Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nashville's Mexican Problem

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Tacos at Saint Añejo
  • Michael Bunch/SouthComm
  • Tacos at Saint Añejo
I think Nashville has a Mexican problem.

[ Tea Party sirens go off ]

NOT THAT KIND OF PROBLEM.

I mean Mexican restaurants. Specifically, upscale Mexican. I was thinking about this a lot while working on the review for Saint Añejo, the new M Street cantina that recently opened.

(I don't want to belabor Saint Añejo it too much. I loved the space and the service, didn't like the food. You can read about it here.)

I haven't been to Alegria yet in Green Hills. Carrington went last year and liked it: "To be sure, Alegria's cuisine is more than just a bean-and-cheese-slathered sidekick to its strawberry-, jalapeno-, cilantro- and peach-infused margaritas."

Opinions seem pretty divided on Cantina Laredo in the Gulch. I know some people who swear by it and others who won't go back. I can take it or leave it, but that's just my point: There's a dearth of really refined places, much less any that delve into regional specialties.

It just takes one trip down Nolensville Road to know that Nashville has a wealth of great Mexican and Central American options. But that's not what I'm talking about here. How many Mexican/Tex-Mex menus elsewhere in the city run the predictable gamut of tacos-fajitas-enchiladas-burritos-carne-asada-insert-dish-here? Most.

And it's not that there's anything particularly wrong with that — I've spent time in a couple of Las Palmas locations, so I'm no aesthete, here — but where is the place that is willing to use Mexican cuisine as a viewpoint and not a set of handcuffs to the same menu we've been eating off of for years?

If you're a Top Chef fan, you've probably seen the work of Carlos Gaytan, whose Mexique in Chicago marries technique honed in French restaurants with a point of view that is uniquely Mexican. The result? A Michelin star this year and last. I think Nashville would go nuts for that kind of place.

What do you think? Is there a place that I'm missing? Do you have a go-to place for really good Mexican?

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