Cafe Reviews

Mejico in Central Phoenix Delivers Well-Prepared, Northern Mexican-Inspired Fare

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See also: Chef Bernie Kantak's The Gladly: Neat New American Cuisine

Mejico is the brainchild of Obed de la Cruz, of the same family who brought us El Sol Mexican Café and Bakery and El Zocalo Mexican Grill. Stylish yet humble, its décor is entirely kitsch­free. I was thrilled not to have to watch the staff prepare my food in a trendy open kitchen, and pleased not to see a single sombrero hanging on any wall. The smallish dining room is dwarfed by a full bar, which seemed like a misstep when a menu of better cervezas and a solid tequila list might have been enough. Specialty cocktails include the Pamplona, which was meant to be a hybrid of margarita and Greyhound but tasted soapy and slightly medicinal. The Cucumber Fresco was a refreshing mix of vodka, simple syrup, and cucumber. If I'd been traveling by taxi, I might have ordered three more.

Like its décor, Mejico's food is presented neatly and with no pretense. Dishes are prepared with standard meats like pork, beef, or chicken; I noted no gluten-­free fare. Nicely chewy tortillas are prepared from scratch (as are the rice and beans) and dishes are spiced with traditional central Mexican ingredients like poblanos, chipotle, and jalapeño.

Spiciness is relatively mild compared to many Mexican cuisines; I found the food I ordered to be neither too spicy nor not hot enough. Among the smallish selection of main courses, few were disappointing. My waiter was congenial and attentive, and while I would have liked a slower pacing, no course arrived while I was finishing another.

A bowl of chips aren't a gratis given here, but I ordered them with nicely limed guacamole, and with a monkey bowl of neatly smoky red salsa, and finally with hot queso, spicy with delicious Spanish chorizo. The chips are substantial, cut thick and perfectly salted, and the salsa is darkly spicy but not too hot. The guacamole takes a chopped­-salad approach to the traditional avocado dip, tarted up with cotija cheese and perfectly tossed with just enough onion and garlic.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela