Eating nacho fries for the first time in my life at Guzman y Gomez in Tokyo is not how I pictured my Japan dreams going.
For the past 3-and-a-half years, Japan is the place that I call home. Coming from the U.S., I cannot say that I am a Mexican food expert. But, what I do know now, is that it, or rather the bastardized American version of it, is quintessential to my life. Even though you are in the land of sushi, and that is a totally separate food heaven all on its own, there’s no shame in that Taco Tuesday is probably more relevant to you than Premium Friday.
Japan actually helped me figure that out. I used to live in the super inaka (that’s Japanese for “so country there’s not even delivery pizza up in here”) for my first years in Japan. It was a stretch sometimes to even find tortillas. Excuse the cliche, but you really don’t know what you got til it’s gone. Let me clarify, I adore Japanese food (even natto, son!), but a girl has got to have options, ya know?
I know you’re still disgusted that I somehow am even loosely connecting “nacho fries” with Mexican food, but I assure you, I was with a Mexico (picture a white boy pronouncing it Meh-he-co for full effect) native when I ate them. Does that make it more OK? (Um, no…)
Mexican places in the Roppongi area
Fine. Nacho fries are not OK, and yet, I cannot forget them. Especially after eating the taters topped with ample cheese, guac and spicy chicken after a night out in Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s nightlife district. Nightlife is an understatement and is just what travel writers say for short. What it actually is, is a wicked, wild, freaky lost paradise of bright lights and clubs. It and surrounding areas are also where you can get some awesome Mexican (and Mexican American) food while in Tokyo.
We got a hole-in-the-wall place called La Familia (that’s Spanish for “life needs more than one burrito emoji” 🌯) just a few minutes’ walk from Kamiyacho station. I recommend the tacos, and it has a pretty filling lunch menu, too.
Another spot on the same subway line, the Hibiya line, is an authentic one near Hiroo station called Salsita. That’s a bit more pricey but also has a menu with a ton of options like mole poblano, homemade chorizo, potato carnitas and beef tacos, and select tequilas and Mexican beers. The owner there is Japanese but speaks Spanish and has traveled to Mexico, as evidenced by the atmosphere.
For good eats in the heart of Roppongi, of course, there is The Pink Cow. (That’s not Spanish for anything.) They have all your favorites like burritos and nachos, plus some vegetarian options. At night, The Pink Cow often has lively events going on — a fun way to kick off your parade of super-good decisions while in Roppongi. Please be aware that this is not a Mexican place, but a cool spot with some Californian-style Mexican food.
While Guzman Y Gomez is no longer in Roppongi, the casual Mexican place has several locations in Tokyo including Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinagawa. A quick fix, instead, that has a location not too far from Roppongi is Frijoles in Azabujuban, which is pretty much a Qudoba or Chipotle. For those unfamiliar with these brands, they are essentially fast-food Mexican, serving up burritos, quesadillas and tacos. Like I said, fast food but still tasty in a pinch.
One thing is for sure, Japanese food is some of the best you’ll eat in the world, but you may crave something a bit more… cheesy. In those moments, you, too, may find yourself hunched over a bowl of nacho fries wondering how you got there. Chalk it up to happy accidents.
The Roppongi/Minato ward area has more than 10 solid options for Mexican cuisine. I am only one woman, but Google is a lot more, so here is Google’s list of Mexican food places in the area to start you in the right direction.
Have a food experience in Japan you think needs to be on InJapan? Let us know! Pitch your story ideas our editor by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.