When I first walked into Casa Mexico, I was a bit concerned about how “authentic” Mexican food could possibly be in northeastern Minnesota or North Dakota.
As I first walked in, I was further worried by what appeared to be a questionable atmosphere, with the restaurant having an exterior straight out of the 1980’s. It also had a stereotypical interior that has been around forever. As a lover of Mexican food, however, I decided to tough it out and sit down. Thankfully, I made the right choice.
I was first rewarded by my faith when the server promptly came to the table and took my drink order. One knock against them was their chips and salsa policy. The first serving is on the house, but each additional you have to pay. Despite the restaurant being a bit busy, I was given my drink and chips quickly.
As I have always believed the best way to judge a Mexican restaurant is by the initial chips and salsa.
Right off the bat, Casa Mexico passed this test. The chips were mildly salted, with a salsa that was neither too chunky nor watered down, and was a reasonable mix between spicy and flavorful.
It was easy to taste the tomato base, and they chose to go for flavor, which I prefer as opposed to the “hot for the sake of hot” of some salsas. At times, however, it was plagued by the dilemma of having good flavor but insufficient bite.
As I enjoyed my chips, I began to look at the menu to get a feel for both the variety of offerings and what I was going to order. While the menu doesn’t seem to take any risks, staying to the tried and true, it is laid out in an appealing way allowing you to quickly browse and find what you want.
Though I normally favor the more exotic, I decided to go with a mixture of two typical dishes; a burrito and a chile relleno.
Once again the server quickly brought the entree over, refilled my drink and left me to enjoy. I initially noticed the plate was a bit soupy, with slightly too much sauce that had bled into the chile relleno.
The burrito tasted wonderful, and the beef had been spiced properly, not relying on the sauce for flavor.
Additionally, it was well mixed, with each bite having a taste of all of the ingredients which were clearly of high quality. The burrito had no aftertaste, which is always a good sign.
Overall, I would say burrito is the best available in Grand Forks, but unfortunately I was not so lucky with the chile relleno.
The relleno suffered from two problems; too much burrito sauce smothering the exterior and overpowering spice as opposed to flavor. Usually when I taste excessive spice, it is to hide a general lack of flavor in the entree. It was also over-breaded for my taste.
In general, I prefer rellenos which do not have a breading in the first place, so for the batter to be thick and chunky is problematic. As a result, this relleno was substandard and disappointing after the solid burrito.
In the aggregate, the restaurant scores a 3 and a half out of 5 stars, while the burrito and chips greatly exceeded expectations, the poor chile relleno and atmosphere force me to rate it just slightly above average.
Dave Owen is the opinions editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]