For North Americans, the most popular or famous foods in Mexico are the steaks and the seafood. If you're not a meat eater when you come to Mexico, you'll be a meat eater when you leave because the price of steaks and hamburgers is very, very reasonable and generally of pretty good quality.
Mexicans are big meat eaters and just about everything has some kind of meat in it; maybe chopped steak or something in their tacos. They like their meat.
An example of traditional food in Mexico is what they call Arrachera steak. It's typically very tender, sliced thin. You get a big slab of it on your plate. It does not weigh more than a six-ounce fillet cut thick, but it's presented much differently. The same thing with chicken; they'll slice the chicken breast thin and sauté it, and that's very popular. Shrimp and various seafoods are pretty readily available and very popular.
Arrachera is more the style of cutting and cooking the steak. It's cut from what we would use as a roast. The way Mexicans slice it is they flip it over. They don't slice it right through. They slice about half an inch from the edge, flip that over, slice it back again, and keep flipping it and slicing it. It ends up with this big piece of meat in terms of circumference, but it's not very thick.
There's also pork or lamb on skewers. Mexicans roast them vertically, just like the Greek style of slicing it off and putting it on a taco. That's Tacos al Pastor. “Al pastor” refers to the type of meat that they use and that's usually pork. They'll also have goat or lamb that are smaller versions of the same thing. They serve this on a plate as well, not just in a taco.
A unique feature in Mexican cuisine is the rotisserie or barbecued chicken. It would be like the Western version of Colonel Sanders where you go in and they have a big roasting oven. Mexican restaurants have maybe 30 chickens in this oven. They start them up early in the morning and let them roast for four or five hours. About noon or one o'clock, people start going in to buy one. Along with the chicken, you get some tortillas, some coleslaw, rice, and salsa; a package deal. It used to be a deal. It used to be 50 to 60 pesos (US $2.60 to $3.20). Now you're spending 150 to 160 pesos ($8 to $8.50) for a whole chicken that will serve a family of three or four.
In one of the restaurants in Ajijic, El Pechugon, it's 70 pesos ($3.70) for half a chicken, great roasted potatoes, tortillas, salsa, and something else. It's enough for two or three people easily. There's no way you could eat it by yourself.
Another traditional food is Carnitas, which is basically chopped steak, which can be pork or beef, usually served in a tortilla or as a taco. It's meat that's got most of the fat and grizzle taken off. They chop the meat up and cook it on the griddle. One of the problems that you run into when you go to a taco stand is that the meat's already cooked and chopped up. When they cook it and chop it up in advance, you can't tell how much fat has been in it and how much is grizzle and uneatable stuff. You take a bite and you spit out half of the bite because of the stuff you can't chew. Carnitas refers to meat in which all that has been removed. You should be getting higher quality contents in your taco.
(Meat for tacos al pastor, Mexico, pictured.)