I Eat the Best Things

I'm all kinds of caught up lately in the Food Network's new show Best Thing Ever, as well as its original food porn series The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Cooking Channel's Unique Eats. For the same reason I like reading about food, I like watching these singular, perfect dishes on the screen. It feels indulgent with zero caloric repercussions.

So I thought I would start doing a few Best Things posts here and there, to kind of take you guys back to really outstanding dishes at some of the places I've been in the past. This week, let's start with Mexican food, shall we? It's cold out, and spicy food seems apt.

At Jose Andreas' Oyamel, in downtown Washington, DC, I made a whole big deal out of the margarita with salt foam, which was refreshing and sinful, mind you. But I'm not sure I fawned duly over the diminutive but excellent suckling pig confit taco with tomatillo salsa. Naturally, the pork was exceedingly luscious and tender, on account of being cooked in its own fat. But I also was really impressed with the salsa, because I often find tomatillos to be a little too on the acidic side, and this bright green, citrusy sauce was very well balanced. This taco amounted to about three bites, but they were bites of perfection.

In Austin, Maria's Taco Express is a good place for a good time. The express in the name is no joke, either: the food here comes quickly, and the beer comes in a bucket. You order inside and grab a seat on the deck to listen to some great, live music and chow down on scratch made Meixcan made by a lady from Venezuela. The carne guisada tacos here were served on homemade tortillas filled with chipotle-sauced tender beef. Even the rice on the side was well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, and full of personality. 

Surprisingly, the best Mexican sides I've ever had we're not in California or Texas, but Ithaca. I swear! Agava, near Cornell, is churning out uncommonly good Mexican chow for Upstate NY (along with he trademark Ithaca 'tude). My favorites were the street corn on the cob, roasted in the wood-burning oven, sprinkled with cayenne, squirted with lime, and then given a coating of cotija cheese crumbles. Corn prepared in this style has a cult following on Instagram, and for good reason - it is not your childhood's corn on the cob (unless you grew up in Mexico City). It's sweet and charred from the oven, spicy, sharp, and salty from the cheese and then fresh and lightened up by a shower of cilantro at the end. Frankly, the word masterpiece comes to mind. Or the word glutton. Whichever.

The other best thing I had at Agava was a dish that's usually a throwaway item at most Mex joints: black beans. At Agava, they were salty, spiced, deep, annnnnnd beany? Yeah, they were beany. Deal with it. I asked my waitress how they were prepared and she said with onions and garlic, then turned on her heels and walked away. She was a liar. They were most definitely boiled in unicorn tears and flavored with shavings from a norwall's horn. Obviously.

So tell me where your favorite Mexican dishes can be found! I need new places to hit in 2015, and I'm looking for inspiration! Is there a chimichanga that chimi'd your socks off? Nachos that rocked your world? Sound off in the comments! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!


  1. I would totally dive into that street corn on the cob.

    I enjoy El Vez here in Philly.

    1. I know, I want a platter of all these things right now....but first, I'm going to look up El Vez.