Eastern Europe Loves Mexicans

Mexican food in Vienna. Not what you think it is. Mexican food in Vienna. Not what you think it is.

“Pretty sure I’m the only Mexican in Eastern – Is that a mariachi band?!”

Walking through the streets of Prague, we stumbled on live music in a Czech restaurant. It was a mariachi band with all the bells and whistles (literally).

“All the way over here?” I mumbled.

As the days passed on our honeymoon, I noticed more surprising infiltrations of Mexican culture: the tortilla aisle in grocery stores, frozen ready-made tamales and enchiladas, a handful of Mexican restaurants amidst old-timey, traditional pubs and the like. Even the occasional really messed up Mexican curse words turned restaurant names popped up on our jaunts from time-to-time.

See that? Messed up. See that? Messed up. And really REALLY messed up. And that’s really REALLY messed up.

I was surprised. I always prided myself on being (allegedly) the only Mexican in Europe or Asia or whatever country we were visiting that wasn’t a mere 200 miles from the Mexican border. It’s presumptuous of me, I know. But, it’s also the big joke among my friends: “You’re mexican???” they would ask. “Yeah,” I’d nod. “Half. But, see, I’m a Mexican in Scot—a half-Mexican in Scotland.”

I searched up and down for an explanation of the prevalence of this Latino subculture in Europe. There were no distinct reasons. But, if I had to venture a guess, I think it’s because a lot of expats set up shop shortly after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. There were so many capitalism opportunities in Eastern Europe and a lot of those people really REALLY loved Mexican food. Some of them –gasp!–might have even been Mexican.

As we passed the mariachi band and I pondered how anyone could sit through a cacophony of violins, trumpets and guitars (yes, “cacophony”), I became totally aware that the world is tiny. We’re all just people intertwined with only a mere six degrees of separation and some Bacon. It’s so easy to share what we love with others, find something new to cherish and to reminisce in the history of any place. And that’s possibly why Mexican food is so popular in Prague (among other places in Europe): it’s new, it’s cherished and yet, reminiscent of a place very far away.

But, Mexican food in Europe? Is it good? I’ve always thought that you haven’t had great Mexican food unless you’ve had it in Los Angeles and San Diego. Or, you know, the obvious: Mexico. In fact, I believe that the salsa verde made by Homeboy Industries in LA is THE best salsa verde I have ever had. That’s quite a statement coming from a Mexican. A half-Mexican (just trust me on this, the salsa verde is good).

So, it was in Vienna that we decided we would give this Mexican food a try. As we perused the menu, we looked over at someone making the salsa. “Is that…” Frank pointed. I looked over at a distinctly-shaped

Bottle of ketchup.

“That is,” I sighed. “That’s ketchup…” Somewhere in that six degrees of separation—and all that glorious Bacon—someone switched some key ingredients in the salsa. And that was the first –and last –time we tried Mexican food in Europe.

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15 responses

  • !!! The salsa verde by Homeboy is THE BEST. I’m from LA and craved Mexican food at least once a week when I lived in London this past year. Wahaca is the new favorite Mexican chain in London and it’s really not bad but there is still no comparison. Their cocktails are amazing though 😉

    Happy travels!

  • Lol, I wish I knew what those curse words mean (or maybe I don’t).
    Good Mexican food can be hard to come by in Canada but luckily we’ve got one spot called Hector’s Casa which I was angrily told by my spanish teacher should actually be La Casa de Hector.
    Otherwise I have some educating that needs to be done when it comes to authentic Mexican food.


    • The first photo is fairly benign. It’s a slang for tatas. But the second one is a whore’s child. Come to LA! We have some amazing food spots here. =)

    • I think there is a population of Mexicans in Eastern Europe. And Americans who loved Mexican food a lot and moved to Eastern Europe. But, I think this restaurant thought the words were cool. It’s kind of like if I curse in French, it means nothing to me, since I didn’t grow up understanding the specific stigma. So, Spanish curse words probably mean nothing to them. Made for a fun picture, though!

  • All the Indian food I saw in Europe surprised me too… Especially because in 4.5 weeks in those countries, I barely saw 10 Indians in all (out of which 8 were probably running those restaurants)!! I didn’t dare try any though, because all previous experiences had ended in utter disappointment.
    Ketchup in salsa 😀 I had a Mexican roommate long enough to know that that can’t possibly be right!

  • I believe I once read that after the soviets took all of eastern europe they banned american movies and showed only translated mexican movies and since ranchero comedies were the majority of these they made a whole population of eastern europeans love mexican music… there a large amount of eastern european ranchero songs..

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