The day after returning from our road trip to Croatia, Travis and I put on our walkin’ shoes and traveled the 10 feet next door to celebrate Carlos’s birthday. What better way is there to do that than with cake and coffee, gifts, and an afternoon hanging out with friends?
Carlos & Nicole, our Portuguese neighbors, then extended an invite to have dinner with a group of mutual friends at La Hacienda near Fribourg, one of the very, very few Mexican restaurants within a 100-kilometer radius.
Mexican food is the all-time favorite food for both Two Small Potatoes (besides steak and potatoes, of course), and since we rarely dine out, especially in Switzerland where the prices are exorbitant, we were especially excited at the prospect of an evening out with friends. Plus, Francis gave me some advice this summer about enjoying life more with regard to culinary experiences (essentially not being such a tightwad), and I’ve been working hard to heed that advice. I’m a work in progress.
Has anyone ever wondered what a Mexican restaurant in Switzerland might be like?
We were definitely curious, and excited.
Entering the restaurant, I was immediately surprised by the interior.
We’ve eaten at a range of Mexican restaurants from the Canadian border, down through the tasty Tex-Mex sunbelt of the American Southwest and into Mexico. Some were total dives, typically with superb food, and some were quite fancy. This place was the mother of them all, at least in terms of interior decor.
Never have I seen a Mexican restaurant this fancy. From the two-story, high ceilinged foyer embellished to resemble a street in colonial Cuernavaca, to the impossibly heavy, solid wood tables and colorful ceramic tiling, the place was fancy. It was typical Swiss with a fine attention to detail, a nice balance of elegance, function, and aesthetic appeal.
But on to the really important stuff – margaritas!
I love margaritas, even though they have tequila. Despite my
affinity for Mexican food (and culture, language, art, etc), I really don’t care for tequila, at least straight. Even “good” tequila isn’t very good, though I admit it’s possible I haven’t actually had really good tequila. When I saw the menu prices, 13 chf for a single mango margarita (which is slightly more in USD), I think I had a mini stroke. Recovering, I remembered my resolve and ordered one anyway, passing it around the table so everyone could try it. Perfectly blended, rich and fruity, it was really tasty! Problem is I could easily have downed two more. I wonder if they have happy hour…
After perusing the menu, I was a bit disappointed to see that it was quite limited.
No chile relleno, tamales, gorditas, enchiladas, quesadillas, carne asada, chilaquiles, or my personal favorite – chimichangas. Chimichangas may not necessarily be “authentic Mexican food,” but what’s not to love about a deep fried burrito?!
Instead, I settled on a burrito de poulet, a chicken burrito for the whoppin’ price of 22 chf. It goes down as the most expensive burrito I’ve ever had. It was also the only menu we’ve ever seen for Mexican food that was in French.
First, I have to say that everything was really, really tasty! In typical Carlos fashion, he generously shared his fajitas, guacamole, and yoghurt, all of which were excellent.
My own burrito was missing the typical mound of guacamole, frijoles or black beans, tomatoes, and fried Mexican rice that we love. It seemed really foreign also not to get our traditional baskets of tortilla chips (ideally homemade) with bottomless pico de gallo. And Mexican food without cilantro? Whu?!
So was our dining experience at La Hacienda in Switzerland “authentic”?
We were a party of five Portuguese, two Americans, and two Swiss dining at a Mexican restaurant in Switzerland.
Do I care that the ingredients were different from what we consider typical Mexican food?
Of course not! One of my favorite things about traveling is trying new things, finding unexpected surprises (like their superb mango margarita and artsy decor), and celebrating differences. Authentic cuisine, whatever that is, is highly overrated. It was far more important for us to share the evening with authentic friends than to find authentic Mexican cuisine in Switzerland.