8 Mexican Restaurant Orders Chefs Wish You Wouldn’t Make

The American culinary scene is a melting pot of global flavors, with Mexican cuisine holding a special place in many hearts and on many menus. Despite its popularity, some dishes served at Mexican restaurants might not be the best choice if you’re aiming for authenticity. Celebrity chefs, like Aarón Sánchez, emphasize the importance of traditional flavors and techniques. Sánchez, renowned for his role on “MasterChef” and his New Orleans restaurant Johnny Sánchez, offers insights into what to avoid ordering if you want a true taste of Mexico.

To help you navigate your next Mexican dining experience, here are seven dishes that chefs suggest skipping.

1. Hard Shell Tacos

Why Skip It: While hard shell tacos are popular in the United States, they are not common in Mexico. Authentic tacos are typically served on soft, warm corn tortillas. The hard shell version is a Tex-Mex adaptation that doesn’t reflect traditional Mexican cuisine.

2. Queso Dip

Why Skip It: That melty cheese dip you love to order with your chips? It’s another Tex-Mex invention. Traditional Mexican cuisine features a variety of cheese dishes, but the ubiquitous queso dip isn’t one of them.

3. Chimichangas

Why Skip It: The deep-fried burrito known as a chimichanga is a creation of the American Southwest. While it might be delicious, it’s not something you’d typically find in an authentic Mexican kitchen.

4. Nachos Loaded with Toppings

Why Skip It: Nachos piled high with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and jalapeños are more of a Tex-Mex bar food than a traditional Mexican dish. Authentic Mexican cuisine focuses on simpler, more balanced flavors, and nachos as we know them in the U.S. often overshadow the quality of the ingredients.

5. Flour Tortilla Tacos

Why Skip It: While flour tortillas are popular in certain regions of Mexico, corn tortillas are the traditional choice for tacos. Opting for corn tortillas can provide a more authentic flavor and texture that better complements the fillings.

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6. Mexican Pizza

Why Skip It: This fusion dish, often found at fast-food chains, is a far cry from traditional Mexican cuisine. The concept of Mexican pizza doesn’t exist in Mexico, and it’s more of a marketing gimmick than an authentic dish.

7. Pre-made Frozen Margaritas

Why Skip It: Authentic margaritas are made with fresh lime juice, quality tequila, and sometimes a splash of orange liqueur. Pre-made frozen margaritas often contain artificial flavors and excessive sugar, detracting from the true essence of this classic cocktail.

8. Ground Beef Tacos

Why Skip It: While ground beef tacos are a staple in many American households, they are not commonly found in traditional Mexican cuisine. Authentic tacos are typically made with cuts of meat like carne asada, carnitas, or al pastor, which offer richer and more complex flavors.

Final Thoughts

When dining at a Mexican restaurant, aim for dishes that showcase traditional flavors and preparation methods. Handmade tortillas, simple tacos with cilantro and onions, and regionally inspired dishes are hallmarks of authenticity. By avoiding these common but inauthentic orders, you can experience the rich, diverse culinary traditions that true Mexican cuisine has to offer.

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