Los Gemelos’ Mexican fare cannot compare to Taqueria Guadalajara

Tienda y Taqueria Los Gemelos
Tienda y Taqueria Los Gemelos

I have posted before about my quest to find good Mexican food that is as close to authentic as you can get in Madison. A couple months ago my quest ended in the dining room at Taqueria Guadalajara, but I had heard some really great things about Taqueria Los Gemelos on Odana, so I couldn’t pass it up. The combination Mexican grocery store and restaurant is hidden away in a junky strip mall on Odana Road. Based on the size of the strip mall and the grocery store I was expecting a super small restaurant, but it was actually massive. If I had to guess how many tables there are I would say more than 20.

We got there right around lunch time and there were plenty of tables open, but we had no idea what to do when we walked in. There is a small counter where everyone ignored us. There were also wait staff walking around who completely ignored us. Finally, after standing in the doorway for a couple minutes I asked one of the wait staff if we should sit or wait to be seated, and she told us we could sit wherever. Once we were at a table they brought us a basket of chips, guacamole and two salsas in squeeze bottles. The green one had a lot of cilantro in it and not much other flavor. WARNING! WARNING! The red bottle has super hot salsa. I tried a little on a chip and didn’t get any heat at all, so I squeezed a bunch more on the next chip and had quite an interesting next couple of minutes, which was made worse by the fact that we hadn’t gotten any water yet. Besides the ridiculous heat, the runny red salsa also didn’t have a lot of flavor. I know that sounds weird…it was super spicy but didn’t have any flavor? I’m a true believer that a sauce or salsa can be spicy and also have good flavor. What’s the point in having a salsa that is pure overpowering heat without some good pepper, vinegar or garlic flavor. Also, the “guacamole” they serve is the farthest thing from guacamole I’ve had in a while. It was flavorless and super runny. It’s like they mix it with something to stretch their avocado. I was really not impressed by it. I would rather have to pay a couple dollars for quality guacamole (like the kind at La Mestiza across the street) than be given this crap.

gemelos chips and salsa
Los Gemelos salsa, guacamole, chips

The menu was the first warning sign that the food wouldn’t be too great. There are pictures all over the menu and every time I see picture menus I think of IHOP, Denny’s and Perkin’s. In my experience, places with pictures of their food on their menu don’t tend to have great food. The second warning sign that this wasn’t going to be quality authentic Mexican food was that they didn’t have tongue or tripe on the menu (not that I would try tripe, but tongue has become one of my favorite Mexican meat options).

Los Gemelos menu
Los Gemelos menu

After scouring the decent-sized menu I opted for two smaller dishes. First I got a tostada, which comes with your choice of meat with Mexican cheese, lettuce, avocado, tomato and mayo. I also got a sope, which comes with your choice of meat, Mexican fresh cheese, lettuce, avocado and tomato. They are very similar dishes, but the sope comes on an oval corn tortilla that is thicker and soft, and the tostada comes on a very thin and crunchy corn tortilla.

Los Gemelos chicken sope, beef tostada
Los Gemelos chicken sope, beef tostada

I got a beef tostada, and it was super hard to eat. My first bite sent most of the toppings flying all over the place and the rest of the tostada shattered. The beef was tender, but was completely flavorless. The Mexican cheese and tomatoes were standard, but the avocado was fresh. I got a chicken sope, which was basically the same as the tostada as far as toppings go, but the soft corn base made it 100 percent easier to eat. The chicken was fine, but not great and the rest of the toppings were the same as the tostada. The best part of what I ordered (and this was also one of the reasons I ordered what I did) was the avocado on top of both dishes. Avocado makes everything better! Everything was good, and exponentially better than Tex-Mex restaurants in the area, but not nearly as good as Taqueria Guadalajara.

