Guajillos Mexican Grill, where flavor comes to die

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

Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm  Comments (8)  


  1. 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…

  2. 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!

  3. […] 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 […]

  4. […] 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. […]

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. Why thank you for the info! Shame on me for not searching “Ninth Street Bakery” in the Carpe Durham box before posting 🙂

  8. 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…

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