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
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.
507 E. Center St., Medina
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.
9780 Main St., Clarence
408 Evans St., Williamsville
320-5830 (Clarence), 906-3314 (Williamsville), elranchitowny.com
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).
5569 Camp Road, Hamburg
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.
9416 Transit Road, East Amherst
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.
128 Genesee St.
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.