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THE EATBEAT: Mi Mexico enjoys a warm welcome in Grand Forks

The parking lot at the new Mi Mexico has been full since the restaurant opened here in January. Customers are seated in order of their arrival and order off a colorful -- though slightly cumbersome -- menu, from a long list of dishes described as...

The parking lot at the new Mi Mexico has been full since the restaurant opened here in January. Customers are seated in order of their arrival and order off a colorful -- though slightly cumbersome -- menu, from a long list of dishes described as "authentic Mexican."

After my initial visit, I wanted to go back. I liked the cheery ambience with colorful Mexican art. I liked the attitude of the owners who are working alongside their staff. Most of all, I liked the food.

The chips and salsa came first. The chips were warm and fresh and the salsa thick and nicely flavored. There is a spicier salsa and another that is really hot.

It is my custom to order basic items in a Mexican restaurant. So, I ordered the first lunch item I saw on the menu -- Speedy Gonzalez. This is one taco, one enchilada and choice of rice or beans. I don't care for refried beans. I like rice, and this had an especially nice, mild flavor. The taco was tasty, and the enchilada was nicely smothered in sauce. It was an adequate lunch for $5.25.

I drank water, although you can get sweet or unsweetened tea, coffee or Coke products for $1.95 and orange or apple juice or milk for $1.50. You also can get domestic and imported beers and Mexican sodas for $1.50.

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There are a couple of dozen lunch specialties. And there are 25 combo dinners listed at $8.25. These pair tacos, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, chalupas and chili rellenos in various combos. There are vegetarian choices and a kid's menu with eight different choices at $3.25.

The dinner menu begins with Pescado Mi Mexico, a grilled catfish dinner served with rice or french fries and tossed salad ($9.99). Seafood selections are numerous and include shrimp and tilapia. There are meals for people who like to eat heartily, such as T-Bone Steak Mexicano ($11.99). And the entrees are served very hot. I marveled as one waiter balanced four very hot plates on a heat protector on his arm.

The local owners are proud of their food, which includes recipes from their families and is made daily in the kitchen. Their chef is Juan Silva. They say customers can share, eat it all or take some home. Local owners are Alejandro Lopez and Fred Garcia, who are in business with three others who operate a similar restaurant in Minot. The partners decided to branch out after their success in Minot and hope to expand further if things go well here.

They leased, cleaned and refurbished the building on South Washington Street that formerly housed a Hardee's restaurant. It had been empty for four years. They hired Ezequiel Espinosa, a Mexican-American painter from California, to do the wall murals that show scenes in soft colors of Old Mexico. They also ordered bright blue booths with colorful backs and chairs with Mexican art from a company in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The restaurant is one large open area with booths around the edge and tables in the center. The counter where customers pay is a little difficult to reach when there are people waiting to be seated. But on my second visit, a waitress offered to handle the check at the table. All in all, the restaurant has smoothed out most wrinkles always present with an opening.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or call (701) 772-1055.

Related Topics: FOOD
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