Friday, September 10, 2010
Cinco de Mayo, 114 Monroe Center - 9/1/10
Opening some months ago, the restaurant occupies the old Herkner Jewelry store (which moved to the suburbs after a shooting incident involving the owner taking a few shots at a fleeing robber in broad daylight, but that’s another story).
The space is a now a color extravaganza. Painted walls, artistic renderings on chairs, booths, and tables provide a feast for the eyes. Upon entering, the restaurant seems small. But the booths lining the far wall move through the narrow hall and open up into another dining area that provides an entrance off Ottawa. There are TVs playing various channels but they were not noisy.
It was a late lunch and we took a booth away from the few other occupants but we found ourselves scrambling for foot and breathing space. Booths are tight; there was no chance of anything spilling on our laps. And all the tables and booths feature large foot pedestals; nice to look at but cumbersome for legs and feet.
The menu is large with all of the usual Mexican restaurant offerings but it also lists items featuring tongue and other more unusual dishes. Even the few always present American dishes are imaginative: hamburger or cheeseburger but with taco meat, and a hot dog but wrapped in a tortilla.
Chips and salsa were brought out promptly. We had to add hot sauce to the salsa and various sauces were already on the table. All of the appetizers were too hearty so we started with our main dishes. It took us a while to investigate the menu and our server repeatedly tried to get us to order. If you are looking for a leisurely dining experience, you will need to resist being rushed. If you’re on a tight schedule, you’ll be fine.
First up was Plato de Arrachera: steak, mexican cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados. It was a creative and amazingly good dish. The steak was tender, and everything was fresh and flavorful. Along with this came charro beans, a sort of bean stew that was very interesting. After a few spoonfuls, the saltiness became hard to ignore but the dish had a nice kick to it.
Our second item was Carnitas Mexicanas: deep-fried pork served with pico de gallo. It was another delicious plate of food. The “deep-fried” is not what you might expect. It was batter-free and quickly fried until just slightly crisp on the outside. The pork was well-seasoned and not overcooked; the fresh pico de gallo was a taste treat.
We were told that the full menu is available on their facebook page but we’ve been unable to locate the page, even after a phone call to the restaurant. Egg dishes are also available but note that there is “no Coke, Pepsi.” And the restaurant has recently obtained a liquor license. If you want more than Tex-Mex fare, you should try this restaurant.
May 2011 - We visited this restaurant again and were seated in the rear dining area, which was much more comfortable. We were struck again by the fact that although much of the fare is typical for a Mexican restaurant, these people do it right.