Mexico Lindo

Mexico Lindo

Married couple Jose Avila and Delia Perez hail from different parts of Mexico – Avila is from, Toluca, the capital of the country’s central state of Mexico, and Perez is from Oaxaca.

In 2009, the couple – who migrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s –took over ownership of the restaurant Mexico Lindo at 720 Main Street in Bethlehem, which had been in business as mostly a takeout taco shop since 2002.

“We come from a long line of restaurant owners in Mexico and decided to give it a try here in the states,” Avila explained. “My family owns a small taco shop in Toluca, and my mother-in-law has always served food all over.”

The authentic menu features traditional soups, tostadas, burritos, tacos (see Avila’s birria taco recipe below), huaraches, breakfast items, appetizers and side orders such as rice and beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. Something that sets the current iteration of Mexico Lindo apart, Avila said, is that the recipes represent a blend of the two regions of the country where the couple grew up. “We combined both regions into one menu, so you get a taste of different venues from Mexico.”

Another big change the couple made was to knock out the takeout counter – though takeout is still an option – and open up the facility to more indoor dining space. Indoor seating capacity is 50 – currently restricted by COVID – with weekend outdoor seating accommodating 25 to 50 more patrons.

Keeping an eye on food trends, Avila said the recent addition of birria tacos – crispy fried tacos served with a consume for dipping – has proven a hot item. “They are all over social media,” he said.

Mexico Lindo is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and closed Sundays.

Celebrating diversity Dia de Muertos

While displaying pride for culture has always held an important place for Mexico Lindo’s current owners, they’ve sometimes found a lukewarm local reception, at best, to such expressions, Avila explained.

“The thing is, we used to do all the folklore and all traditional things, and a lot of people didn’t take very well to it. Some were offended by some of things we used to do, so for awhile we decided to keep it neutral.”

One particular holiday in Mexico – Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), celebrated Oct. 31-Nov. 2 – particularly raised the ire of some local patrons, he said. Due to that reaction, Avila said, the restaurant scaled back on an elaborate traditional altar featuring skeletons and skulls, candles, offerings of food and drink and pictures of loved ones as well as baking and offering traditional foods for the holiday such as pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a sweetbread shaped into dolls and designs representing and honoring lost ancestors.

“They thought it was some kind of witchcraft or voodoo, the skulls and things, and they were really offended by that.”

Over the past few years, Avila said, people have become more open minded and so the restaurant plans to bring these traditions back. He credits popular movies that embrace and explain various cultures and customs – such as Disney’s 2017 animated film Coco – as well as local efforts to bring local awareness to diverse populations residing in the same communities – to the breaking down of fear and judgment.

Mexico Lindo is a proud sponsor of Interlace Cultural y Desarrollo Integral Mexicano del Valle Lehigh (Cultural Interlace and Integral Mexican Development of Lehigh Valley) – ICDI, a local nonprofit with the stated mission of promoting, diffusing and preserving Mexican culture locally and to organizing and developing social programs that inform, reunite, guide and educate.

Movies like Coco – about a boy accidentally transported the land of the dead who seeks the wisdom of his great-great-grandfather – and efforts by groups like ICDI help businesses like Mexico Lindo share their cultural heritage without reproach, Avila said, and offer customers the different experience many of them crave.   

Dia de Muerto is simply about honoring loved ones who have passed on with their favorite food, drink, prayer, photographs and remembrances, Avila explained. “It’s a day to remember friends and family that have passed on – that’s the whole concept.”

Birria tacos

5 chile guajillo chili peppers, stemmed and seeded

3 chile ancho chili peppers, stemmed and seeded

1-2 cups cup water (enough to cover meat and spices)

½ onion, chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped

6 bay leaves

1 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon mixed spices
(ground cumin, Mexican oregano, pepper)

3 pounds beef – brisket, sirloin, flank
or shank steak

Combine pepper, onion, garlic and spices to puree in blender

Put meat in kettle pot and cover with water

Add puree mixture

Add whole bay leaves

Boil and simmer 3-4 hours

Salt to taste

Fry soft corn tortillas in a nonstick pan in butter or lard until slightly brown

Fill with broken-up meat and optional cheese (Chihuahua or white cheddar)

Garnish with cilantro (optional)

Serve with small bowl of leftover juice on the side for dipping

Makes 12 servings of 2-3 tacos each

Mexico Lindo
720 Main St

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