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  • Miria and Jorge pose for a photo behind the bar...

    Miria and Jorge pose for a photo behind the bar at Mellos in Leominster. (KEVIN WILLIAMS/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)

  • Kathleen Obando, Dailenny Jaime and Nicol Rodas pose together for...

    Kathleen Obando, Dailenny Jaime and Nicol Rodas pose together for a photo at Zapata Mexican Cocina in Fitchburg. (KEVIN WILLIAMS/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)

  • The staff of Taqueria El Amigo 2 in Leominster. Featured...

    The staff of Taqueria El Amigo 2 in Leominster. Featured are Bryan G., owner Jorge Calderon, Lesly C., and Sergio O. (KEVIN WILLIAMS/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)



Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated for decades. In Los Angeles, Chicago and New York before the COVID-19 pandemic there were huge parades and day long celebrations. Most believe Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, but that’s Sept. 16. Instead, the day is actually a commemoration of Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Between the pandemic loosening its grip, an awesome explosion of Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities area, and the fact that this year the festivities fall on a Friday, there’s never been a better time to fiesta.

In preparation of celebration, I paid a visit to different spots around the Twin Cities.

Each restaurant had no idea I was coming to talk. Most places recognized me as a customer and were happy to talk. Some were a little uncomfortable talking to a stranger who just appeared on their doorstep for a chat. Some folks were too busy and one place was just closed.

Regardless, all of our local Mexican restaurants are worth a visit. Mexico is a huge vast country with many different culinary styles, and we are lucky enough to have this diversity shown in our eclectic collection of local taco spots.

Currently birria is the taco of the moment and each restaurant makes their own mouth watering version of this flashy new taco. Maybe it’s the melted cheese in side the taco, maybe it’s the decadent shredded beef — some mix of short rib and brisket — or maybe it’s the rich consommé that accompanies the guest of honor, making it stand proud like a Mexican version of the au jus that comes with the iconic prime rib sandwich. Whatever it is, everyone wants it, So go get yours! And bring a friend.

Here is a little guide to help you navigate. Weather you dip your chip in guac, salsa or queso these local restaurants will have you wanting más!

Zapata Mexican Cocina

Located at 23 Lunenburg St. in Fitchburg, Zapata has always stood out to me. Their simple but chic dining room accents the food. Sophisticated interpretations of simple dishes with refined details like edible flowers and thinly sliced radishes that reflect authenticity and show that the chef cares enough to add those little extra touches. Manager Kathleen Obano took some time to answer a few questions about the restaurant and what makes it special.

Q: Who are you and where are you from?

A: Kathleen. My parents moved out here from Boston four years ago and I came with them. I started working here when I moved to Fitchburg. Zapata opened six years ago, on Cinco de Mayo in fact.

Q: Zapata was the first local place I saw the famous birria taco. When did that start?

A: We started making the birria taco in 2020 and yes, we were one of the first in the area to make it!

Q: What makes Zapata special?

A: The food. The service. A lot of heart and soul goes into the food here. A lot of love. We make everything fresh, as well as the drinks everything fresh.

Besides a full bar, Zapata offers frescas, nonalcoholic beverages to cleanse the palate and refresh.

Kathleen was kind enough to have the owners, Amalia and Ulysses Zamora on speakerphone as we spoke. They mentioned the same love goes into the drinks as the food. Horchata is a homemade beverage the make by soaking rice with aromatic spices and then blending it. Jamaica is made by steeping hibiscus leaves. They have handmade margaritas and the passionfruit is especially popular.

Q: What should someone try who has never been?

A: So much is good, the fajitas, Zapata Shrimp and the Birria Tacos.

Taqueria El Amigo 2

Considered a “hidden gem” this small, family restaurant located at 109 N Main St. in Leominster smells and feels authentic. Situated near the rail trail it is a perfect place to stop for a bite while going for a ride. Don’t let the tiny kitchen fool you — Amigos puts out a lot of flavor into everything they make. Jorge Calderon the owner asked a few questions when I stopped by out of the blue of Monday

Q: Who are you and where are you from?

