Your friends decide to go to the cool Mexican joint in the city this weekend. You know the night will be one huge photo-op – this isn’t just any old trip to Chili’s.

But amidst all the excitement, you forget to check the menu ahead of time, and after drinking a few margaritas while waiting for the table, what was previously a slightly tricky menu becomes almost impossible to decipher.


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Slightly tipsy, some serious questions begin to arise: What’s the difference between a chimichanga and a burrito? Is “huarache” a Mexican shoe or an appetizer? Why didn’t I major in Mexican culture in college?

Hopefully this guide will ease the difficulty of ordering at an authentic Mexican restaurant and allow you to impress your friends with your diverse food knowledge.

First Course: Antojitos


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Translation: Small plates/snacks/appetizers

Small plates is definitely accurate here. Besides nachos, do not count on sharing these apps with more than one other person.

What is huarache? Huarache is similar to a flatbread. Open-faced huaraches can be topped with jalapeños, mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onions, and queso.

Is fundido any different than melted cheese? No, fundido is simply melted or “flamed” cheese, often served in a skillet dish with sausage and called “chorizo fundido.”

What appetizer should I choose if I have a low tolerance for spicy food? Opt for the chicken quesadilla or nachos, but make sure to specify that you do not want jalepeño, pepper, or chili.

What is ceviche? Chefs dice up a variety of ingredients (shrimp, melon, avocado, scallions) to create diverse ceviches that can be either spicy or sweet. The diced up mixture is typically served bruschetta style or with tortilla chips.

Second Course: Entradas


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Translation: Entree

Remember, tacos are almost always better than burritos.

What’s the difference between a chimichanga and a burrito? Burritos and chimichangas are essentially the same except for one minor detail: Chimichangas are typically deep fried. If you’re looking for a low-fat dinner, you may want to avoid the chimichangas. (You can always try to bake them at home.)

What’s the difference between a taco and a fajita? Fajitas and tacos are strikingly similar. The difference between the two is that tacos are served completely assembled and ready to be consumed while fajitas are typically build-your-own style.

What is an enchilada? If you have a hearty appetite, enchiladas are definitely for you. A soft tortilla filled with meats, beans, and veggies is then drenched in a creamy, spicy sauce to create this Mexican novelty.

What entree should I choose if have a low tolerance for spicy food? Fish tacos are usually the least spicy entree available at a Mexican restaurant, especially if you ask for no sauces or aioli.

Third Course: Los Postres


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Translation: Dessert

Stick to the specialities, like churros, sweet empanadas, and flan.

Why are empanadas on the dessert menu? An empanada is simply a pastry turnover. While many people think of empanadas as being a savory appetizer, they can be also be found on the dessert menu filled with sweet ingredients like cinnamon, apple, chocolate, and banana.

What is flan? Flan is really just a fancy sponge cake. Often times drizzled in caramel or infused with orange, this dessert is for those with a uncontrollable sweet tooth.