Valle de Mexico
When I was a kid, my parents carted my brothers and me to the homes of many family members and friends. On many of those trips, we kids ended up hanging out in the finished basements of these houses during the chilly months when we couldn’t play outside. I didn’t expect to feel a familiar comfort from a South Buffalo restaurant that evokes a finished basement with kooky knickknacks and mismatching glassware on the bar, but this is Valle de Mexico in a nutshell. The casual ambiance is funky and cozy, and the wait for your food is long, but the instant you taste the food, the peculiarities don’t matter. It’s that good.
At the time of our visit the restaurant was not serving alcohol, but the server encouraged us to check out the convenience store across the street to select some beverages to complement our meal. Two of our group selected the goods and returned just in time to wait for our food and start drooling at a nearby table’s spread. It took over 45 minutes to get our water, tortilla chips, and salsa before our entrées began making their way to our table. However, in a city with a lot of talk about a desire for authentic Mexican cuisine, Valle de Mexico is worthy of our consideration. The top reason is the care with which the food is made. It is clear that a lot of love goes into the cooking in their kitchen. The large menu is almost daunting due to its length, yet it offers a variety of dishes your server will gladly tell you about if you ask.
The chorizo picadita ($4.95) reminded me of a fresh off the skillet corncake, articulately dressed with taco toppings. The beautiful flavors of this dish come from the corn itself—naturally sweet, aromatic, and complemented by the spicy bean sauce studded with chunks of chorizo. One of our favorite dishes overall, each person from the group kept passing this plate until we scraped the last bites. The tacos ($2.50 each) included beef, al pastor (pork and pineapple), cecina (salted beef), chorizo, chicken, carnitas, and spicy pork. While the salted beef was unique, the pork tacos received the most satisfying reviews from our party, with the carnitas’ tender shredded pork taking its spot as the most memorable of the pack. The al pastor’s smoky and sweet medley and the spicy pork taco’s tender brisket were also noteworthy.
The house hot sauce boasts a smoked chipotle flavor that we collectively enjoyed with a variety of dishes, in addition to splashing it directly on the thick and crunchy tortilla chips, which made for a lovely snack before we realized we needed to save room for these large plates to come. The mole poblano ($12.95), featuring chicken with a robust roasted chile sauce, was complex, spicy, and delicious. The dish is hearty and served with rice, beans, and pico de gallo. The straightforward chile relleno ($14.95) is also served with rice, beans, and pico de gallo. To cool off from the spices, I enjoyed the horchata ($3.00), a drink traditionally made from rice milk and cinnamon with a hint of sugar, which was loaded with cinnamon and served chilled.
Our dining companions in the restaurant ranged from families and couples to restaurant workers coming off their evening shift, but the restaurant’s generous portions, casual atmosphere, and friendly service are among the top reasons it’s good for a family. The restaurant takes cash only right now, and it runs out of menu items at times. Even late on a weeknight, the food takes a considerable amount of time to exit the kitchen. Because of idiosyncrasies like these, this spot may remain unvisited by many outside of its immediate neighborhood, but it’s worth the adventure. Bring your patience and appetite, and trust that you’re in good hands.
Valle de Mexico
1586 South Park Avenue, Buffalo
Hours: Monday and Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Budget Crunch Rating: Ambiance: 3/5; Cleanliness: 3/5; Food Quality: 4/5; Service: 3/5