Every year, migration from Mexico coupled with raza ingenuity combine to teach the United States, gabacho and Mexican alike, new Mexican dishes. Believe it or not, there was a time where non-chilango wabs didn't know about alambres, where nachos were only popular in California and Texas, and when al pastor was just a rumor. So what are the next Mexican food trends for the United States going to be? Let your trusty Mexican give you 10 dishes that are ready to hit the mainstream (sorry, fans of raicilla, ant eggs, and pulque—those will always remain regional obsessions). And before you start complaining about how tostilocos are so common that you can get them from the mujer who parks on Standard and Edinger ever day, remember that we're talking about the non-Mexican United States, not SanTana or even Huntington Park. Enjoy!
Yep: That most ubiquitous of aguas frescas in Southern California is virtually unknown in the rest of the country. But a big push this past summer by Rumchata has served as an unlikely education for Americans. Expect gabachos to try Rumchata, realize rum and horchata are better separate, and graduate to horchata.
Hipster drunks have been drinking mezcal in Southern California for at least the last four years, but it's barely bubbling up in high-end bars in the Midwest and beyond, and has made no mainstream penetration whatsoever into a country that still thinks Sauza is God. But assimilation works both ways: I'm starting to notice more and more Mellow Corn corn whiskey at bars in Southern California three years after I brought some for local bars—yes, I'm taking credit for it, at least at Memphis haha.
Ever since Taco Maria's Carlos Salgado created his alta cocina version of aguachile a couple of years ago, his peers in the high-end dining world have tripped over themselves trying to top him. Ain't going to happen, cabrones, but kudos for trying. Meanwhile, the original, paisa version of the Sinaloan seafood marvel will start slipping onto the menus of the Red Lobsters and Long John Silvers of the world soon. Shrimp and chile—a match made in gabacho heaven!
I'm amazed this Mexican sandwich has yet to blast off the way it should (yes, Rick Bayless sells tortas at O'Hare Airport, and Cook's Tortas in Southern California has a couple of spots going). And as long as I've been lecturing about Mexican food, I've been telling people they should mainstream this dish because it's so obviously easy: French roll, Mexican ingredients inside. Fuck, even Donald Trump would eat this—but better he doesn't, lest it get infested with his evil.
Yes, corn: Mexican corn! I've seen corn on the cob advertised as “Mexican street corn,” but also esquites, which are boiled corn kernels spiked with chile, lime, and butter. Before you start eating, America, learn that those are two separate dishes.
Mexicans have been making sumptuous stews and putting them in tortillas since before the Olmec, but America never caught onto that, obsessed as they are with fried, grilled, barbecued, and roasted meats. Things are slowly changing, as more hipsters travel to Texas and learn the cults of taco shops with a dozen bubbling guisados in front of ya, and Californians continue to flock to the eponymous Guisados (best one is still off Brooklyn Avenue—err, Avenida Cesar Chavez—in Boyle Heights).
4. Breakfast Burritos
America remains burrito-crazy—specifically, Mission burrito-style loco—thanks to Chipotle. And because America remains such a lemming to the E. coli-stricken chain, they've yet to truly embrace breakfast burritos. Oh, Taco Bell and even Taco John's sells them, but I knew breakfast burritos were about to become a thing when I saw them at a roadside stand near Pall Mall, Tennessee earlier this summer. And if they're starting to become a trend there, they'll soon be EVERYWHERE.
3. Breakfast Tacos
Not to be outdone, Tex-Mex remains relevant in the American conversation about Mexican food gracias to breakfast tacos, the younger, wimpier cousin of breakfast burrito. The sole credit for that trend goes to Austin, where they became such an obsession that chains like Taco Bell and Del Taco put them on their menus in response. But they've yet to filter down into the mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants outside of Texas, because Mexicans eat for breakfast…
I just did a list of the 10 best chilaquiles in Orange County, which was prompted by a visit to a gabacho-run Mexican restaurant in Kentucky (I'm talking about the hollers, son!) that featured the item. Mexicans have prepared this dish as long as we've had access to cooking oil (gracias, conquistadors!), but it never really penetrated the U.S. Well, folks, if chilaquiles can play in Appalachia, it'll be playing everywhere else soon.
But the one dish that I predict will finally hit the American mainstream is one that's slowly been conquering los Estados Unidos…
1. Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs
This dish (originally known as the Sonoran Dog) has served as my litmus test for the spread of regional Mexican food in the United States. Originally from Sonora and hitting Southern California in the late 1990s, brought over by cousins who partied hearty in Tijuana, it has been traveling up I-5 and east on I-10 and I-40 ever since. They're just getting popular in Albuquerque, still not known in El Paso, and a buzzworthy addition to Denver's dining scene. Think of it as the ultimate metaphor for Mexicans: if the bacon-wrapped hot dog isn't in your neighborhood yet, it soon will—and it'll marry your daughter, too…HA!