) maximize the crispness and fattiness of the tripe, crafting a sensation similar to that of biting into the fatty part of a crackling with absolutely zero barnyard taste. That, combined with a fiery, vinegary salsa that hinges its magic on toreado chilies, is an unforgettable tacos de tripitas experience.

The city’s proximity to Mexico, however, also means that it gets a taste of a lot more native Mexican dishes than somewhere like San Antonio or Austin would get. Examples of this include salpicon, a shredded beef salad, and cabrito, or roasted kid goat. You’d be hard-pressed to find these the further you travel away from the border, but as immigrants come through El Paso, they leave a strong imprint on the local cuisine, whether it be the authentic dishes they bring across the border or how they evolve the local Tex-Mex cuisine.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Clarno

For this reason, some local El Pasoans may refer to their fare as more of “Mex-Tex” than “Tex-Mex.” Whichever way you characterize it, the restaurants there that offer the food are some of the best in the nation at doing it. You have Lucy’s, a generational institution whose machaca plates are the stuff of folklore in the area. There’s Kiki’s, who Aaron Sanchez put on the national map when he talked about their own version of machaca on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. L&J Cafe is THE local place for the aforementioned salpicon and other authentic Mexican dishes like carne desebrada (shredded beef in a flavorsome salsa española). And you can’t forget Chico’s Tacos, the local legend known for their drenched rolled tacos.

Even the classic combo platos here get distinctive twists based on what’s local. That’s because El Paso isn’t just bordering Mexico, it’s also bordering New Mexico. There’s actually parts of the city where you can walk down the street and suddenly end up in the “Land of Enchantment,” and the fabled Hatch River Valley is just a couple of hours away by car. As a result, New Mexico’s cuisine, including the Hatch chilies and pecans that act as bases of flavor, also find their way into the lineup of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and other Tex-Mex standards.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Clarno

All of these ingredients, dishes, and influences together make El Paso’s Tex-Mex offerings something special beyond what you can find in the rest of the United States, or even Texas, for that matter. But does that make Chuco a place worthy of taking away San Antonio’s claim as the “Tex-Mex capital?” For now, one could argue yes, as El Paso holds the competitive advantage in terms of the innovation and evolution of that cuisine.

“San Antonio has always been best as almost a museum of Tex-Mex food,” Arellano says. “You have all these dishes, places, items… but you didn’t really see much migration of Mexicans into San Antonio, so you had all these generations of Tejanos eating the same food but you didn’t really see any new contributions by Mexican immigrants.”

There’s a shift in that notion these days, as younger Mexican chefs are coming to San Antonio and adding their own signatures to the mix. But for El Paso, that’s been going on for years, and while it may not be as big on the chile con carne or puffy tacos, the combo plates and authentic Mexican food don’t just match San Antonio’s. Through the integration of a widespread array of ingredients that blends multiple cuisines and countries together, they surpass it.

El Paso thus deserves that title of Tex-Mex capital because it hosts the best integration of both Texan and Mexican cuisine that any city in the United States can possibly offer. The food is proof of the harmony that can exist between two countries when the relationship is done right.

Categories
News Restaurants

El Torito And Chevys Parent Company Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Fans of the full-service Mexican restaurants El Torito and Chevys may want to take a seat. Real Mex (RM Holdco LLC) is entering an Asset Purchase Agreement with an affiliate of Z Capital Group, LLC. This means that the company is planning to sell over its assets as it voluntarily files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Besides El Torito and Chevys, Real Mex owns a variety of chain restaurants, including Acapulco Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, El Paso Cantina, Who Song and Larry’s, and Las Brisas.

Essentially, reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows Real Mex to pass on some of their liabilities to Z Capital Group, according to Reuters.

You can rest easy for a bit, though, as for the time being Real Mex’s restaurants will still remain open to guests as if nothing has changed.

Bryan Lockwood, CEO of Real Mex, said in a statement:

“The support from Z Capital and Tennenbaum will help minimize any disruptions and ensure that the process is seamless for our guests, employees, and vendors. We’re looking forward to completing this transaction as swiftly as possible and emerging from Ch. 11 in a stronger financial position, poised for future growth.”

I remember frequenting El Torito’s Sunday brunch buffet and piling my plate with scrambled eggs, braised meats, sweet corn cakes, and a stack of waffles. Then, I’d wash the meal down with a hearty bowl of menudo. Honestly, it was heaven — making this news a little bittersweet.

Until things take a drastic turn, I’m definitely going to hit up El Torito’s Sunday brunch a few more times. That spread was sweet and you never know what the future holds.

Categories
Fast Food News

Chipotle Is Testing Spicy Milkshakes And Avocado Tostadas

Photo Courtesy of Anna-Marie Walsh/@beautyandthebeets

Chipotle had the reputation of being a healthy alternative fast casual restaurant that was very selective with its menu items, but as it tries to climb out of the hole dug by a plague of e. Coli outbreaks, it looks like they’re throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

The Mexican grill’s latest rollout of test menu items are far removed from its “healthy” reputation, as they include quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, and even a Mexican chocolate milkshake.

Yes, you might soon be able to get a milkshake at Chipotle.

These items are being tested at their Next Kitchen in New York, where they’ve tested items before such as quinoa and frozen palomas.

While none of their new menu items are particularly exclusive to any restaurant, it does feel like Chipotle is taking a page out of Taco Bell’s innovation book. After all, they are a major competitor in the Mexican-inspired fast food world.

