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Perfect Mexican Restaurant: Mexico Lindo

PDDPerfectMexicanRestaurantAwardLogoDuluthians complain about their Mexican restaurants almost as much as they complain about the weather. The cuisinal affective disorder is prevalent enough that Perfect Duluth Day was compelled to include a “none are worthy” option in its poll to determine the best Mexican restaurant. When the voting was complete, however, one enterprise was worthy: Mexico Lindo.

Mexico Lindo Duluth

Owner Felipe Mata opened Mexico Lindo on the top floor of the Fitger’s Brewing Complex in 2010. Duluthians had high expectations, based on the reputation of the Mexico Lindo that opened five years earlier in downtown Cloquet. Though some have never stopped squawking that the food and service at the Duluth location is inferior to that in Cloquet, those in the voting majority just cram a Burrito Cancun in their yaps, let the Oaxaca cheese drip down their chins and wonder what the griping is about.

What can’t be denied is that Mexico Lindo in Duluth has an expansive menu, a great layout spanning 8,600 square feet with a deck overlooking Lake Superior, and good drink prices.

Mata, a native of San José de la Paz in the Mexican state of Jalisco, came to America at the age of 13 and opened his first restaurant with his brother Arturu in 1980. He also owns a chain of Teresa’s Mexican Restaurants (named after his wife) in Georgia, South Carolina and suburbs of Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

It should be noted that Perfect Duluth Day defines its territory for PDD awards as “anything in Duluth or 10 miles of its border,” so the Cloquet Lindo was not eligible. The Duluth Lindo received 29.5 percent of the vote, while “none are worthy” took 25.6 percent of the vote. Other restaurants in the poll will not be mentioned here, because, well, they were deemed unworthy.

PDD Awards Index

40 Comments

marketfried

about 6 years ago

Beating out a "none are worthy" option by less than 4% (in the margin of error) is not a "win." Lindo is terrible. 

"Mexican food in Duluth" is not a phrase that should be spoken ... as it doesn't exist.

piker

about 6 years ago

I just returned from a brief trip to Texas, Houston -- where the restaurants are either true Mexico-Mexican, unlike any Duluth Mexican place, or American style Tex-Mex, which is basically what the restaurants in Duluth tend to be. I can't help but marvel that even fast food Mexican in Texas have better food than restaurants in Duluth that are full dinner price, sit down establishments. 

I regret that I used up my 'calling it perfect is a grading curve' comment on the Italian section. Calling Mexico Lindo "Perfect" is redefining the word Perfect to mean "the best out of a hopelessly flawed field."

Herzog

about 6 years ago

What Piker said, twice...

Best dive bar?

FrozenPiranha

about 6 years ago

Having lived in Texas for 9 out of the past 15 years, I feel qualified to say that in Duluth all "mexican" restaurants deserve both the quotation marks and the lower case m. They are not good, by the standards of Tex-Mex restaurant elsewhere in the world. However, by Duluth standards they are not bad, and when you need a change of pace from the Applebee's and "texas" Roadhouse's of the world, they do in a pinch.  

At "mexico" Lindo, the prices are pretty good and the food is filling, if not exciting. It is also nice to have a place where you can order a boat drink in the dregs of another dreary March or April, when you need a little color and a splash of tequila. Another note about Texas, and Houston in particular, is that there are so many restaurant choices in that town that crappy and even average places don't stay in business very long. Stiff competition keeps quality up and prices stable. Duluth has a very limited competition pool, so either places have excellence in their mission statements (i.e. Lake Ave Café, Duluth Grill) or thrive on the acceptance of mediocrity. That acceptance of mediocrity keeps the chains in business. Just a thought.

emmadogs

about 6 years ago

Ditto to Piker.  "Perfect" has to mean something other than 'bland, bland, bland" if the PDD award is going to be helpful to locals and to tourists looking for real Mexican food.  We just shouldn't have this category in Duluth.  

