Hong Kong: Are Tacos the New Hamburger? Stranger Things Have Happened!

Food + Beverage

A few years ago you could count the number of Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong on the fingers of one hand and have leftover fingers. No more! There are now 2 Mexican restaurants NEXT TO EACH OTHER in LKF!!!

The number of Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong remains small, but it is growing. Better yet, the quality of the food (and the Margaritas) is improving. Is Mexican food the new McDonald’s?

I was living in Hong Kong when the first McDonald’s opened in the early 1970s, and this was the accepted wisdom at the time: “This is just for the Americans! The Chinese will NEVER eat hamburgers!!!”

Yeah, right. I left shortly thereafter. When I turned to Hong Kong a few years later, there were McDonald’s EVERYWHERE!!!

I saw eldery Chinese women squatting on the sidewalk eating Big Macs. I even saw French fries being served at a few tea houses (“It’s just to keep the kids happy,” I was told).

My initial on line research indicates that there are still fewer than 20 Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong (if you count chains as one restaurant).

Since it is a relatively manageable number (and since this would be a ‘labour of love’), I have decided to try each and every one of them (more than once if my initial visit proves promising – just to make sure).

And I will update this post with first hand comments after each visit. And YOUR comments are encouraged!!!

Tried and True

There are thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong, and I have never eaten (and never will eat) at most of them.

And there are those few that I go back to time after time. When it comes to Mexican food, there was never much choice. Here are 2 that have passed the test of time. I have eaten at both of them time and again – over an extended period of time.

Taco Loco Taqueria Muy Autentica – 7 Staunton Street, SoHo, Hong Kong Island. Telephone: (852) 2522-1239.

  • I’ve been going here for years, and this place – one of the longest surviving Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong – has had its ups and downs. I knew the original owner – a homesick Angelina, who would think of an excuse to fly to Los Angeles “on business ” for the simple reason that she needed a taco fix. She finally decided to open a restaurant so she wouldn’t have to fly back to LAX so often. After the original owner left the scene, things went drasticaly down hill. But I’m happy to report that they’ve finally gotten their acts together, and the barbacoa pork is EXCELLENT. This is a TAQUERIA – not a fine dining restaurant. In terms of quality vs. price, this cozy little joint represents the BEST overall value for money of any Mexican restaurant in town.

Tequila Jack’s – 33-35 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Telephone: (852) 3428-5133.

  • I discovered this place a few years back, and I’ve been a regular ever since. Their set lunches were a particular favourite, but unfortunately they appear to have been discontinued. Read my review of the place here: Restaurant Review: Tequila Jack’s.

New Kids on the Block

Back up a few decades, and Hong Kong was all about Chinese food – make that CANTONESE food. Even food from other parts of China was not common.

There were, of course, a few Malaysian and Indian restaurants as well as “Western” restaurants serving a Chinese chef’s take on European food.

Which is not to say that it wasn’t good. I actually LIKED some of those places. But the food served bore little resemblence to the food you would be served at a restaurant in a Western country.

First Japanese food exploded onto the scene. Then Italian food. Now French food. Is Mexican food the new kid on the block?

At least 2 new chains have opened over the last several months. They appear to be well funded, and they are opening new outlets at an aggressive pace. Other newbies with just one or 2 outlets appear to want to follow in their footsteps.

I’ve tried 2 of them so far and was favourably impressed with both. I’ll add comments as I try others.

Little Burro – outlets in Causeway Bay, SoHo, and Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island. Check their website for addresses and phone numbers.

  • As anyone that studied Spanish in high school knows, “burrito” is Spanish for “little burro”. So the name of this restaurant is a playful play on words. Whatever. I stumbled upon this place, I went inside, I ordered 2 barbacoa beef tacos (with black beans!!!), and I liked what I ate (would have been even better with a TAD less salt). On my second trip, I added some brown rice to the mix, and what a disappointment that was! OMG!!! Dry … bland … no flavour … It was, simply, boiled brown rice – nothing more. Luckily I grew up in California so I knew EXACTLY what to do! I ate my tacos OVER the rice so that any juice or filling from the tacos would drip into the rice, and quite a bit did. When I had finished my tacos, I dumped the remaining guacamole (which came free that night if you ordered a beer) onto the rice, followed that with heaps of hot sauce, mixed it a bit, and voila! Problem solved!!! It was muy delicioso!!!

