Mole sauce and chilies are not the first things that come to mind when talking about cuisine in New England, but Connecticut has some excellent restaurants which use those and other signature sauces and ingredients from south of the border — and not the border with New York but the one way far away, on the far side of Mexico. There are Tex-Mex and Southwestern restaurants aplenty that serve the typical and expected tacos, enchiladas and the like, but there are also a number that also offer or even specialize in more high-end, upscale cuisine found in the finer restaurants of Mexico City. Here are just five of the top Mexican restaurants to try in Connecticut.
Don Carmelo’s Mexican Grille And Tequila Bar
7 Winfield St.
Norwalk, CT 06855
(203) 957-3000

Don Carmelo’s is intentionally campy and quaint, but while the decor is very cliched, the food is anything but that. The Sopa de Mariscos here can compete with any Zuppa di Mare or Bouillabaisse at a fine Italian or French restaurant, and at a fraction of those high-end location prices. The Cameron Bilbaina is an incredible shrimp dish made with rare Black Tiger Shrimp cooked in chilies and mushrooms. The seafood portion of the menu is far more extensive than most Mexican restaurants, as are the sections which feature chicken, steak and pork. This is real Mexican cooking — not Tex-Mex —(although there are burritos, tacos and the like as well on the menu).

Coyote Flaco
635 New Britain Ave.
Hartford, CT
(860) 953-1299

Coyote Flaco bills itself as the best “homemade” Mexican food in Hartford — and that is no idle boast. But it’s one that is easy to prove just by sampling their menu. Start with the Chorizo Norteno (home-made sausage simmered in spicy Chipolte sauce) or Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic salsa). For the main course, try their Quesadilla Linda (jack cheese and choice of meats) or one of their Mole dishes – notably the Enchilada de Mole Verde or Pollo al Mole. They also make a stunning Salmon Ranchero, and for those who simply cannot make up their minds, they have some wonderful and creative sampler platters.

La Poblanita
1660 Park Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
(203) 384-2377

The clientele at La Poblanita in Bridgeport is usually more Hispanic than not — which is a testament to just how authentic and good the food is at this disarmingly simple restaurant which could easily be mistaken for someone’s home. The food is simple but plentiful, and surprisingly flavorful and unique. Few other places, for example, make Taco al Pastor — which means tacos shepherd style, a specialty of the house that is made with pork that has been marinated in pineapples and chilies. The Taco Cesina is another unique specialty, as it uses salted rather than ground beef. They also serve some potent Margaritas, and the strawberry and lemon ones are also available frozen, which helps cool the palate and comfort the lips for those who order some of the spicier dishes.

Related: Top Tacos In Connecticut

Southwest Cafe
109 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT 06877
(203) 431-3398

There are quesadillas and tacos and fajitas and all that, of course, on the menu, but where the Southwest Cafe truly shines is in their authentic high Mexican cuisine. The Chimichuri steak asada with special cabrales potatoes is a beef lover’s dream come true at the Southwest Cafe in Ridgefield. Unlike some Mexican and especially Tex-Mex restaurants, Southwest Cafe also serves some wonderful seafood — including a beautiful Chimayo organic salmon with a red chile buerre blanc and moro rice, and an open face shrimp arepa served on a Venezuelan corn cake with spinach and cranberry-red chile. Owner Barbara Nevins hails from New Mexico, but she brought with her a grand taste not just of the Southwest, but of the cuisine from south of the border.

Tequila Mockingbird
6 Forest St.
New Canaan, CT
(203) 966-2222

Many patrons, or “Patrons,” come to Tequila Mockingbird for the liquor, for it is one of only a score of restaurants in the entire United States which can display the seal of Mexico’s tequila authority, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila. While they do have nearly 200 labels of the Mexican liquor in stock and make award-winning margaritas, Tequila Mockingbird also has a kitchen — and a fine one at that. For those who cannot decide what to have and also want something different, the Bontana Plate (or “Little Bites”) comes highly recommended, as it is a sampling of some of their signature dishes, including their take on skirt steak, shrimp and shredded pork. It also comes with a gooey cheese enchilada and sides of guacamole, salsa, beans and tortillas.

Related: Top Restaurants For Cinco De Mayo In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at