Farewell Greek food, it’s the end of an era – as a city, we’re officially obsessed with Mexican cuisine (again). It all started early last year, with the likes of Puerto 99 and Palapa arriving on our shores and whetting our appetite for chunky guacamole, spicy elote, hearty enchiladas, and just about anything that qualifies as a taco. And then came the late 2019, bringing with it a new Mexican restaurant in almost every major neighborhood of Dubai. Here are our current favorites.
If we had a penny for every time we’ve recommended Mr. Taco for a fun, upbeat night out with friends, we’d be rich. Not only does this casual, cantina-style eatery add contrast to Maya – which is located directly beneath – but it also wins the attention-to-details game. Killer tunes, thoughtful staff, and spacious terrace aside, it’s the décor here that you’ll remember, with oversized murals, potted cacti, vibrant calaveras, comfy seating, and tchotchkes of every size vying for your attention. Did we mention a chill in the air resulted in us draped with a striped poncho reminiscent of something out of Ugly Betty?
Past all that sensory overload, it’s the Mexican comfort food you’re bound to return for. The menu was designed by none other than celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, so Mr. Taco is more quality than quantity – the chunky ‘Mr. Guacamole’ and zingy ‘Elote on the Cob’ are done to perfection, pure and simple. Having said that, there are a whopping 11 different tacos and three different salsas to choose from. We recommend ordering the ‘Aca Beach’ and ‘Mushroom’ varieties, giving all three sauces a try, and lingering long after over the ‘Churro Sandwich’ (which, yes, is as good as it sounds).
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, its ‘El Jefe’ pulled angus chuck tacos practically have a cult following – and the fresh chimichurri in them only helps. We also recommend the ‘Queso and Chips’ because we have yet to try a more flavorful cheese dip in Dubai.
Another dish that this beloved homegrown concept has mastered? The decadent ‘Churro Ice Cream Sandwich’ that, 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.
Just when we thought we knew The Dubai Mall inside out, we stumbled upon this hidden gem, transporting us to Mexico from the get-go – even the traditional garb worn by the hostess at Tulum sets the tone for what’s to come. You’ll be greeted by a vast menu of the country’s greatest hits alongside some unexpected dishes, with authenticity guaranteed by the fact that everything from avocados to the mesquite grill comes straight from Mexico.
The ‘Maria Sabina Ceviche’ is a delight for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, pairing oyster mushrooms with coriander oil and a secret Mexican sauce, while the ‘Camarones Martin’ is a winner when no dietary or calorie restrictions apply. Hint: you’ll find yourself frantically scraping the last of the flame-torched melted cheese when you’re done. Dining in a big group? Start with the perfectly bite-sized ‘Chicken Sopes’ and move on to the signature shrimp tacos (which are assembled tableside) before making room for the ‘Zarandeado’ hammour that is baked with a “very special” type of salsa.
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, 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.
Elevated Mexican cuisine, thy name is Chingón. This (very) recently opened restaurant at Grand Millennium Business Bay is a contemporary celebration of all things Mexico, down to its name. The Mexican word ‘chingón’ translates to both, wicked cool and a skilled person. Put the two together and you have a culinary team serving creative dishes like burrata with truffle polenta and coriander chimichurri, black tortillas pressed with 24k gold leaf, and Wagyu beef tartare with roasted hazelnuts and quinoa crisps.
The food here is served in larger portions, so we suggest giving it a try with a group of friends in tow as guests are encouraged to dine family-style. Over in the drinks menu, each beverage borrows from a story originating in the ancient empires of Mesoamerica and South America, focusing on agave, cane sugar, and Mexican spices. But it doesn’t end there. Latin jazz and décor accents like rope installations, gold skulls, dancing flames, and pockets of foliage merge for a hotspot in the making.
Meshico at The Pointe offers a shocking dining experience. Literally. But we’ll get to that later. Replete with a mariachi band, it’s at this colorful eatery that we found the soul of Mexico on a plate, from the savory ‘Mexican Street Style Corn’ and zesty traditional pozole soup to the best tacos we’ve ever sampled. Although mole – a luxuriant chocolate sauce paired with savory items – is more of an acquired taste, the ‘Mole Braised Local Chicken Enchiladas’ are a sure-fire crowd favorite, no matter how picky the palate. There are also plenty of freshly caught seafood options and prime cuts of meat that Meshico will happily toss on the grill for you.
Perched on the 27th floor of The Oberoi in Business Bay, La Mezcalaria is the latest Latin American hotspot in Dubai – and the city views alone make it worth a visit. Taking advantage of the cool weather, we sat at a table in the open-air venue overlooking the winding roads and twinkling lights of the evening commute. The dimly lit restaurant has an intimate yet relaxed vibe, with just the right combination of panache and restraint. This applies to the food as well.
The menu features favorites like tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, but uses the right amount of unique ingredients to give each dish just enough oomph to be distinctive, but not decadent. We started with the ‘Guacamole Sunset’ that is accented with mango and grapefruit and the ‘Forget About Taco’, an elevated take on crispy tacos with chicken. And over on the mains, the lobster and cod enchiladas were made unforgettable with a slathering of rich, nutty almond sauce. As for dessert? Another twist came courtesy of ‘Maradona’s Cookies’, a crumbly confection so good you’d think the “Hand of God” was behind it.