Cali-Mex – at least 8 outlets on Hong Kong Island. Check website for addresses and phone numbers.

  • This was love at first bite. Or should I say sip? Dispensed from a slurpy like machine imported from Mexico (I asked), the Margaritas are arguably the best Margaritas I’ve ever had. What I like is they stay frozen until the very last drop! Before my mouth-watering tacos arrived, I knew that I would become a regular. Read my review of the place here: Cali-Mex Taqueria, California, USA

Brickhouse – F/F, 20A D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong Island. No phone number.

  • Okay, this place isn’t exactly new. It’s been around for about 2 or 3 years, but it’s new to me because I haven’t eaten there yet. And it comes highly recommended. I met the owner once, and I believe he is from Texas and spent time in Mexico City, both good signs!

El Charro Mexican Cantina – Shop 208, Cyberport, 100 Cyberport Road, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong Island. Telephone: (852) 2793-2522.

  • What? No website? What if I make my way all the way over to Cyberport and I discover that you’re no longer there?

Chino – 1B-1C New Praya, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong Island.

  • A Mexican restaurant inspired by Asian ingredients and using Japanese cooking techniques? Is this a contradiction of terms? I’ll TRY to keep an open mind. The reviews on TripAdvisor are good.

Mr Taco Truck Mexican Taqueria – 14B Wo On Lane, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong Island. Telephone: (852) 2810-0888.

  • Checked out their very informative website, which tries to clear up the confusion about “Mexican food” vs. “Tex-Mex”. A good start. It says they have 5 types of salsa. Sounds promising! But one reviewer on TripAdvisor said they all tasted the same and would bring her own Tabasco Sauce on her next visit. Really??? Tabasco Sauce??? I thought this restaurant served MEXICAN food – not CAJUN food!!!

Tequila on Davis – G/F and C/L Shop 7, Grand Fortune Mansion.1 Davis Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong Island. Telephone: (852) 2818-1766.

  • No website! AGAIN? But there are good comments in TripAdvisor. Will have to give it a try.

Oldies, But Goodies

Mexican restaurants have come and gone, but few have passed the test of time. These 3 have been around for at least 10 years.

I ate at all 3 of them when they first opened. The fact that they are still around when so many have folded – think SOCIALITO – must mean SOMETHING. I promise to try them again and update my knowledge.

Agave – outlets in Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai. Please note: the venue in LKF has moved recently about one block from D’Aguilar Street to 9 Lan Kwai Fong. If you can’t find it, wander around a bit. I PROMISE you it IS there (right next to Cali-Mex, to be precise).

  • I was taken here by Mexican friends YEARS ago, and I DID like it. But that was a long time ago. Time to update my knowledge! After checking it out, I’ll add my comments.

¡Caramba! – outlets in SoHo on Hong Kong Island and Discovery Bay on Lantau Island. Check out website for addresses and phone numbers.

  • The Aussies, Brits, and Kiwis all call this place EYE Caramba! LOL! They obviously didn’t have to take Spanish in high school. That’s an upside down exclamation point – not an ‘i’, FGS! Anyway, I ate here more than 10 years ago, and I liked it – though I WAS put off by the Tabasco Sauce on the table (I’ve since learned that restaurants in Hong Kong HAVE to do that because so many diners demand it). I”ll add comments after updating my knowledge.

Coyote Bar and Grill – 114-120 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong Island. Telephone: (852) 2861 2221.

  • When I see words like “mesquite” and see pictures of spare ribs, I think “Southwestern” or “Tex Mex” – which is fine. But I don’t think of that as Mexican food. I think of it as Southwestern or Tex Mex. Whatever. I’ll do a review after checking it out (and those ribs DO look delicious).

One thing is for sure. Unlike McDonald’s, these Mexican places are NOT CHEAP!!! Is anyone at Taco Bell reading this by any chance???

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