Los Gemelos dining room
Los Gemelos dining room

FOOD NOTES: Basically, I went in comparing Los Gemelos to Taqueria Guadalajara and it failed every comparison test. The food was not as good, the service was awful (did I mention once I did get my tiny water cup it was never filled again?) and the restaurant was kitschy and a little dirty. But, if I were to compare their food to Laredo’s or Tex Tubb’s or Abuelo’s on the merits of authentic Mexican food it would win hands down. There was nothing wrong with the food, it just gets beaten out by a better competitor. I wish the food was better because the prices are great and the location is better for me than Taqueria Guadalajara on Park Street. Simple review: As long as Taqueria Guadalajara is open, I won’t be going to Los Gemelos.

Pinterest helped me make Chipotle at home!

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 2.42.10 PM
copycat Chipotle pin

Chipotle is by far my favorite fast-food/to-go restaurant, but it is kind of pricey and pretty high in sodium. So I decided to try and recreate my favorite Chipotle burrito at home to hopefully make it healthier and taste close to the real thing. My first stop in this plan was Pinterest. I found a pretty great webpage that had copycat recipes for all of the components I wanted.

homemade Chipotle chicken burrito bowls
homemade Chipotle chicken burrito bowls

The chicken copycat recipe looked too complicated for me so I just cooked mine on my George Foreman grill. I also bought my guacamole in 100 calorie packs and used canned (no salt added) black beans. I don’t like cilantro and rice has always seemed like an unnecessary filler, so I skipped the cilantro lime rice.

I did use the recipe for corn salsa and it was very good! Corn salsa is my favorite and it is surprisingly super simple to make.

FOODNOTES: All in all, my homemade Chipotle burrito bowls were nothing like the actual Chipotle bowls, but they were very good! They were also only 430 calories compared to the real Chipotle bowls, which hover around or over 600 calories. I definitely plan to make this a regular addition to my recipe rotation!

Quest for authentic Mexican food doesn’t end at La Mestiza

I can confidently say I have never had authentic Mexican food. I can also confidently say that based on what I know about authentic Mexican food I will probably love it. While I like the Americanized version of Mexican food that is so prevalent in Madison, I have been on a quest for something close to authentic for quite a while. I read a couple reviews on La Mestiza that said it was authentic and one of the best Mexican restaurants in Madison. Even though it lives in an aging strip mall, people have said it is amazing. I went with a friend for lunch, and the small dining room with a dozen tables and a small corner bar in the back was half full and pretty inviting. Even though one waitress was seating and waiting on everyone, the service was fast and friendly.

la mestiza chips:salsa
chips and salsa

We got chips and two types of salsa before ordering. The chips were very crispy and extremely fresh. The red salsa was smoky but didn’t have a lot of other flavor (I was hoping for some spiciness). The green salsa was tangier, and tasted like tamatillos and cilantro. Neither of the salsas impressed me, but the guacamole we ordered was fantastic. It was definitely the highlight of the lunch. It was perfectly chunky, fresh and had an amazing flavor. I’m not sure what made it so good, but I could eat that guacamole every day.

la mestiza guacamole

I was excited about ordering the tamales because usually a plate of tamales is one flavor (generally shredded pork), and at La Mestiza the order comes with a chicken, pork and cheese tamale. My excitement was dashed when my tamales came out covered in a white sauce and were dry, kind of tasteless and had no heat at all. I was expecting the tamales to be covered in a spicy red sauce and come out steamy with flavorful fillings. The best part of my lunch was that the serving of guacamole was so big there was enough left over to eat with my tamales.

la mestiza tamales

FOODNOTES: I would consider going back to La Mestiza specifically to have the guacamole again. Maybe another one of the dishes on the menu would be better than the tamales (which I can only assume were dry because they are cooked ahead of time and reheated). The prices are very reasonable but most of the dishes don’t come with rice or beans, so you have to order and pay for them separately. The chips were very fresh but could have used a little salt, and the two salsas that came with the chips were mostly flavorless and disappointing. I was hoping for fresh spicy authentic Mexican food at La Mestiza, but I got bland food with fresh guacamole and chips, and probably reheated tamales. I guess my quest for authentic Mexican food continues. Please post suggestions for authentic Mexican restaurants in Madison!!!