There are many, many mediocre Mexican restaurants but happily, almost all of them make decent salsas and refried beans. At worst, you can make yourself a little bean taco if the rest of the meal suffers.
A lot of us in California grew up in Rosarita Refried Beans. They are fine but why not make your own and really get excited by refried beans?
Which beans to use? You literally can use any one you like but the flavor and texture will be different. Some of my favorites for refried beans are Buckeye (aka Yellow Indian Woman), Rio Zape, Moro, Midnight Black, Santa Maria Pinquitos, and Cassoulet.
- Start off by slicing some white onion very thin. Place the onion rings in a skillet with some lard and sauté until they're really soft and limp. If you don't have real lard, use some corn oil. I've made refrieds with olive oil and while it isn't authentic, it's pretty good.
- To puree the beans, I use a tool called a bean masher. Of course, I would have one but odds are you won't. You can use a potato masher instead. If you like your kitchen toys, a bean masher is very handy and also does a good job on avocados.
- Add some beans and their pot liquor to the pan. Allow them to come to a simmer if they've been in the fridge. Take your masher and run it along the pan, mashing some beans and onion together to make somewhat of a paste. Keep doing this until the beans are mostly mashed and the onions have disappeared. You can do a fine puree or, as I prefer, to leave a little bean texture, as pictured. When you run the masher and it leaves a trail where you can see the bottom of the pan, you're done.
- For Oaxacan beans, use black beans and avocado leaf.
- These beans, on a tortilla with a scant bit of cheese and some salsa, are nothing short of heaven.