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The best Mexican dishes in Western New York

For eaters who calibrated their Mexican cuisine meters in Mexico, Los Angeles and Austin, Buffalo was a vale of sorrow for most of my life.

That's changed. There's still plenty of room for improvements, but at least there's places to get tacos that don't automatically come with lettuce and shredded cheese.

Legitimate Mexican tacos on fresh corn tortillas, the sandwiches called tortas, chilaquiles, sopes, mole – all these treasures can now be found within 20 minutes of City Hall.

Here are my favorites, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Yours are probably different, which is really for the best. It's already hard enough to get a table for four at Taqueria los Mayas.

Taqueria los Mayas

3525 Genesee St., Cheektowaga

906-3730, taquerialosmayas.com

Vibrant red rojo chile sauce and green (verde) sauce of tomatillo, cilantro, lime and green chile are standards at Taqueria los Mayas. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

My favorite all-around Mexican place. Housemade tortillas and tacos filled with meats that are finished on the griddle for crispy-edged satisfaction. Full salsa bar for duding up tacos and plates. Vibrant verde and rojo sauces, lunch plates, tortas, charro beans and choriqueso, all recommended.

The best tacos are filled with meats griddled to enhance their flavor and texture, as in these Taqueria los Mayas samples. Clockwise from upper left: carnitas, chorizo with tripe, pork with pineapple in chile sauce (al pastor). (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

At Taqueria los Mayas Mexican restaurant, family cooks for families

Monte Alban

507 E. Center St., Medina

(585) 798-9767

At the taco trailer next to Medina's Monte Alban grocery store, legit tacos, fillings griddled before serving, come five for $8. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

This taco trailer, next to a Mexican grocery, is open Friday through Sunday, late spring to mid-fall. Tacos, five for $8, are served with bottles of house rojo (ouch) and verde (tingly) salsas. Definitive tortas (beans, cheese, mayonnaise, pickled jalapeno, sliced avocado plus taco meat on crusty griddled roll), $5.

Mariachi de Oro

11417 Maple Ridge Road, Medina

(585) 798-8961, mariachideoromexicangrill.com

Tacos are decent here, but sopes (discs of corn masa topped with meat, cheese, tomato, onion) are superior. Don't miss the earthy beans, and rare moles – coloradito and tarry, intense negro – that you can't find anywhere else.

Mariachi de Oro's menu reflects food from home in family-run place

El Ranchito

9780 Main St., Clarence

408 Evans St., Williamsville

320-5830 (Clarence), 906-3314 (Williamsville), elranchitowny.com

The Camarones (shrimp) al Chipotle from El Ranchito. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

A solid menu of by-the-numbers Mexican at these two locations includes several dishes I'd return for, including shrimp in smoky, spicy chipotle cream ($14.25).

El Ranchito delivers hearty plates of Mexican family favorites - 7

Mexico City

5569 Camp Road, Hamburg

202-1397, mexicocityhamburg.com

Mexico City's mole poblano is made with a mild spicy sweet sauce and over 32 ingredients. It's served with rice and beans. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Successor to Valle of Mexico II has upgraded service to adequate, bringing me back for mole poblano and gutsy rojo and verde sauces. Try the cricket taco if you dare.

At Mexico City, mole to revel in, grasshopper tacos and more

Juanes Mexican

9416 Transit Road, East Amherst

276-3434

Posole is a weekends-only special at Juanes. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

New Transit Road place does a trim lineup of the usual dishes plus restorative posole (pork and corn) and menudo (chile tripe) stews on weekends. Add the shredded cabbage, add the onion, use the corn tortillas for dipping, and feel the hangover ebb.

Starters: posole, carnitas at Juanes Mexican Restaurant

Casa Azul

128 Genesee St.

331-3869, casaazulbuffalo.com

Casa Azul's chicken tacos are served on handmade corn tortillas. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Chef Zina Lapi and fine-dining Mexican chef Victor Parra Gonzalez, a James Beard Award semi-finalist, offer some of the finer tacos in town, especially the chicken taco, with chicken chicharron ($3.25). Also try the fried fish taco ($6) and chicken enchiladas ($12) with salsa roja, pepitas and peanuts.

At Casa Azul, tacos, tamales and mole, oh my

Send restaurant tips to agalarneau@buffnews.com and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.

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