Mexicali Rose is the type of small town dive you might take for granted if you grew up with it in your backyard (like I did), or you selfishly want to keep it to yourself (like I do). As a kid growing up in Newtown, I knew it was preferable to its Subway strip mall neighbor, but it wasn’t until I logged many thousands of miles of travel and dozens (hundreds?) of taco joints, that I truly saw this place. Homemade tortilla chips, walls covered in a clutter of Mexican folkloric kitsch, a handful of enamel top tables, and one very kind family that owns and runs the restaurant make Mexicali Rose one of my favorite hidden northern Fairfield County gems.
If you dine in at either the newer Bethel or the original Newtown location, a bowl of salsa fresca and homemade chips are on the house. Thick, crispy, salted, and fried to a golden perfection, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that half of the allure of Mexicali Rose are these chips, which thankfully, you can also buy by the bag.
If and when you make it past the chips, the menu is filled with classic Mexican dishes; hard- and soft-shell tacos, hefty burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas with sides of beans and rice, and a standout black bean soup. Daily specials are printed on a board, and you can grab a Jarritos soda or Mexican beer from the refrigerator in the Newtown dining room (and the Bethel location has a full bar). I almost always get a pair of soft shell tacos, but was pleasantly surprised that the hard shell tacos are housed in the same golden brown fried goodness as their tortilla chips.
At a time where everyone seems to feel the need to reinvent the taco, Mexicali’s tacos are refreshingly simple and straightforward. A protein, chopped tomatoes, raw diced onions, and cilantro. That’s it.
Mexicali's taco is an apt metaphor for the relaxed, simple, and homespun take on Mexican classics that has kept them a favorite of many in Newtown and Bethel for many years.
Mexicali Rose is located at 71 South Main Street in Newtown and 68 Stony Hill Road in Bethel.