Wed 6 Apr 2011
52, rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
01 42 74 41 28. Tues–Sun, noon–11 p.m. (bar, 6 p.m.–late).
Open just a few weeks, the new taqueria Candelaria has been an instant hit.
Located in the upper Marais, this Mexican restaurant has a bright white room, with one big table for six or so. The rest is counter seating or standing, elbow to elbow unless you go at off-hours. The crowd skews young, with no small number of expats but plenty of curious Parisians, all there for the fantastic tacos, tostadas and salsas.
You heard that right: there is actually good Mexican food in Paris.
There were three kinds of tacos on my last visit: carnitas, longaniza—a spicy pork sausage—and a veg-only rajas. All had the right freshness and kick. The tostadas were a hit, too. Pollo pibil, chicken marinated with citrus and annatto, had crowd appeal, but the vegetables topped with queso fresco (the real thing!) turned out to be a hit. You can adjust accordingly with hot sauce, and if you go overboard, there are colorful Mexican sodas and beer, and a punch bowl of hibiscus agua fresca, to the rescue.
Chips are a must, freshly fried, and served with shared bowls of salsa, one an intriguing and addictive peanut and chipotle mix, the other salsa borracha, which means “drunk.”
Speaking of drunk, Candelaria is not just a taqueria. In fact, in the eyes of a boozehound, the tacos might take a backseat to what’s in the back room: a serious cocktail bar run by former mixers at the Experimental Cocktail Club, who are actually Candelaria’s owners. Expertly crafted drinks—some classic, some recently invented—dozens of tequilas . . . These guys know what they’re doing. (Try the Guepe Verte.)
Candelaria is not for everyone. In prime time the place is packed, and the narrow space between the counter and the wall gets jammed; getting in or out of the bar means squeezing past people who are trying to eat. For visitors, the question is whether or not to dedicate a meal slot to eating Mexican food in Paris; many would say not, I know.
That’s OK, though. It leaves more room for the rest of us.
In a nutshell: Candelaria is an authentic taqueria in a cool neighborhood, great for a fun night out or a delicious, wallet-friendly lunch or dinner.
Price check: Tacos, 3 euros each or 2 for 5.50 euros. Tostadas, 3.50 euros. Expert cocktails in the back-room bar, about 12 euros.
If you’re craving tacos but not cocktails, try the tiny El Nopal, near the canal Saint-Martin.
3, rue Eugène Varlin, in the 10th Arrondissement.
07 86 39 63 46.
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