Driving south down Division the week before, we spotted a couple of Mexican restaurants that we wanted to come back and try, and this was the first. We knew nothing about it and pulled into the rear parking lot. There was just one other vehicle in the lot, which is not something we like to see, on several levels. We walked in the back door and found a good-sized room with an empty lunch buffet on our right. On the left, upholstered booths lined the windows, tables filled the space in between, and on the far end of the room, very large booths take the middle space. The kitchen and counter were on the right, halfway into the room, with pictures of the food above the counter/kitchen opening.
We took a booth by the window far back into the restaurant and found ourselves seated near a Virgin Mary statue highlighted with colored lights, two booths on the right loaded with dirty dishes (must have been a busy lunch), a compact disc juke box, and very colorful artwork. Against the back wall was a large flat screen TV showing, with sound, soccer on ESPN de Portes. It’s not our idea of atmosphere but the decor may be culturally true, and unlike “Little Mexico” that tries to provide a Mexican food experience for Americans (Tex-Mex meets Aztec art), this is a restaurant serving Mexican food for Mexican people.
It was around 1:30 p.m. and the only other occupants were a couple with a small child. Sometime during our meal, they departed and two customers in hoodies arrived for take-out. From the looks we received, we knew we were an oddity here. Our server frequently lapsed into Spanish but was friendly and patient; chips and salsa were delivered promptly. The salsa was thinner than what we’re used to but the flavor was excellent with a nice spicy kick, and far above the average fare; no refills were brought (and we didn’t ask). Soda is served from cans - nothing on tap. Valentina Salsa Pi Cante is on the tables.
The lunch buffet was obviously over, and that was fine with us. The menu had four large pages (and a 5th page in mine that listed Chinese luncheon specials - really??) We bypassed the Chinese items and found a mole dish (enchilada mi tierra de mole), which consisted of four enchiladas with chicken, beef, or cheese, topped with cheese and sour cream, accompanied by rice, beans, and salad. Mole sauce creation is an art in itself and we couldn’t resist. We attempted to order it with beef but were twice told that it should be served with chicken. Who were we to disagree? Our second selection was fajitas a la Mexicana (marinated grilled steak with tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, rice, beans, and salad, on flour tortillas). Both dishes were wonderful, made up of fresh ingredients and great Mexican flavors - and definitely homemade tortillas. The small salad that accompanied our entrees was so much more than the token flavorless tomato slice on a piece of wilted lettuce that we’ve all experienced. This was fresh and crispy - chopped lettuce, tomato, avocado, and cilantro - a taste treat.
After we were served, our waitress disappeared. We helped ourselves to the takeout dishes that were stacked on the kitchen counter, and the cordial cook sent her back out with our bill. Well, not exactly. She went to the cash register, totaled up our meals, came back to our table, and told us what we owed. Entrees are under $10.00 for the most part, and the lunch buffet runs Monday - Friday for $5.99.
The restaurant has a drive-through window and that might be a good way to go for those that may be uncomfortable in this setting but want to enjoy an authentic Mexican meal.