First Taste

Méjico in Central Phoenix: Homestyle Mexican Food That Hits the Spot

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Méjico Location: 2333 E. Osborn Road Open: Over six weeks Eats: Upscale Mexican Price: $20 to $50+ per person

See also: 13 Best Ethnic Restaurants in Metro Phoenix

Some of the new Mexican restaurants in town are differentiating themselves with eclectic taco ingredients or funky ambiance. Méjico's shtick: homestyle Mexican food in an equally homey setting.

Obed de la Cruz (one of the owners of East Valley Mexican spots El Sol Mexican Cafe & Bakery, El Zocolo Mexcian Grill, and Mangos Mexican Cafe) recently opened the newest addition to the now-booming Central Phoenix Osborn corridor.

Méjico's small space includes a handful of tables and a full-service bar that serves fresh and unfussy Mexican fare for lunch, happy hour, and dinner six days a week. (It's closed Sunday.)

It's not the kind of Mexican food in which your meal is covered in a layer of molten cheese (not that that is necessarily a bad thing). It's not "nouveau" Mexican, either -- you know, with loads of citrus flavors and weird seeds. Méjico's dishes aren't complicated, but simply feature well-seasoned flavors, often with a spicy kick.

Don't be fooled by the term "homestyle" -- this Mexican cuisine doesn't come cheap. The lunch menu features 10 typical Mexican dishes: A few tortas, tacos, burritos, a tostada, and a salad all running between $9 and $12. We came for dinner, when entrées ranged from $17 to $23. For a cheaper taste, come during happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., when there are a bunch of drink specials and appetizers are half-off.

We ordered two items from the De la Cruz specialties, which also include more traditional Mexican staples like chicken and beef enchiladas or rellenos. We also sampled two seafood selections. A few salads, appetizers, and soups round out the menu.

We started our meal with chips, salsa ($4), and guacamole ($8). The chips were fresh, warm, and crisp. They don't come gratis, but once ordered, they don't stop refilling until you ask them to stop -- which was a good thing because the meal took quite a while.

No matter, it was Saturday night, and the place was bustling. The time goes more quickly when you're sipping a large margarita with a Grand Marnier floater ($12).

A long while and two and a half plates of chips later, the meal arrived.

The flavorful Backyard Carne Asada ($20) consisted of thin slices of marinated beef paired with salsa and guacamole and corn tortillas.

Diablo Camarones ($23), a healthy pile of spicy shrimp, also was served with a side of corn tortillas.

The chile verde ($18) has tender chunks of pork and a spicy sauce with a kick. A side of corn tortillas would have been a nice addition to soak up some of the extra sauce (maybe next time, Méjico?).

The tacos de pescado were probably a low point of the meal. Not bad, just a little heavy on the bread. The simple grilled fish, cabbage, and chipotle sauce was fresh and delicious, but each taco was served on two corn tortillas, making it heavier than it needed to be. Delete a tortilla; problem solved.

All entrees come with rice and a choice of black or pinto beans.

After we cleaned our plates, the server apologized for the delay and brought out a dish of complimentary flan as a consolation. As he placed the slice of firm custard, dulce de leche and whipped cream in front of us, there were a few protests about mixed flan feelings, but seconds later, the plate was clean.

While I encountered a few of the hiccups that come with a new restaurant, I'm excited about Méjico's new niche: simple Mexican food that both tastes and feels good.

See also: Member of East Valley's De La Cruz Family Opening Mexican Restaurant in Central Phoenix

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Carrie Wheeler