Tomatillo Tex-Mex Grill: A Taste of Texas in the Heart of South Korea

Tomatillo Tex Mexican Grill

On the Quest for Authentic Mexican Cuisine in Daegu

Steven woke up this morning with a craving for Mexican food, a tricky desire to fulfill here in Daegu, South Korea. While there’s definitely a market and appreciation for Mexican cuisine, finding a restaurant that doesn’t turn traditional dishes into a ‘Korean imitation’ can be challenging. Most places struggle to master the fresh mix of tomato, onion, cilantro, sour cream, and the delicate balance of peppers needed to capture authentic Mexican flavors.

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Tomatillo Tex Mexican Grill

Ethnic Food in South Korea

Native chefs can do ethnic food in South Korea, but they tend to be twisted to fit the country’s taste buds. The Korean palate is can be confusing at times. What should be sweet isn’t. And what should be savory might be sweet. Chinese, Thai, Indonesian restaurants are all over the place. Mexican restaurants aren’t. And that’s why I was so happy to discover Tomatillo Tex Mexican Grill.

Owner Bae Jun Yong, CEO of the Chef Win Group, is hustling alongside his employees today. He smiles as he hands me a business card, apologizing profusely for the inability to converse with me in English. But Gustavo. or Tavo for short has no such problem. With a location in Itaewon, Tomatillo is showing Koreans, one person at a time, that their palate can love an authentic Mexican restaurant too.

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Owner Bae Jun Yong, CEO of the Chef Win Group and Chef and Tavo Flores.

 

Trained in Cancun Mexico

A little over a month ago Tavo Flores, a native of Cancun Mexico, was working long hours on a Disney Cruise Ship. He and a friend had heard that there were lots of chef positions in South Korea, a country he really wanted to explore more. So he quit his job and flew to Seoul, interviewed on a Friday, and started working the following Tuesday. That was a little over a month ago and the rest is a very brief history of what can happen when you have skills, desire, and a plane ticket.

Tavo also echoes the frustration with inauthentic Mexican food outside of Seoul. “We have been very busy since we opened. Many of our customers have been Koreans, but we are also receiving quite a few international students, teachers, and military personnel too”, says Tavo.

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Tomatillos is open 7 days a week from 11 to 11, but the kitchen closes before 10 pm. (053)354-5332 or 010-6711-5332. I didn’t see any parking, but there is parking in the Home Plus parking garage. across the street.

 

The Decor

The first thing you notice is the colors and openness of the restaurant. A large flat screen plays Korean videos, but American hip hop is coming from the overhead speakers. Then you pick up the menu which is hefty by any standards. There are at least 20 pages of the usual subjects: tacos, burritos, chimichangas, etc, etc. There are also alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and craft beer (to the delight of my hubby).

Unfortunately, the Amber beer he wanted was not available for whatever reason, so he ordered something else. He also ordered an IPA which he said was very good. I ordered a mojito. It came in a small pitcher and it was delicious– a perfect drink for a hot day.

The Menu

The menu at Tomatillo Tex Mexican Grill is in Konglish, or rather the titles are in English and everything else is in Korean. We order something called garbage chicken with spinach dip. It’s disappointing. Its just Korean fried chicken with spinach and ranch dip.

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Pineapple Jarritos offered to me by the owner and chef is a yummy and delicious drink on a hot day like today/

Our Orders

Steven orders the Baja fish tacos and I ordered my favorite Mexican dish, the chimichanga. I am a harsh critic of the chimichanga and if you can do it well, I will love you forever.

The tacos arrive first. The fish is fried perfectly but dwarfed by the soft taco shell it is served in. More fish would be much appreciated. The fish was topped with lots of shredded cabbage, chopped onion, and tomato in a creamy sauce. There was a pretty fried cheese skirt on the outside of the taco shell, which I felt was unnecessary to the tacos but created a pretty presentation.

Verdict:

Tasty, but tried to do too much. People order a Baja taco for the simplicity of the fish or shrimp, tomato, and onions. It’s not supposed to be so complicated. The food is great for a late-night snack but lacked the authentic Mexican flavors I love.

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It was filled with chicken, beans, onions, and corn. It was yummy and the crust was hella flaky.

 

The Chicken Chimichanga

My chicken chimichanga arrived and it was huge. Plenty for two. But I noticed it did not look like the picture which had guacamole and sour cream on top. Mine was served with a side of a tomato-based sauce and the infamous Daegu pickles and radish.

It was filled with chicken, beans, onions, and corn. It was yummy and the crust was hella flaky. We both really enjoyed it even though it wasn’t exactly what we expected from the picture.

Would I eat there again if I wasn’t moving, sure, it was very good and I like the people and ambiance. You will too.


The Location

I love the location behind Daegu Station on the grounds of the Samsung Creative Campus. It was a little difficult to find but impossible. The buildings are new, and they give off a modern, hip, and western vibe. Many of the storefronts are unoccupied right now, but I have a feeling not for long. Tomatillo sits on the far left corner of one of the buildings located in a quad area. there are a small playground and seating in the middle where people seemed happy to congregate.

The Tomatillo Tex Mex Grill in Daegu is open 7 days a week from 11 to 11, but the kitchen closes before 10 pm. (053)354-5332 or 010-6711-5332. I didn’t see any parking, but there is parking in the Home Plus parking garage across the street.

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Comments

  1. eazynazy

    I have never heard about this place before and yea Mexican food definitely tastes amazing . I will check this place out here in USA

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