I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re currently in the doldrums of being American.
It’s the period between the summer Olympics and the presidential election, a time where we’re stagnating from an overindulgence of patriotism and global domination shortly before being having our American pride ripped in half by two opposing political parties.
It’s beautifully chaotic, and really offers a full experience of what it’s like to live in this wonderful country. All this patriotism really makes you appreciate where we came from. We’re a country of immigrants. We’ve come in waves at different times from different reaches of the globe, and brought with us various customs and beliefs that have ingrained themselves into our daily routines.
To really identify as American is to appreciate how we’ve become who we are, and where we came from, not as individuals, but as a whole. With that being said, there are some things about our clash of cultures that I appreciate more than others, and one of them is delicious, authentic Mexican food.
For a long time, when I had an insatiable craving for Mexican food, my go-to was La Esperanza, which is outstanding, but a bit of a hike to get to. A drive down the White Horse Pike during rush hour is often more trouble than it’s worth, but what choice did I have? Options for good Mexican food are slim.
La Guadalupana in Westmont is nice for take-out, but leaves something to be desired as a place to sit down and eat, and The Tortilla Press’ marriage of Mexican and American flavors just doesn’t cut it when I’m looking for something authentic. By default—although not a bad default by any means—La Esperanza was my spot.
That is, until I realized the best option of all may be sitting right in my own backyard. Through some sleuthing, I discovered a little place called Fiesta Mexicana. Straddling the Haddon Township/Camden City border is an authentic Mexican kitchen that at once bold and colorful, familiar and unique.
Tacos come traditional (cilantro and chopped onions) or Americanized (lettuce, cheese and sour cream), packed to the brim, and an absolute steal at $2.50 a pop. Lesser-seen delicacies such as carne enchilada (spiced pork), cecina (salted beef) and even tender lengua (beef tongue) stand out among plainer, traditional choices. Best are the suadero (beef shoulder): super tender and bursting with flavor.
The appetizers are not to be ignored either; the fiesta platter, stands out among the best combos I’ve ever tried. The gringa is a bite of sweet and savory heaven: pineapple-sweetened al pastor pork and chorizo, grilled between two flour tortillas and topped with pico de gallo and guacamole. If you want enchiladas, pass on the verde and rojas sauces and go for the deeply resonating mole poblano sauce.
It's a shame that Fiesta Mexicana is located where it is: in a neighborhood that feels rough around the edges. I nearly passed it up, and I’ve no doubt that more than a few people have been turned off by the address. The restaurant itself isn’t in the best condition either, and feels old and stale, especially in contrast with the quality of the food. Whether that adds to your sense of adventure or not, the food speaks for itself.
- Summer is winding down, and that impacts the area significantly. Make sure you visit the Collingswood Farmers Market before it's packed up for the winter. As always, it’s open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
- Am I missing something? Have any ideas? Let me know! Email me at email@example.com and tell me how I can improve my column.
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