Mexico Restaurant & Bar offers grande portions at pequeño prices
You've heard the cliché about the eyes being too big for the stomach? Well, that aphorism certainly held true for dining partner Dan and me during our visit to Mexico Restaurant & Bar in Atlantic City. We found the restaurant's extensive menu so-o-o tempting, and observed the dishes being served to diners at nearby tables to be very colorful and eye-appealing.
Since brothers Marcos and Baruh Villa, natives of Oaxaca, Mexico, opened Mexico Restaurant & Bar eight years ago, it has become a favorite place for diners seeking authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex) served in a bright, cheerful atmosphere. While Marcos keeps everything running smoothly in the front of the restaurant, Baruh puts his 20 years of chef's experience to good stead by turning out "made from scratch" Mexican goodies from the kitchen.
Mexico Restaurant & Bar has a plain storefront exterior, but the décor of the dining rooms and bar exhibit pleasing Mexican influences. The main dining room has pottery, serapes and sombreros decorating the walls, and red, green and white banners (the color of Mexico's flag) with images of famous Mexican heroes hanging from the ceiling. The tables are topped with glass-covered white cloths. Although the restaurant was very busy on a recent Friday evening, the noise level was minimal, the service excellent.
The history of Mexican food has been greatly influenced by the Spanish who arrived in Mexico in the 15th Century. Mexico's tropical fruits, herbs, potatoes, avocados, corn and beans joined with the Spanish meats, poultry, cheese and dairy products to produce a rich, tasty and often spicy cuisine that appeals to most cultures. This cuisine is reflected in the Mexico Restaurant & Bar menu offerings.
As soon as we were seated, a large complimentary dish of salsa and a bowl of fresh, crunchy nachos were placed on the table. While munching on them we studied the menu, which includes fascinating tidbits about the origin of various dishes.
Dan and I planned to start our meals with a shared order of nachos grandes, but Veronica, our server, suggested that half an order ($4) would more than suffice. Wow, she was so right. The half portion of refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeño peppers, cheese and chicken was delicious, but since entrées were yet to come, we reluctantly agreed to forego some of the appetizer. Among many other antojitos (the Mexican word for appetizers) are centuries-old favorites such as chicken or beef tortas or a combo of chicken, beef and cheese tortas served with beans, sour cream, avocado and jalapeño peppers on soft Portuguese bread ($4.50 each); and a choice of steak, pork, Mexican sausage or chicken tacos served in a warm, soft corn tortilla with onions, cilantro and Mexican salsa ($5.79; three per order).
There are about three-dozen entrées to choose from, including a variety of Mexican-style chicken dishes ($8.95), beefsteak platters ($9.95-$10.95) and seafood platters such as pan-fried red snapper, a combo of shrimp, scallops, clams and calamari and a variety of shrimp dishes (each $12.95). Most seafood (mariscos) entrées include salad and a starch. Every Saturday and Sunday the chef cooks up goat meat ($8.99) and corn soup ($6.99) specials.
My burrito, quesadilla y sope combination entrée ($8.95) consisted of three homemade tortillas. One was filled with cheese, beans and chicken (a sinfully cheesy delight); another with cheese, peppers�and onions sautéed with chicken (a knockout), and a third with beans, onions and chicken (delicious). Dan's entrée was a thin slice of grilled beefsteak served with two enchiladas, guacamole, rice and refried beans ($10.95). The beef was nicely flavored but on the tough side.
Flan is the only dessert available, possibly because it's a light dish and anything else would be superfluous. We passed on this; we simply had no room for it.
Mexico Restaurant & Bar is a super spot for anyone with a large appetite, a small budget and a hankering for authentic Mexican cuisine. Servings are enormous, delicious and nothing on the menu tops $12.95. Our waitress was very pleasant and efficient. In fact, our dining experience was so enjoyable that we plan to return soon with other family members who love Mexican food. We're sure that they'll enjoy the whole enchilada of offerings here.
Mexico Restaurant & Bar, 3810 Ventnor Avenue, Atlantic City. Non-smoking dining room; on-site catering; menu items available for take-out; complete bar offering popular mixed drinks, wines, and Mexican beverages. Free parking at nearby lot. Open 7 days from 11am-11pm �(closed Jan. 1). Major credit cards accepted. Phone 344-0366.
Native to the Pacific coast Mexican resort community of Puerto Escondido, Eulogio has been working professionally in kitchens in the Atlantic City area since arriving 14 years ago.
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