Five Places for Great Mexican Food in the South Sound

pacos tacos enchilada plate

Happy #CincoDeMayo! To celebrate, here is a list of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the South Puget Sound. I’m originally from Eastern Washington, where there was a high Latino population and great Mexican food could be found on every corner, so I’ve become kind of a Mexican food snob. It’s difficult to find places that are both locally-owned and authentic. Here are a few of my favorites:

Paco’s Tacos 4520 Lacey Blvd. Lacey, WA

pacos tacos closuep enchiladas

Paco’s Taco’s is kind of hole-in-the-wall on Lacey Boulevard, and doesn’t have a whole lot for décor except for come colorful laminated tablecloths and pictures of some of the featured specials.

The menu features shrimp bowls, hard tacos, chilequiles, (corn chip strips covered in sauce and seasoned picadillo—pilled pork) carne asada and enchiladas. The enchiladas can be filled with all types of meat, beef, pulled pork and if you’re feeling adventurous lengua (tongue), My favorite is the chicken. Something magical happens when they prepare their chicken to put in their enchiladas. It is the MOISTEST chicken I’ve ever had in an enchilada.

California Taco Truck Lacey & Olympia

Looking for Mexican food on the go? Look no further than California Tacos. They have four locations in Thurston County—two in Lacey and two in Olympia. Their taco and quesadillas are served on fresh white corn tortillas, and are topped with your choice of meat and cilantro. They also have tortas—which are Mexican sandwiches stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables.   Make it a combo with refried beans and rice. They also have portable tables and chairs with limited seating, which makes a great outdoor dining option on a sunny day.

Ramirez Mexican Store, 5105 Capitol Blvd. SW #C Tumwater

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

I’ve written about the Ramirez Mexican Store, located on Tumwater Blvd., just south of the Costco/Freddy’s complex on Trosper. It’s both an eatery and a store to buy Mexican spices, fresh salsa and pan dulce (sweet Mexican doughnuts).  What they’re best known for is their tamales. For about $3 each, they’re longer than the length of your hand, smothered in either red tomato salsa or green roasted tomatillo salsa, drizzled with crema—a smooth dairy sauce and topped with cotija cheese.

El Toro, Tacoma

With multiple locations in Lakewood and Tacoma, this Mexican restaurant LOVES CHEESE. Everything is covered in a thick, melty layer of jack and cheddar cheeses. And best of all—they have two kinds of salsa—green tomatillo/jalapeno and red tomato salsa.

La Salvadorena, 122 H St. Aberdeen

salvadorena 1 salvadorena 2

Ok. So this place sells Salvadorian food and does not technically qualify as Mexican food. But Salvadorian cooking is very similar to Mexican cooking, with staples like tacos and enchiladas. What sets Salvadorian restaurants apart from Mexican restaurants is the papusa. (Pa-poo-SA). Papusas are thick, homemade corn stuffed with cheese and various fillings. La Salvadorena has nearly a dozen filling combinations including jalapenos, beef, cheese, chicken,  chorizo (Mexican sausage) and lengua. They have also recently expanded their menu to include desserts like fried plantains and flan.

I Cooked This! Strawberry Blue Cheese Crumble Salad Drizzled with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

It’s mid June. That means summer’s just days away. It also means it’s berry season! I enjoy  growing strawberries out of a plastic container on the patio.  I also love stopping by Spooner Berry Farms Berry stands. They have over a dozen locations throughout the South Sound including Tumwater, West Olympia and Lacey. There’s even a berry stand on the coast in Aberdeen! (Note: You should buy your berries early, as the berry stands are usually sold out by 3 p.m.) They also have U-pick berry fields that are open seasonally.

StrawberrySalad

Chopped strawberries served over salad greens and blue cheese crumbles, drizzled with honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing

However you get your strawberries, there are thousands of recipes out there. One of my favorites is to chop them up and put them in a salad with feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The combination of acidity from the balsamic vinegar, salty , creaminess of the blue cheese crumbles and tartness of the strawberries might sound strange. But don’t let that stop you from trying it! The secret ingredient that ties all the flavors together is honey. It tames the other bolder flavors, so none of them outshine each other.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Honey
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch of course salt and pepper

Directions

1. Prepare strawberries: Hull out the centers and cut into chunks

2. Wash and rinse salad greens. Any type of lettuce will do, OR use spinach.

3. Add strawberries to greens in bowl and sprinkle with desired amount of  blue cheese crumbles.

4. Combine honey, oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Alternatively, you can add all ingredients to a screw top jar and shake vigorously until combined.

5. Drizzle over salad greens and toss to combine.

A flat of strawberries from Spooner Berry Farm

A flat of strawberries from Spooner Berry Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spooner Berry Farms has plenty of other recipes on their website. Have a favorite berry recipe? Share it below in the comments or email southsoundfoodiegirl@gmail.com.

berrybarn

A Spooner Berry Farms berry barn is an iconic summertime image in the South Puget Sound.