For decades, finding authentic Mexican food in Qatar was as futile as searching for water in the desert.
But anyone craving enchiladas may want to check out an increasingly popular eatery at the food court in Dar Al Salam Mall.
Despite its location, Mr. Taco doesn’t sell fast food.
Its menu consists of nachos, tamales, tacos, and burritos, all made with freshly prepared corn tortillas.
On the sweeter side, there are also churros and a chilled rice milk drink with cinnamon and other spices known as horchata. Menu prices range from QR5 to QR50.
The restaurant is run by a Mexican expat whose last name, contrary to popular belief, is not taco but Hossfeldt.
Gilberto Hossfeldt opened the place with his wife Silvia Gonzalez in 2013.
Mr. Taco has become so popular that the couple now plans to expand their business elsewhere in Qatar.
Dreaming of Mexican food
Hossfeldt, who is 60 years old, has been ruing the lack of Mexican cuisine in Qatar since the 1980s, after his sister moved here.
In 2003, Hossfeldt and his own wife and children also settled in Qatar and a decade later, decided to launch one of the country’s only authentic Mexican restaurants, along with their two Qatari partners, Didie and Bedar Obaidan.
Speaking to Doha News, Hossfeldt said the endeavor aims to be a sort of bridge between cultures.
“We want to spread the word about our beautiful country, Mexico. We built a solid establishment where the Mexican community can come together for authentic food; a meeting point for the Latin community here in Doha, like nowhere else.
And we want to share this with other nationalities and locals, too. So really, it’s a cultural exchange, too.”
Mr. Taco’s cuisine maintains its authenticity with the help of two experienced Mexican chefs, Pepe Correa and Ivan Cuellar, as well as a traditional Mexican cook, Teo Ortega.
While many Mexicans and North Americans here have embraced the food, Mr. Taco has had to get creative to attract those unfamiliar with the cuisine.
For example, the team sells a “tacwarma” for QR16 that is cross between a Mexican taco and the classic Middle Eastern shawarma.
The chefs also tone down the spice level for those not used to fiery food – though anyone feeling adventurous should definitely ask for their unforgettable spiciest sauce.
Since Mexican cuisine is not very common in this region, several key ingredients are hard to find in Qatar.
This includes Mexican cinnamon, which adds the perfect touch to horchata; and maseca, a special corn flour needed to make authentic Mexican corn tortillas.
After struggling with delayed shipments of the ingredient from Mexico, Hossfeldt said he now flies the coveted corn flour in via costly air freight to ensure a steady supply.
Additionally, much of the food served at the restaurant takes a lot of prep time.
For example, making tamales (which cost QR10 each) involves stuffing ground corn or “hominy” with beef or chicken and spices, and then carefully wrapping the whole thing in corn husks to cook by steaming.
Obstacles aside, the Mr. Taco team gets a lot of accolades from satisfied customers, including regular David Herrera, who lauds the food and the service.
Speaking to Doha News, the Mexican expat said:
“They treat us like family. And the food is truly on-point. I appreciate the fact that it is prepared with great care and experience. Pepe has also gone to great lengths to import many of the ingredients from Mexico in their cuisine.
They have successfully created a little piece of home here in Doha for my friends and I.”
Mr. Taco got started at Dar Al Salam mall because at the time, it was the only shopping center that welcomed the business, Hossfeldt said.
Most other malls seek well-known chain establishments.
Now that the eatery has established a loyal base of customers, it will be branching out to the Pearl-Qatar.
“Viva Mexico” is expected to open at Qanat Quartier by the end of this year.
Mr. Taco is open from 11am-11pm daily except for Fridays (1 pm-11 pm). Online orders and home delivery is available. The restaurant can be reached at 4441-1966 or via its website.