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Beyond the burrito

Perhaps it’s no surprise that when Alejandro Gonzalez, a native of Mexico City, first arrived on Long Island in 1989, he was a little disappointed when he tried the local Mexican food.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that when Alejandro Gonzalez, a native of Mexico City, first arrived on Long Island in 1989, he was a little disappointed when he tried the local Mexican food.

“One of the main reasons I opened a restaurant was because it was so hard for us to find real, authentic Mexican,” says Gonzalez, the owner of two of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Huntington Village, an area rich with south-of-the-border-style dining options.

When Gonzalez was able to open his first restaurant, lil Caboose, he chose to serve international cuisine because he wasn’t sure how big a demand there would be for his own regional fare.

“We sold all kinds of food, but people liked the Mexican a lot,” says Gonzalez, who happily indulged his customers. He now owns 15-year-old Oaxaca and the newer, larger Quetzalcoatl, both promising some of the most authentic Mexican food in Long Island.

Quetzalcoatl offers pre-Columbian dishes, such as Molcajete Purepecha, grilled shrimp and vegetables marinated in achile pasilla, in addition to colonial foods like Chili Nogada, a mixture of pork loin, almonds, pecans and fruit that’s topped with brandy.

Besito, with locations in Huntington and Roslyn, was also born as an answer to the shortage of authentic Mexican food in Long Island.

“We built Besito based on the need in Long Island for really good Mexican food with high-quality ingredients,” says restaurateur John Tunney, who opened a third location in Connecticut last year.

While Tunney believes Long Islanders can handle traditional spiciness, he’s quick to point out the milder authentic dishes available — such as lobster and crab enchiladas baked in yellow tomato sauce with raisin-flavored pasilla chile.

Although confident his menu would withstand the scrutiny of even the more die-hard purists, Tunney says authenticity is relative. And while the debate about what constitutes authentic Mexican food continues, it’s an argument that’s sure to leave a good taste in your mouth.

 
 
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