Critic’s Corner: Mexico Restaurant

Critic’s Corner: Mexico Restaurant

Tim Castano, Food Critic

Normally, first impressions of a restaurant from the outside don’t reflect the quality of the food the customer receives.  It may look decrepit and old on the outside of the building, but the food may be the best there is. The problem is that’s not always the case, especially with Mexico Restaurant.

Located in Festival Shopping Center, near the Chuck E. Cheese and Panera Bread, this well-hidden restaurant, owned by Benny Ayala, specializes solely on Mexican-style food.  The place definitely doesn’t lack in the atmosphere department. Stepping in, one immediately notices the substantial amount of Mexican décor and green and wooden walls that give it that “near the border” feeling.  The only thing missing is the mariachi band to complete the scene, but it makes up for it by playing different tracks of traditional Mexican music.  The waiters are very friendly and inviting, welcoming guests with an “Hola, amigo!” and a bowl of warm tortilla chips and salsa.

However, that’s where the good ends.  The menu is fairly large, but focuses primarily on well known Mexican dishes that are found at any Taco Bell or Chipotle, making the lack of diversity somewhat disappointing.  For $10.75, I ordered the house special, the Special Dinner, which consisted of an enchilada, tamal, chalupa, chile relleno, and a taco, with Spanish rice and fried beans on the side.  This basically provided a taste of the major dishes the restaurant had to offer.  You would think that with so much food, I would have a favorite, but the thing is: I didn’t.

When the meal arrived (which took about five minutes or so), I looked at my plate in shock. The presentation was awful, with all the food just piled on the plate with green and red sauce drenching everything in sight.  However, what stood out was the fact that was a lot of refried beans.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it took up half of my plate.  When I pulled up the rice…refried beans.  When I pulled up the chalupa and enchilada…more refried beans.  I wouldn’t have minded this if the food had some flavor, but it didn’t.  It was very bland and ordinary, the meat inside the tortillas cold and flavorless.  The hard-shelled taco was soggy because of the strangely sour red and green sauce and the beans tasted like they were just freshly microwaved instead of freshly made.  There was little or no seasoning on anything I tasted and I couldn’t finish more than a fourth of what was on my plate (again, because half of it was just the slimy, mashed beans).

The food is not made for quality, as it is for quantity.  Despite the owner claiming this is a family-friendly restaurant, it is designed more for the working class groups who want something filling to eat that can be made in a short amount of time.  It’s also focused more on its drinks and bar than food, with the ambiance ruined by the rowdy group at the counter ordering cup after cup of margaritas.  So, in a sense, it is family friendly in the early afternoon when there aren’t too many people coming in, but geared toward the adults in the later hours of the evening.

Overall, the food is slightly expensive and unappetizing, redeemed only by its ridiculously large serving size and quick preparation time.  The allure of the kind waiters and border-style appearance of the interior of the restaurant is constantly ruined by the noisy crowd that gathers around the bar. This restaurant could have had so much potential, but the effort placed on cooking the food reflects the quality, which isn’t much to rave about.

There are dozens of Mexican restaurants around the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area, but out of all of the places I’ve visited, this place is by far, the worst. If your taste buds are looking for something delicious or you’re just craving for some amazing Mexican food, I suggest you look elsewhere.  I, for one, am not coming back for seconds.

Critic’s Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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