cinco de mayo: the best Mexican food in Dublin
Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you’d asked me a couple months ago what I’d be doing today, I probably would have said something along the lines of “well, hopefully I’ll still be on set for filming, so maybe production will get another taco truck to celebrate.” Yes, I felt absolutely spoiled on the set I was so lucky to be working on not too long ago. I truly miss it and all the people I got to spend 12+ hours with each day. If any of you are reading this, I miss you lots and can’t wait to finish strong (and thank you, HBO, for so many delicious food truck surprises)!
I am, however, not on set but in Los Angeles. If you got a chance to read my last post, “may the 4th be with you: Dingle style,” (which by the way makes me sing Gangnam Style except with Dingle thrown in there) I wrote about how lucky I was to spend part of a girls’ Villanova road trip in an area of Ireland where some Star Wars movies were filmed (you can read it here). Being in LA, I’m spoiled by a surplus of absolutely incredible Mexican food, but as this is supposed to be a series about my time living in Europe, I wanted to take today to pivot back to Dublin and to my favorite Mexican restaurant I found while living there.
When I first started getting accustomed to Dublin and making Irish friends - in class, through comedy, in my basketball league - I asked nearly everyone where I could find some delicious Mexican food. I tried a few places that were suggested to me, and they were all pretty decent, but having lived in LA for five years before moving to Ireland, my bar was a bit higher (I already admitted I was spoiled!). I remember actually trying to do some research of my own to see if there had been any places I’d missed, but most of the recommendations I’d received were also ones that were very popular among travelers and travel blog suggestions.
Have you ever just wandered and gotten lost in a new place? In my second post of this series, I wrote how I would go for long training runs that helped me learn the layout of the city; the way that I stumbled onto Azteca was not all that different. While I was training for the Barcelona Marathon, I had gone for a long, slow run one weekend in absolutely miserable weather. The weather in Ireland in winter is fairly unpleasant but since it doesn’t really snow, I found myself unable to justify not venturing out into the chilly rain. On the days where the rain seemed a bit on the worse side rather than the usual rain (yes, there was a spectrum of rain tolerance and varying degrees of "not-that-bad, bad, miserable, and have a duvet day, girl" rain), I would try to do runs through the city as opposed to along the coast so that I would hopefully get a bit more cover/protection from buildings. I ran through St. Stephen’s Green, around the back of Trinity’s campus, across the River Liffey, down to O’Connell Street and back across the Liffey to Dame Street, running all the way out past Dublin Castle to the Guinness Storehouse and back. On my run back from the Guinness Storehouse to Rathmines, I looked up during a brief reprieve from lashing rain and noticed Azteca. Now, to be clear, this wasn’t some Hollywood movie moment - I didn’t hear angels sing or see rays of light, but what I did see was a kind-looking woman wave at me, smile, and give me a thumbs up. I waved, smiled, and laughed, noting the location, and continued on my run.
I went back to Azteca the very next day, grabbed myself a small table in the corner, and ordered chips and guac, chicken enchiladas verdes, and a bottle of Jarritos. It was a lot of food, but the woman recognized me from the day before and asked me about my running. I told her about my past half-marathons and upcoming marathons, and I told her I was so excited when I saw Jarritos that I nearly cried (happy tears, y'all). The meal was incredible, authentic Mexican food, and I vowed to visit again multiple times after that first trip (which I did! and I even brought some friends to try it out, too!). The most amazing part, aside from finding it in the rain, enjoying Jarritos, talking about running, and crushing some mouth-watering enchiladas, was that I didn’t realize it was a cash only establishment. I had only brought a card with me and hadn’t realized it was cash only until the end of the meal. I explained this to the server, and she smiled. She then told me that it happens all the time and that I could head around the corner to the ATM for cash. I asked her if she wanted me to leave my phone or something as collateral, and she laughed. I don’t know if I could think of a scenario off the top of my head where that situation plays out in the United States. Now, I know there are restaurants where my friends, family, and I could have that happen and be ok just based on the fact that we’ve been loyal customers for forever and the people know us, but I was a stranger to this woman at Azteca, and she trusted that I would come back and pay. (Sidebar: I'm sure this is wrong btw. I've seen a lot of the US - 38 states - and have encountered so many wonderful people; I just have yet to have the same situation occur.)
Of course I would come back and pay. A childhood friend convinced me to dine and dash once from a pizza place on the boardwalk, and while she went into one of the other t-shirt stores a couple stops down, I went back and paid for our pizza. It is not in me to not pay, and maybe the server at Azteca sensed that? Or maybe it’s that old-fashioned sense of Irish hospitality - the same hospitality my parents have for helping others and taking people in. Either way, Azteca became my place for Mexican food in Dublin - not only because the food was absolutely phenomenal, but also because the people who work there are, too.
So do you have any fun, delicious plans for Cinco de Mayo? Perhaps a favorite restaurant for Mexican food, or maybe homemade margaritas and guacamole is more your style? OR do you have a similar story from a time you’ve traveled? I’d love to know! Thank you so much for reading, and, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further with me, please subscribe in the e-mail submission box below, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so grateful you're here and that I’ve been getting a lot of really great, fun-to-read questions and feedback from a community all over the world. Especially during this time of uncertainty and pandemic, it's important to find your tribe and surround yourself with good; we're all in this together. I couldn’t do this without you! So THANK YOU!
P.S. - If you want to catch up from the beginning on this series of adventures, here's a cheat sheet to the posts (in order in which they were published):
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