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Guajillos Mexican Grill – CLOSED

Posted by DNR 20 May 2008 15 Comments

Just past Toast on Main St. is a Tex Mex place called Guajillos Mexican Grill. Since I’m always excited to see a restaurant I haven’t tried in downtown Durham, I was looking forward to trying it out.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I ordered a few hard tacos (beef, shredded chicken, and pinto beans). The first and only thing I thought was “Old El Paso Taco Dinner Kit,” sans salty flavor pouch. The ground beef was straight up ground beef, the chicken was unseasoned shredded chicken, and I’m convinced the pinto beans were canned beans that hadn’t even been rinsed. The salsa was basically chunky ketchup, everything came with white American cheese, and there wasn’t even any hot sauce, let alone a salsa bar. Goes to show that Torero’s with a visible kitchen is still Torero’s.

On the upside, the service (which consists of getting a number and taking it to a booth) was quick, the people were really nice, and the meal was cheap ($4.50 for 3 tacos). However, I don’t really have anything positive or interesting to say about Guajillos. Durham has a deserved and growing reputation as a destination for food lovers, and it takes a lot of guts to be a restaurateur, but whereas some people are really put off by bad service, I don’t have much patience for flavorless food. I know that places like this have their audience – who’s never been to Torero’s? – but it’s not for me. If you’re that close to Toast, just go to Toast, and if you actually want some Mexican food go to Chubby’s or Taqueria La Vaquita or Super Taqueria or Tonali.

Guajillos Mexican Grill (map)
Monday – Friday: 11 am – 4 pm


  • TSQ75 said:

    one day while down town I intended on stopping in here for lunch, but was just kinda uninspired by the menu, and I passed on it.

    has anyone tried out the Blue mountain place next door? I never seem to get there when they’re open…


  • Nate said:

    As much a fan as I am of hard tacos (the taco bell crunchy taco supreme, in its proper context, can be sublime), I’m not sure I’d order them as my sole evaluation for a Mexican place. It *sounds* like you got some hard tacos similar to what you get at El Rodeo (with which Guajillos has some peripheral relationship). And they do sound bad.

    I’d encourage you, if you’re in the neighborhood, to give the chicken tinga burrito, with everything on it, a shot. In addition to meat and beans (which in my mind are more seasoned than what you had), it includes generous amounts of peppers, jalapenos, sour cream, etc. And the regular size is $4.50, with chips and salsa. When I’ve had the salsa, I’ve been into its light freshness, and it has a decent and unique black pepper flavor. It’s not as flavorful as most of what Chubby’s has to offer, but is different enough to be a few notches above the mini-carafes at Torero’s/Rodeo, etc any day of the week.

    All that said, I wouldn’t drive past any of the other places you mentioned to get to Guajillos. But if I’m in the downtown/ATC/Brightleaf area with just a fiver, I’d give it a shot.

    Love the blog!


  • I have seen the top of the mountain. And it is good. « Carpe Durham said:

    [...] Points has its high points and low points, but in case that photo doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, Blue Mountain Catering [...]

  • What’s Spanish for “hubris”? « Carpe Durham said:

    [...] interior actually reminds me a lot of Guajillos, if they tried to make it look appetizing, and the guy running the place could not have been nicer. [...]

  • Phil said:

    Guajillos’ lineage comes almost directly from El Rodeo, so you get the idea.

    That said, I probably eat there once a week (they’re across the street from my office). Same thing every time — a quesadilla with avocado (a special order not on the menu) and salsa verde, please. And this here bottle of Diet Pepsi.

    And every time, they don’t bring the salsa until I remind the server :-)

    Yeah, there’s nothing authentic/fantastic about the place. But I always enjoy my quesadilla lots. And… let me admit it… I like the “Mexican rice”, too.

    Hey – speaking of Five Points in Durham, didja know that Ninth Street Bakery serves Indian food at lunch on occasion? I -think- it’s a regular Wednesday thing but I’m not sure.


