Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yummy, yummy mexican food

I was born in Texas, grew up mostly in Texas, went to college in Texas, and most of my family still lives in Texas.

I have spent the last 9 years of my life, however, outside of Texas--mostly in Seattle, Los Angeles, and now France. In general, I didn't miss much of Texas. The mountains and all the snow (snowboarding), the ocean (surfing), the rain-forest (hiking), the lakes and rivers (kayaking)--the west had a lot to offer, and I had already spent about 20 years in Texas, so I was happy exploring and experiencing all the "new".

One thing I always missed though, was food. In particular mexican food, or at least the variety of mexican food we call Tex-Mex. Texas has awesome mexican food! Seattle had decent mexican food, Los Angeles had pretty good mexican food, and Lyon has a few restaurants with spanish words in their names that serve food with the same name as some of the mexican food you might be familiar with.

The kebab place across the street from my work has tacos. I was very excited when I first saw their menu on the storefront that advertised "Tacos: 4 Euros", so in I went to order me a taco. They asked me which kind of meat I wanted, kofke, kebab, escalope, steak, poulet. I knew poulet meant chicken, and I was pretty sure steak meant steak, but I didn't even know what the other meats were.
"Chicken" I said.
"What sauce?"
"Taco sauce" I replied.
Well, taco sauce wasn't an option, so they listed my choices. Burger, tartar, bbq, ketchup, mayonnaise--Mayonnaise! I was pretty sure after they said mayonnaise that whatever I ended up ordering would not be a taco. And to confirm that suspicion, they proceeded to stuff french fries in with the chicken, bbq sauce, lettuce and tomatoes they had rolled up in a tortilla, and stuffed it into a George Foreman grill for a couple minutes.

Strike one for mexican food in Lyon.

The shopping mall I walk by, or generally thru, on my way to work everyday has a restaurant named Suelta Verde that bills itself as a Tex-Mex restaurant. Yeah, I know mall food? But hey, it's supposed to be Tex-Mex. The quesadillas aren't bad, although they are made with french cheeses, so they are a bit strong, and quite a bit not quesadilla-tasting, but I actually enjoy them from time to time. Everything else in the restaurant is bad! The veggie burritos are basically ratatouille wrapped in a tortilla, the other burritos just add some type of meat, and even the tortilla chips were bad. And the restaurant didn't even have beans.

Strike two for mexican food in Lyon.

So time to ask for advice from the locals. Many people recommended a place near Place des Terreaux called El Sombrero. The restaurant looks okay from the outside, has branches in multiple French cities, and even has a website with pictures and animations and stuff (but no menu), so it could be promising. George and I were ready to give it a shot, when my co-worker Komi told me that Mexico Lindo in old Lyon was the best mexican place in Lyon. Komi lived in Austin for a while, so he might actually know what mexican food is supposed to taste like. El Sombrero will have to wait.

We rolled up to Mexico Lindo around 6:30, and the place was empty, no lights turned on, and no menu or even open hours on the door. hmmm... not looking good. We returned at 7, and now there was one light on, and a menu on the door, but we still had no idea when it opened. We returned at 7:30 and... the place was packed, and with no reservation, we had no shot at dinner.

Reservations are almost always needed at Mexico Lindo.

So we made our reservation and returned a week later and it was awesome. They had a good selection of dishes, and the dishes not only tasted like mexican food, they tasted like good mexican food. Some typical mexican ingredients are a bit hard to find in Lyon, so on some things they had to improvise but the result was good (refried beans don't exist here, so they had to make their own from red beans). In typical mexican restaurant fashion, the portion sizes are big enough to feed three people, and in typical french fashion, they do not have to-go boxes, so plan accordingly (skip lunch). I had a quesadilla appetizer that was big enough for a main meal (and the best quesadilla I have had in quite some time), and George had some grilled onions and mushrooms with tortillas, that was quite large too. Our main dishes were also big, and yummy, and came with the typical mexican sides of refried beans and rice. Overall it was quite delicious, and to top it off, they had pecan pie for dessert. Pecan Pie!

Turns out the guy that runs the restaurant is actually from Texas (born in Nuevo Loredo, but grew up in south Texas). That explains the pecan pie. If he could just get some Dr. Pepper, he'd have the best restaurant in all of France.

So if you need to satisfy your mexican food cravings in Lyon, head over to Mexico Lindo in old Lyon.


Scott McArthur said...

Sweet. Was it more like tex-mex or MEXICAN food? I would suspect that it would be more like Taco Cabana, but if he is from the Rio Grande valley or from the Laredo area, it could be just regular Mexican food.

Now if you could just find some BBQ like Rudy's (good luck) you would be set.

michael said...

I'm not sure about BBQ joints in Lyon. I haven't seen one, but I haven't looked for one either.

There are huge selections of BBQ sauce in most groceries though, and meat is meat, so we have just been BBQ'ing at home.

Besides, any BBQ place without sweat tea just wouldn't be a BBQ place, and I'm pretty sure they don't have sweet tea here...

Ngân Đàm said...

Thanks for the report. It sounds really tasty and promising!

michael said...

Hey Scott.

It was more mexican food than tex-mex. they only had quesadillas as an appetizer, and most of the main meals where kind of heavy north mexican dishes with lots of mole or other thick sauces.

They did have fajitas too though, but i did not try them (yet).

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the info! I'm one of many California university students here in Lyon for the year and we have been painfully deprived of good Mexican food :)

Anonymous said...

EW! That place at Part Dieu is gross! It was my first (and last!) venture into the Mexican cuisine here. I ordered a burrito and the salad beside it (which I would have usually put ON the burrito) actually had vinaigrette- beurk!!

Now one question- does this fab restaurant have white cheese dip? And I would LOVE to know where they get jalapenos or if they sub.

You can make good sweet tea at home (I'm an Atlanta native). And if you ever want a good BBQ recipe, my husband's is great! He's adapted Alton Brown's spice rub, put it on a pork roast and we pulled it for shredded pork sandwiches. AWESOME stuff if you're having a Southern craving!

Unknown said...

Michael, You HAVE to try the Yucatan (20 Rue Royaye), best Mexican food in Lyon, no contest! (coming from someone spending half her life in LA:-)
The owner used to live in Mexico, and if you're nice, you'll get a free round of home made liquor

megan said...

If you ever make it to Aix en Provence, try La Boca Loca in Centreville. It's owned by a French guy and a Columbian guy, and the food is amazing. Not tex-mex, which I grew up on as an Austinite, but excellent. Sady,no chile con queso, but they do have a great selection of Mexican beer and Rice Krispy treats!