We were in New Mexico again this summer.  Amazing food.  Sure, it's not 'fair' to compare Duluth food to New Mexican food, but then again, it's not fair to call both cuisines 'Mexican' or 'Southwestern' or "Tex Mex" or whatever.  Our Duluth version is...bland.  That is why we shouldn't have a 'best of' in this category.  There is no such thing.

Herzog

about 6 years ago

I do applaud the use of creative terms such as 'Cuisinal Defective Disorder'

Herzog

about 6 years ago

And... I'm glad I can at least now go to several places here that serve canned refried beans. There was a time, not that long ago, where that wasn't even possible. And to their credit, there are no other places period you can get a pitcher of Two Hearted for six bucks.

The Fitgers Complex however, is maybe developing this creepy ultra overused vibe to it? (The bathrooms will never be the site of an accidental autoerotic asphyx.)  And/or its unrepentant catering to the balloon headed American diet for all things kitsch and luxurious simply rubbeth me the wrong way. 

This country's weird relationship to authenticity, or lack thereof, is perhaps the real theme here.

Claire

about 6 years ago

I love Mexican food -- I grew up on it. and I really adore the charred tomatillo salsa at Burrito Union. 

That is all.

Dorkus

about 6 years ago

Yeah, Lindo in Duluth does not live up to expectations. 

I remember being so excited that Mexico Lindo was coming to Duluth. For a few years prior to the expansion, I had been driving to Cloquet specifically to eat at their original location. 

Being someone who spent a lot of time in Texas throughout his life, finding acceptable Mexican food up here was very difficult until they opened in Cloquet. Finally there was a place that served actual Mexican food. I brought my father who has been the executive chef for 20+ years at a country club in Texas to the Cloquet location and he was very impressed. He even asked to speak to the chef as he had not found good Carnitas north of Dallas.  

So when the Duluth location opened, I was there 3 times in the first week of operation and the food was wonderful. Then about 3-4 weeks after that I got my first meal that was ... off. From that point the food got progressively worse. I figure they had the cooks from Cloquet up for a few weeks to assist with the opening and then they went back to Cloquet as I really have not been satisfied with a meal there in a long while. 

I would suggest trying the Cloquet location before writing off all "Mexican" food in the area. Hopefully they still have what made them special.

forrestdweller

about 6 years ago

Most of the Mexican style food in Duluth is various forms of snotty cheese.  Careful the plate is hot!

Mr. Nied

about 6 years ago

I heard a rumor Mexico Lindo is planning a move to the old Twins Bar location on the corner of Fifth Avenue East and Fourth Street. Any truth to this, anyone else hear this rumor?

Special K

about 6 years ago

I highly doubt they're moving to the Twins, given their cherry spot in Fitgers with the deck.  

Also, with all the negativity on display here I really have to ask: what have people been ordering that is so sub-par compared to what they see as the "authentic" equivalent that justifies the vitriol.  I usually order the carnitas and have always found them quite tasty.

Mary K Tennis

about 6 years ago

Shameless plugging be damned, Northern Waters Smokehaus is doing carne adobada as a Monday lunch special (I work at NWSH). 

I would not shill for my company on PDD if not for all the caterwauling above: these tacos are truly special, and need to be devoured by the folks who want something un-bland and very different than anything in town. 

Carne adobada is a traditional New Mexican-style sauced meat "stew" that we cook down until the pork is melt-in-your-mouth and the sauce is thickened. It is simple and spicy and incredible.

Dorkus

about 6 years ago

Honestly, the move to the Twins location would be a great idea for Lindo.

The main reason why other restaurants have failed in their current location is because it is simply not in a very visible location and the rent is high. 

Moving to the old Twins location would save them considerably on rent, put them in a more visible location as well as give them closer proximity to Essentia, which employs thousands of people. 

The only problem being that AFAIK Twins did not have a full kitchen, and renovating it to add a full kitchen with the required hood and fire suppression systems would likely make it cost prohibitive.

emmadogs

about 6 years ago

Mary, thanks for the heads up!

