At Mama Loco, an Auckland Mexican themed bar and eatery, my boyfriend and I were asked to provide a credit card or debit card before being served food in the outside seating area. It was a slightly confronting request, a protocol we would have preferred to have been informed of when being greeted inside the establishment. We wondered if everyone in the outside seating area had been asked the same thing.

Whilst most Mexican themed eateries in Auckland attempt to create an authentic or stylistic Mexican feel, there is a sharp curve of quality and customer service. At the bottom is most definitely MEXICO Food & Liquor in Britomart; mediocre and overpriced food, rude service and terrible pixelated pictures of Frida Kahlo offensively stuck up around the toilet. At the top is Ellerslie’s Mexican Specialties – warm, genuine service, exquisite food, and only open Thursday through Saturday.

Mama Loco’s decor is eye-catching but their prawn taco – mediocre, and their service slightly shambolic. I think of my last trip to California; Leilani and I were staying in downtown L.A and found a little underground Mexican eatery which was cheap, delicious and full of Mexicans. It may seem old-fashioned in the context of globalisation, but when Mexican food and culture is presented and sold by Mexicans, it blows every imitation out the water.

Whether Mama Loco has an unspoken ‘brown person’ policy or not, it was an interesting example of what is presumably young, hip entrepreneurs with their eye on alcohol profits riding a wave of ethnic cool. Good luck with that.

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