Monday, March 3, 2014

Finding (Decent) Mexican Food in Switzerland

There are Mexican restaurants in Switzerland. But, most of them are TERRIBLE. And terribly expensive. We once spent 100 chf at a "Mexican" restaurant in Winterthur for packaged guacamole, terrible quesadillas soaked in salad dressing (???) and salsa with absolutely no heat. At. All. The margaritas and chips were ok, so there was that.

That's typical for a Mexican restaurant in Switzerland. And perhaps it is unsurprising, given the lack of proximity to Mexico and their general dislike of very spicy foods.

Since arriving in Zurich, we've been on a hunt for good Mexican food. We stumbled upon a Mexican grocery in central Zurich during our first visit, before the official move. El Maiz has all the critical ingredients for making Mexican at home.... although, like everything else, it's pricey. Over 5chf each for black beans, chipotle in adobe and decent salsa. There are basic ingredients for Mexican food at the regular grocery stores, but nothing is quite the same and everything is expensive. I once calculated the cost of making tacos at home and it was well over 35 chf per meal.

Also, for the record, there's only ONE kind of cheddar available at the grocery.  In the land of cheese. What is wrong with the Swiss?

Americans, you have it made and you don't even know it.

Back in December, while experiencing our first Weihnachtsmarkt, Matt and I spotted a street food stand called Primo Tacos. The prices were cheap (6-8 chf per taco) and the lines were long. Great signs! We promised to return and test them out. This didn't happen until Aarti's recent visit from Belgium.

Primo Tacos sells one thing: tacos. Aarti tried the veggie tacos and I had one each, beef and chicken. They were fantastic, topped with cheese and your choice of freshly made salsas. My favorite was a pineapple salsa with great heat. The corn tortillas were doubled up against the juicy meat and toppings, although they still struggled to keep together and my hands were quite a mess after. Since Primo Tacos is a street food stand (outside of Globus on Lowenplatz), your only options are takeaway or a few nearby hightop tables. We snagged one, but during busy hours, it can be tough and the tacos are messy. 

All in all - I highly recommend Primo Tacos. The flavors and heat were excellent and the salsas made them a bit unique. I'm taking Matt back very soon.

La Taqueria was our second stop during Aarti's visit. Located in a tiny little building just a few blocks form the Altstetten train station, La Taqueria is already beating back the crowds. Reservations are necessary, unless you arrive nice and early.

La Taqueria has a bit more variety on their menu, including burritos, tacos, quesadillas and some traditional Mexican sides, complimented by house-made salsas. Again, I tried one each of chicken and beef tacos and Aarti had a veggie burrito. Everything was excellent. The meat was well seasoned and there was plenty of heat. Our only complaint was perhaps a bit too much topping... the sour cream and guacamole on my tacos completely overtook the meat and salsa fresco, making it extra messy.  I was THRILLED to find Modelo Negro and Especial in their beer case. Woot! Aarti had a margarita.

Matt and I returned to La Taqueria this past weekend for my birthday. It was just as good the second time around. I can't wait for warm weather when La Taqueria opens their patio seating and we can sit outside enjoying margaritas in the sun (like at home at La Fogata!).

Overall, I highly recommend both Primo Tacos and La Taqueria.... I think I'll be returning to La Taqueria more often for the menu variety and ambiance, at least until Primo Tacos invests in a store front. Then, their fresh salsas may steal me away. Hopefully they also stock some Modelo for me!

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