Gaining Confidence While Cooking

5 Routes Mexican Food At Its Finest

Dining at an authentic Mexican restaurant is the next best thing to being south of the border. Whether you live near a border town or not, with a little discernment, you can find the best Mexican food in your area. Mexico the country is home to hundreds of regional cuisine types, and a number of them can be found in the family-owned restaurants of major U.S. cities. Use these guidelines for finding excellent Mexican food choices in your area:

1. "3 Rolled with Guac." The phrase "3 rolled with guac" refers to a standard taquito order in California cities such as San Diego; it can serve as a satisfying snack or lunch even if ordered on the go from the nearest taco truck. The trick to Mexican culinary nirvana? Don't settle for less than guacamole that's made fresh daily using perfectly-ripe avocados.

2. Carne Asada Chips. Yes, you've had nachos, but this dish takes things into the stratosphere. Carne asada chips bring a gourmet feel to this Mexican-American favorite. Freshly-made, crispy tortilla chips are smothered in slow-roasted Mexican steak that will tantalize your taste buds. Skip the ground beef and go for the steak.

3. Handmade Tortillas. Handmade tortillas are simply a must for the best Mexican food. Whether corn or flour, handmade tortillas are lovingly flattened and grilled up fresh by "tortilla ladies" (and guys) who have perfected tortilla creation to an art form.

4. Refried or Whole Beans. At the very best Mexican dining spots, the pinto beans are cooked on-site daily, whether refried or simmered whole. The key to stellar Mexican cuisine experiences is finding the freshest-made food possible.

5. Fish Tacos. Some believe the fish taco has its roots in California, where the West coast offers proximity to both the best Mexican recipes and some of the country's best seafood. No matter what you believe, when it comes to fish tacos, the fish should be fresh, the white sauce tangy, citrusy and sweet, and the cabbage garnish crisp. Hint: Some of the best fish tacos can be found at roadside stands and taco trucks.

Lastly, if it's happy hour (or at least noon), consider pairing your Mexican dinner with a goldfish bowl-sized margarita. At that size, one is enough to get you through it (even if you added habanero salsa.)

If traveling to Mexico isn't in your near future, don't despair; around the U.S., delicious, authentic Mexican food is usually just a short drive away. From roadside taco shops to family-owned restaurants, you'll find a variety of south-of-the-border cuisine to satisfy your discerning palette. (For more information on Mexican restaurants, contact one such as Lares Restaurant)