Quieres tacos? No hay problema.
If you're looking for the most authentic Mexican restaurant in Dubai, then you really have only one place you can go, and that is a tiny little restaurant in DIFC's Index Tower called Copala. Please note, when we say authentic, we mean real Mexican cuisine – the global mother cuisine – not just tacos and salsa. We mean ingredients flown in directly from Mexico that you won't find anywhere else in Dubai – and believe us, we've looked. Things like huitlacoche, tlacoyos, nopales, chiles en nogada, Oaxaca cheese, horchata, cajeta, traditional mole, and the list goes on.
In fact, every single Mexican we've met in Dubai, when asked what their favorite Mexican restaurant is, they will tell you it's Copala which is why los Mexicanos Dubaianos travel from all over the city to eat at this little slice of home. When Savoir Flair dined at Copala to see what the fuss was about, the woman sitting next to us was enjoying a treat from Puebla the chef prepared especially for her because she made the trip out once a week to cure her homesickness.
Run by a group of Mexican nationals who take pride in the food from their country, we can safely say that when you visit Copala, it's like taking a trip to the DF without spending the money on the airfare.
El Chapo's Tacos
The definitive antidote to a crappy day at work, El Chapo's Tacos serves Mexican food with a twist – and a side of kitsch. Food puns, neon signs, loud colors, even louder live music, oversized murals, and weekly deals come together to make this a fun place to unwind. And grab a taco, of course. But first, indulge your curiosity and order the cactus salad, which is exactly what it sounds like. We were pleasantly surprised by this one.
Of the many quesadillas, tostadas, and tacos on the menu, it's the 'Spicy Tuna Tostada' and the spicy mayo accompanying the 'Crispy Baby Squid' that we have to rave about – clearly we like our Tex-Mex with a bit of heat. If there's room, add on the highly recommended 'Maricarmen's Tortilla Soup' or, do as we did, and order two desserts instead of one. Yes, the 'Churros Con Cajeta' is a classic, but the 'Habanero Chili Chocolate Fondant' is just so, so good that we're still thinking about it.
New to the Dubai foodie scene, Lila Taqueria is the coolest new Jumeirah Beach Road spot to grab some (incredibly) delicious tacos whenever the craving hits. It's right by the beach and takes us back to the waters of Playa Careyitos where we'd spend all day in the sun and grab some tacos on the way home. It's like they've taken what ingredients they could locally, and added the Mexican flavors and spices that we miss so much. The aguas frescas are fresh, the salsas are spicy, and everything is wood-smoked, including the oysters which you absolutely must order. They may be from Dibba Bay, but they taste like Guadalajara. Also, the duck tacos require a moment of silence to fully relish all the tastes we never knew we needed folded into a tortilla. They are only available until they are sold out — and they do sell out fast — so make sure you order first and early.
Speaking of tortillas, Lila's tortilladora knows what she is doing. The stoneground, heirloom corn masa tortillas are prepared by hand fresh daily. We don't know how, but it somehow manages to give you tortillas that won't break even when filled with all its juicy goodness. We also loved the steak tacos as well as the chipotle shrimp tacos, and the churros for dessert was just the sweet finish we were looking for to satisfy that craving. The only problem is, once you are full, you leave, and then remember how good it is. You end up going back the next day because you want to try everything else from the menu. Which we did.
Considering its first physical outpost is located in JLT – steps away from the Savoir Flair office – we can’t help but be slightly biased towards Maiz Tacos. But it’s not just us. For starters, the ‘El Jefe’ pulled Angus chuck tacos practically have a cult following – and the fresh chimichurri in them only helps. We also recommend the Mexican corn on the cob, because, well, if you haven't had it before, you are in for the best surprise of your life.
Another dish that this beloved homegrown concept has mastered? The decadent ‘Churro Ice Cream Sandwich’, when paired with vanilla ice cream from Canvas Gelato, is reason enough to return. Between the intimate setting, all-pink walls, and “mi casa es tu casa” sign that we can’t help but photograph on every visit, this is our new favorite spot for catch-ups.
Tacos Los Hermanos
Tacos Los Hermanos (and we don’t mean the band from the 90s) is a little taco stand run by two Mexican brothers from Guadalajara. It’s located in the Neighborhood Food Hall in Green Motor City, and while it is not fancy by any means, it’s straight-up delicious. It’s also friendly on the wallet. Now, it’s a taco stand, so the choices revolve around Mexican street food (so no mole, for example), but we all have those days where nothing will hit right unless it's a taco night, and Los Hermanos consistently delivers the best in the city.
We aren't sure how they do it, some secret recipe from their tias no doubt, but if you are looking for the most authentically delicious birria in town (with a mouth-watering consome on the side to dip that feast of flavors), then you will find it at Los Hermanos. Plus, we love practicing our Spanish with whichever brother is behind the counter that day.