Claire

about 6 years ago

I like Lindo's fish tacos and shrimp tacos. You just aren't going to the get the same quality of Mexican cuisine you get somewhere with a larger Mexican population.  I ate recently at some little Mexican hole-in-the-wall cafe in Wheatland, Wyoming, and it was delicious. The cooks were all from the old country.

huitz

about 6 years ago

I think people should relax a little bit. Does Duluth have a good quality Mexican restaurant? I think the answer is no. But, to be honest, we are a little quick to judgement and spoiled by having places like Fitger's Brewhouse and Duluth Grill.

I can say that, because I've actually been to New Mexico and eaten some of the worst food (by worst, I mean inauthentic) I can imagine. I've also been to Texas and ate food that tasted nothing like what we want to label "Tex-mex." I've been to Kansas and ate where Anthony Bourdain said was one of his "20 places you have to eat before you die." It was horrible, like in-your-face horrible. I've been to New Orleans, where hardly anybody there actually talks like your alligator-wrangler TV-show folks. Go figure. I already knew that would happen, but go figure. Jambalaya, by the way, down there is a side dish. I digress.

Enough about where I've been. I can honestly say that Duluth doesn't have a Mexican-themed restaurant that I will go to without being forced to do so, but that doesn't make me upset. I will eat at Lindo, Maya, Taco John's, etc. and not complain.

No plug here, but the best Mexican food in the world is actually not here, or even in Mexico. It's at Casa Alvarez in Boulder, Colo. But, like anything, you gave to go at the right time.

adam

about 6 years ago

I would settle for consistency.

Claire

about 6 years ago

I've had crappy Mexican food in Mexico. Best Mexican food, i.e. tacos, I ever had was in Los Angeles. A little hole in the wall near Staples Center. OMG.

Dorkus

about 6 years ago

Best Mexican I have ever had was in an old gas station in rural North Carolina. 

It was just goat meat, cilantro and corn tortillas. Delicious. I am pretty sure they slaughtered the goat out back.

edgeways

about 6 years ago

"I would settle for consistency."

I hear McDonald's is good for that.

piker

about 6 years ago

Strangely the best Mexican food in town is found at Italian places. Pizza Luce's  Huevos Rancheros, for instance are actually made with fresh-ish ingredients and are topped with a sauce that has flavor which doesn't seem to come from a can! And the nachos at Old Chicago or Sir Ben's (hmm, which counts since it's owned by an Italian person...) are better than anything at any of these Mexican restaurants.

Endion

about 6 years ago

I never lived in Texas, but my wife and her family are from there. Hands down they all agree that Aztecas up by the mall is the most authentic. How many of you have tried their food? Lindo just pours cheese on top of everything and is more Minnesota-Mex than Tex-Mex. Give Aztecas a try, it is in that little mall behind Bridgman's. 

Also, can we please get a Chipotle here? I drive by the Blue Stone and dream of in that little mall thing they are building to see the steel sign go up.

toyota200x

about 6 years ago

I have been to various "mexican" restaurants around Northern MN (Hibbing, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Twin Ports). They all seem to have the same menu or very similar. It is like they are ordering meal kits from food service and popping them in the oven. 

My #1 complaint about the food served at Lindo is that it is over processed [from a can or jar]. No resemblance of fresh in the meal which equals no love in how it is prepared. Don't get me started on the liquid cheese that the burritos float in. 

I love the black bean burrito at Fitger's because of all the fresh tasting toppings. It is like I would make it at home.

piker

about 6 years ago

I've observed that often locals mistake criticisms of area Mexican restaurants' poor cooking as regarding whether the meals are "not authentic."

It's not about being authentic, it's about actually cooking good quality food.  None of the other categories of restaurants we're discussing are filled with establishments who just go to the back and microwave you up some frozen stuff they made two weeks ago.

emmadogs

about 6 years ago

Lake Ave Cafe used to have a really great burrito on its lunch menu. It wasn't traditional Mex at all, but was made with super fresh and flavorful ingredients.  We always ordered it when we went there for lunch. It hasn't been on the menu for awhile. I can't access the menu online right now so don't know if it's been recently reinstated.

emmadogs

about 6 years ago

Chester Creek Cafe always does a really good Mexican recipe when they have it on the menu.  Just checked and they do have something currently.