A: Jorge Calderon and I am from Mexico City.

Q: How long have you had the business?

A: For 20 years. My wife Leticia Castillo and I started our business in Waltham 20 years ago. We then sold the business and re-opened in Leominster as Taqueria El Amigo 2. We choose the area because we had family that lived here. We wanted a wholesome alcohol-free environment that was family friendly.

Q: What makes your restaurant special?

A: We are a family business that sticks together. One of our cooks has been with us for 15 years, and two others for 8 years each. So our staff and the food. The tacos and the hot sauce. People really love our different sauces.

Q: What should people who have never been to Taqueria El Amigo 2 try?

A: The Birria Tacos.


One of Leominster’s newer Mexican restaurants, this charming spot at 899 Central St. in Leominster was known to many locals as the Luxury Box, Slate or Agave Azul. This new concept is here to stay and offers authentic Mexican food in a comfortable environment and a full bar. I asked Miria a few questions.

Q: Where are some things people who have never been to Mello’s should try?

A: The Mofongos and Churrascos.

Q: I am not familiar, could you please describe what these are?

A: Mofongos are fried plantains and churrasco are grilled steak, thinly sliced.

Q: What makes your restaurant special?

A: The Birria Tacos, it is shredded beef in a taco with cheese and served with consume

Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant

This family style restaurant is located 285 Central St. in Leominster and offers delicious, homemade Mexican food in a no-frills environment. The staff are kind and efficient and the matriarch’s smile is sure to warm you as much as their home made hot sauces. I was lucky to get them to answer the door on a Monday when they are closed

Juventino, Lucia, Lorena and Marce work together as a family. They opened four years ago because they had a passion to bring food from the Puebla area of Mexico to share with the area they now live, Leominster.

Q: What makes your restaurant special?

A: The passion for food and the love of family and friends. Everyone is welcome.

Q: What should people try who have never been?

A: The tacos are the most popular.

Q: What is your favorite taco?

A: The birria, the pastor, carnitas, they are all good.

Come early for the birria, it is so popular it is not even on the menu. You have to ask for this special. Consider yourself in the secret taco club!

Super Wings

The name Super Wings doesn’t allude to the awesome Mexican menu this local restaurant serves, as well as it’s awesome collection of wings and super wings. Slightly off the beaten path at 112 Whitney St. in Leominster, this location that was once a café/diner is a local gem that’s worth finding.

Tacos Tequilas

Located in a beautiful, newly renovated space at 310 Main St. in downtown Fitchburg, Tacos Tequilas is a fun, modern Mexican cantina. With a full bar and fun atmosphere it’s a great place to bring a group after work for margaritas and more.


Started in 2005 by immigrants from the Mexican province of Jalisco, Ixtapa has been a mainstay of the local Mexican culinary scene ever since. Located at 308 Massachusetts Ave. in Lunenburg, the restaurant recently redid its menu to include more authentic dishes. At Ixtapa I was greeted by Jaime Brombila, the second-generation manager in charge of day-to-day operations, and son of the owners. I asked him the same questions everyone else got.

Q: Who are you and where are you from?

A: Jaime Bombila. I’m from Fitchburg. My parents started this restaurant when they first moved here.

Q: How long have you been here and why here.

A: My parents settled here after moving from Idaho. They first moved to Idaho, then Colorado and even up near Seattle. We eventually settled in Fitchburg.

Q: What made your parents choose Fitchburg after those other places

A: Fitchburg is a good community. It doesn’t get the love it should but we really like it here.

Q: What makes your restaurant special?

A: The vibe, the community and the fact that everything is authentic. Our new menu is all new with new spices and flavors. We specialize in food that Mom makes. We want you to have a little taste of Mexico with your visit.

Q: What should people who have never been here try on their first visit?

A: Everything on our new menu is worth trying. We recently added Birria Tacos. Another great dish on the new menu is the Molcajete.

Jaime concluded, “People want to see more authentic Mexican now. When we first opened we were more Tex-Mex, but now Tex-Mex is old school.”