  • DNR said:

    The Sri Lankan food (brownish, mostly rice, I’d think it was Indian too) at Ninth St. Bakery on Wednesdays is really phenomenally good. Definitely one of my most-missed lunch spots since moving out west. You should take a detour from Guajillos this week!


  • Phil said:

    Why thank you for the info! Shame on me for not searching “Ninth Street Bakery” in the Carpe Durham box before posting :-)


  • lindsey said:

    the milk cheese they pour all over the nachos at guajillos brings me back every week! i agree it’s nothing special, but the lunch choices downtown are pretty limited and my empty pockets can’t support a Toast splurge that often…


  • DID said:

    FYI – this place changed owners about three months ago – i was excited in that the menu now has a much more Colombian focus – arepas, tortas, etc. and the new owner is super friendly.

    We were out and about downtown this weekend and looking for lunch at 3 pm just after Toast stopped serving. I got an arepa and was really disappointed. It was flavorless and didn’t taste anything like the arepas I know and love (granted my Dad grew up in Caracus so I was expecting the Venezuela variety). It was flat and didn’t seemed to be made of masa flour.

    My husband got the spinach/mushroom torta which he liked, not as much as the ones found on Roxboro but decent enough.

    Chips and salsa were worse than bandidos or el rodeo.


    keptsimple replies on April 23rd, 2010 at 12:50 pm:

    I’ve had the patacones on the new menu a couple of times, and I thought they were pretty good. Nothing amazing, but a huge step up from the blandness of the old menu.

    Somehow, though, the new ownership has managed to remove even more flavor from their water-and-red-food-coloring salsa.

    Regardless, I think this place deserves an updated review. In my book, it’s gone from “I won’t complain about eating here if that’s where everyone else insists on going” to “Hey! I’ll go here on my own initiative once in a while.”


  • Sant said:

    Earlier this week I popped into the place to avoid the rain and started up a conversation with the fellow. I told him I loved trying foods from different countries and he insisted I try their empanadas. They had a delicious vegetable filling with a little bit of pork encased is a corn-based pastry and deep fried. It came with a wonderful tangy salsa (more like a slaw than hot salsa) that was the perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed I went back for lunch today and had the patacones. This is basically a Columbian version of tostadas but instead of the flat shell being made out of masa it is made from mashed plantains. You can get it topped with chicken or beef but since you get two I asked for one of each so I could try both. Besides the meat, it is also topped with lettuce, tomatoes, avacado sauce, and some other kind of “Columbain” sauce. It was really delicious and really filling. In fact, unless you are a big eater I suggest splitting an order of patacones and a couple of empanadas with a partner. The empanadas are $1.30 each and the patacomes palte is like $6.50 so two people could have a satisfying lunch for $10.

    I differ with the above assessment of the salsa that came with the chips. The salsa I had good spice with a garlicy bite.


  • Sam said:

    Perhaps the reason the Mexican food is not that great is because the place is supposed to be Colombian, and not Mexican. The owners took the restaurant over from the previous owners who were indeed trying to do a Mexican restaurant. That is why one finds menu items like patacones or empanadas. There are no such foods in Mexico.


    Heath replies on August 4th, 2010 at 6:57 pm:

    That’s an interesting bit of information about the Colombian angle. I haven’t tried this place yet, but it seems like they might be better off playing to their strengths and differentiating themselves a bit with that. There are loads of good Mexican places around so it’s going to be hard to compete on those terms if they don’t know Mexican cuisine inside and out, which it sounds like they don’t.


  • B said:

    I agree, I went there specifically for the Colombian food, and it was great. I have tried the tacos, and they are good, but right around the area (Brightleaf, etc) there are too many Mexican places. Service is great though, and the management is super friendly.


  • Will said:

    I ate at this place once a week for years. We called it the “mediocre mexican place,” and that’s exactly what it was. But it was cheap, fast and not crowded. I saw it was closed today. As weak as that place was, I was sad to see it go. It had the friendliest proprietor.


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