Growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex cuisine was a standard part of my diet. So, one of the biggest adjustments when I moved to New Hampshire was finding out that New England’s Mexican restaurants pale in comparison with southwestern standards.
But Lebanon, NH’s current Mexican food restaurants – while small in number – come reasonably close to my memories of “real” Mexican food.
Gusanoz (410 Miracle Mile, Lebanon, 603-448-1408).
Gusanoz is by far the best Mexican restaurant I’ve found in New England. In fact, it’s as good as some of the Mexican food restaurants I remember from Dallas. Founded in 2005 by Maria Limon and Nick Yager, Gusanoz features real Mexican cuisine with a mouth-watering variety of familiar foods and new offerings. Limon is a native of Mexico, and she and Yager founded the restaurant with the goal of bringing made from scratch Mexican food to the Upper Valley. They have succeeded in that aim.
You’ll find authentic guacamole and mole sauce as well as refried beans and rice that tastes fresh and homemade. Gusanoz has an entire selection of seafood entrees with authentic Mexican taste – all of which are among my favorite items. Gusanoz recently unveiled a new lite menu complete with nutritional information to help you make better and more informed choices.
The atmosphere is somewhat loud and chaotic – but even that is in keeping with the authenticity of a “hole in the wall” hidden gem (which often houses the best Mexican food restaurants).
Gusanoz Taqueria (11 Lebanon St., Hanover, 603-643-3003)
The small spin-off of Gusanoz offers the same great taste of its parent restaurant, but with a limited menu. Geared toward quick meals and take out, Gusanoz Taqueria offers nachos, tacos and other standard Mexican fare. Seating is limited and not very cozy, but the food is great and it’s the perfect place if you’re only looking for a quick bite to eat.
Margaritas (18 Centerra Parkway, Lebanon, 603-643-8800)
If you don’t mind chain restaurants, Margaritas offers a fun and casual atmosphere with Mexican food that is generally quite good.
In addition to standard Mexican fare such as burritos, tacos and enchiladas, Margaritas offers a few unique appetizer items. Zarape and Roasted Vegetable Zarape feature sirloin with grilled onions and peppers or roasted garden vegetables covered with cheese and served with chipotle sour cream and tortillas.
But the best offering on Margarita’s menu is the large selection of fajita offerings. There are, of course, the standard steak and chicken offerings. In addition, you can choose from chipotle barbeque steak, Guadalajara steak, island jerk chicken, spicy adobo chicken, or shrimp. It’s a hard choice, even with the combo option that lets you select two or three options. But, no matter which you pick, the fajitas are real winners.