Over the last decade, Taco Bell has had a barrage of innovative menu items, and it has been difficult for fast food competitors to keep up. Between burritos that feature Fritos and at one point even Pop Rocks, and nacho fries, Taco Bell has proven that going balls to the wall not only helps generate hype, but it actually shows in sales.

If you don’t believe that these limited time menu items are beneficial to a restaurant such as Taco Bell, their most recent Nacho Fries rollout was the most successful launch in their history, selling more than 53 million orders in less than 2 month span.

Even Del Taco has shown a willingness to mix things up with huevos ranchero burritos, queso blanco, and even fire roasted shrimp.

Sofritas quesadilla & avocado tostada from the Chipotle test kitchen.

A post shared by Erik (@boringerik) on

Conversely, Chipotle has had slow and prodding innovation, with past attempts at chorizo and queso not exactly connecting with consumers. Their chorizo option is no more, and they had to adjust their queso recipe after facing backlash for its chalky taste.

With Chipotle trying to jump back in the saddle, this is the first time in recent memory they’ve announced five new items at once. You have to think at least one of them will connect. Possibly the milkshake?

It does looks like the shake has potential. New Yorker Anna-Marie Walsh tried it out at the test kitchen, describing it as having a bit of a spicy taste, adding that it was “absolutely delicious.”

A post shared by Tim Wildin (@timtimnyc) on

Believe it or not, you were able to order a quesadilla before, but it wasn’t on Chipotle’s official menu, and as we learned with the secret menu Quesarito, it was a bitch to for them to fire up a quesadilla with the way their kitchen was set up.

Time will tell if these items will be deemed worthy of a nationwide rollout. It certainly seems like milkshakes, quesadillas, and avocado tostadas would be a welcoming addition to their everyday menu. Until then, Chipotle fans will just have to go with their usual order.

Categories
#foodbeast Features FOODBEAST

Instagram’s Hottest Mexican-Lebanese Fusion Restaurant Was Conceived In Prison

A post shared by foodbeast (@foodbeast) on

Looking through the menu at Fatima’s Grill in Downey, California, you’d never guess it was mostly designed and envisioned within the walls of a prison cell. No, they don’t serve Ja Rule’s “Prison Casserole” or makeshift chocolate cakes, but its owner, Ali Elreda, spent almost eight years in The Federal Correctional Institution, Safford, working the kitchen, and dreaming of a day he could let his passion for food shine.

Fatima’s Grill beautifully marries Elreda’s Lebanese roots, with an appreciation for Mexican food that he gained during his time behind bars. He chose to work in the prison’s kitchen where he spent most of his days learning about cooking food (which he knew nothing about), Mexican culture from his fellow inmates, and how to be efficient under the pressure of having to cook for over 1,000 inmates.

“I was in the kitchen five days a week, from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m,” Elreda said. “I would write down certain things that I came up with or would invent, and I had 1,500 inmates that I had to feed, so if I could please them, I knew I could please anybody.”

Elreda is very much open about his incarceration, because it is a chapter of his life he has comfortably put in the past. In the early 2000s, he was young, made some mistakes with bad company, and slipped up to the tune of 7-plus years of imprisonment for intent to distribute methamphetamines and cocaine.

Not an ideal path, but he regrets nothing, as his experiences led to his current success as a restaurant owner.

A post shared by Ali Elreda (@fatimas_grill) on

Without his checkered past, there would be no Shawarma Quesarritos, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-topped carne asada fries, or tacos crowned with his hot sauce — which was inspired by ingredients straight from the Federal Correctional Institution, Safford commissary.

“I learned everything inside,” Elreda said. “My hot sauce came from the prison commissary…I had to go back to the place where I did time, just to get a copy of the commissary items. You can’t find those out here on the street.”

Without his past he also would have never met Jorge, the savvy cook who mans the kitchen at Fatima’s Grill, and has been by Elreda’s side from day one, helping him make these tasty and photo-friendly dishes.

One look at the Fatima’s Grill Instagram account, and you can tell Elreda is quite an eccentric character who’s having a blast feeding the city of Downey, CA. With every video of him cooking, bumping Cardi B and dancing around in the limited space within his kitchen, you get a glimpse of not only his infectious attitude, but his extensive and  mouthwatering menu.

A post shared by Ali Elreda (@fatimas_grill) on

The menu itself can look a little intimidating, but at its core, the restaurant consists of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, wraps, and fries. From there, you can top or stuff anything with his halal-based meats, and even Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, if you’d like. All in all, he’s found a formula tailor-made for Instagram success, not only getting the Foodbeast seal of approval when we paid a visit, but getting rave reviews on Yelp, Google, and EZ Cater.

Elreda admits he’ll draw you in with his giant burritos, and Hot Cheeto mixtures, but he’ll keep you with the quality of ingredient and simple halal dishes such as the restaurant’s chicken kabobs and shawarma wraps.

All Elreda needed was an opportunity, and with help from family, lessons through a rough past, and a vision of blending two cultures together, the final result was a pretty special experience for customers.

“I said, ‘I’m gonna take the best of both worlds when I get out… let me see if I can put this together. Tacos, gyros, shawarma, quesadillas, let’s put it together,'” Elreda said. “And it worked.”

A post shared by Ali Elreda (@fatimas_grill) on