New Orleans was never known for its Mexican food. But that was then, and now is now, as the city's post-Katrina population continues to shift.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of Hispanics in the city increased from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 5.5 percent in 2013. No doubt, this is one reason why mom-and-pop-run as well as chef-driven taquerias continue to spring up all over town.
Here are a few new and notable spots, along with a tried and true French Quarter option, all sure to satisfy your craving for south of the border cuisine.
Try one or all of a dozen tacos at Araña Taqueria y Cantina — Photo courtesy of Araña Taqueria y Cantina
Araña Taqueria y Cantina, home to local chef Richard Papier, is a newcomer on Magazine Street in the Irish Channel. Specializing in riffs on Yucatán-style Mexican cuisine, Araña (which means "spider" in Spanish) is a nod to its chef's longtime nickname.
Look for slow-braised pork, beef, chicken and duck cooked in banana leaves and dishes seasoned with achiote. Papier – who has worked alongside Chefs Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link and Susan Spicer – gets creative with smoky chicken mole, a sendup on chicken fried steak called torta Milanese and a variety of 12 different tacos, including killer fish tacos with jalapeño sauce and a tasty carne asada.
Don't miss the ancho marinated duck with pickled cumin!
Johnny Sanchez – the Mexican love child of local uber-chef John Besh and Food Network wunderkind Aaron Sanchez – is the best thing to happen to Poydras Street since Sculpture for New Orleans. A place that gives the option of roasted grasshoppers on the freshly made guac gets a body's attention.
The menu is locally charged and full of authentic Mexican flavors. A seasonal specialty, the fried Brussels sprouts "salad," is really a revelatory warm veg dish tossed with bits of roasted squash, pomegranate and queso.
The pork belly tacos are sweet, with pineapple glaze and savory with swine-y goodness. Lamb enchiladas, yellowtail tostados, slow-roasted mole – what's not to like?
There are some interesting (and pricey) wines by the glass, along with a very good house margarita and a full list of sipping tequilas. By the way, the place also happens to be gorgeous, bright with a colorful Day of the Dead wall mural and Chihuly-style overhead chandeliers.
With locations in the French Quarter, Uptown and Mid-City, Felipe's is a go-to spot for visitors and locals in need of a quick Mexican fix.
The local Louisiana shrimp tacos are a winner, served battered and fried and best topped with pickled vegetables, cilantro and spicy house-made Baja sauce.
Whichever of these New Orleans Mexican food hubs you choose, you won't be disappointed.