Herzog

about 6 years ago

Well, hold on to your cockrings fellow cheese cream haters, and clear the airwaves for the next 'not another chain/maybe you should move to Alaska rant,' because it looks like Qdoba is comin' to town!

Claire

about 6 years ago

Chester Creek Cafe has great Mexican b/c Carla is from Texas.

piker

about 6 years ago

Yes, their huevos rancheros and enchilada puts Chester Creek in the category of non-Mexican restaurants with better Mexican food than the Mexican restaurants. In line with my last comment, how they make the food fresh out of food and know how to run a good restaurant makes all the difference, not the 'authenticity'!

JustJen

about 6 years ago

So I just heard on the news, channel 10/13, that for certain Chipotle will be in Duluth early 2014.

piker

about 6 years ago

I don't want a Chipotle or q'Doba - we'd be blessed to get a real Mexican breakfast place.

I was passing through Des Moines and there's a place I always stop to go to Caribou and Target, Mills Civic Parkway (like exit 72 heading south to KC on the freeway). Lucky them, next to Caribou there's this place, Abelardo's. It's a fast-food breakfast place that has better food than any Mex place in Duluth! What do they have? Homemade tortillas, salsa bar with salsa that actually has flavor, food prepared when you order it, menu items like egg and potato burritos.

Herzog

about 6 years ago

Allright alright, Jesus!  Look Piker, decent Mexican, as much as I would love it more than you, simply is not possible in the Norwegian Riviera.  I think Mexicans working at these places feel strongly compelled to dumb it down for the gringos.  Wabasha has a great one last time I checked, and Sioux Falls SD, Texas, Arizona and San Diego do, but not all the listing off of places west of here in the world is going to bring them to Duluth.  In Germany I had carrots and broccoli in my burrito, the only other place I've seen stuff unlawful carrots in there is called the Burrito Union.

adam

about 6 years ago

How the fuck does my request for consistency in food preparation and service at local restaurants translate into "McDonalds??"

Endion

about 6 years ago

@Justjen: You better not be fooling! It will be a perfect Duluth day when that opens up. I've heard many rumors over the years and every time I get an email from them I reply begging Chipotle to come up here.

Endion

about 6 years ago

http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/Chipotle-to-open-at-Miller-Hill-Mall-in-March-of-2014-231091591.html

THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU CHIPOTLE!!! No more will I be forced to eat horrible burritos at Burrito Union or the puke fest of a Santa Fe from Taco Johns. Miller Hill Mall will be opening a Chipotle!! This is my perfect Duluth day!

piker

about 6 years ago

I think decent Mexican food is possible here. People support rather lousy restaurants whole-heartedly (people have told me Hacienda del Sol or the Maya was their 'favorite restaurant') or that they love the Brewhouse salsa... Both of which are decent but fairly flavorless. So, there's demand for actual quality restaurants of this type, but as all mex. restaurants we've had here are mediocre, locals lack an informed basis for evaluation or comparison. If there was an actually good restaurant of this type here, it would do well since somehow the bad ones remain open year after year.

jamesg

about 5 years ago

I find it hilarious that a bunch of Scandinavians from Northern Minnesota feel like they have the right to say what is "real Mexican food."  You all know there are people living in Duluth who are immigrants from Mexico right?  Many of them have opened restaurants here. Just because you had a burrito in Cancun on your spring break doesn't make you a connoisseur of fine Mexican food.

Claire

about 5 years ago

Just because someone is from an ethnic group or from a certain country, doesn't mean they will be experts in their native cuisine. It's all about freshness and flavor. Too often around here, not only are the items used to prepare the food not fresh (easier to do in Calif. and Mexico than here all year, I must say), but too often the food is dumbed-down here for Midwestern palates. Or it should be called "Mexican fusion" because it sure isn't authentic.

I still have to try Chipotle. I walked into one in NYC last month, but it was packed. I'd like to know how the Chipotles do in California, where you can get amazing Mexican food from mom and pop holes-in-the-wall almost everywhere. Even Salinas.

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