Just eight minutes from campus, Mariachi Mexican Restaurant offers a potential alternative to Jimador in Campustown for the Bradley community. Using the Order2Eat online ordering system, I tried dinner combination #6, which included a taco, an enchilada and Mexican rice. The order, excluding tip, totaled to $9.00. Here are my thoughts on the foods I considered staples at Mexican restaurants:
Hardshell beef taco: 4/5
Immediately in unwrapping the foil-encased taco, I noticed it was stuffed with ingredients: lots of beef, lettuce and cheese were packed into the corn shell. As my preference, I spooned some of my salsa to drizzle over the top. I was overwhelmed by the savoriness of the beef on the first bite. It was a bit too salty for my liking, and it could have used more chili, garlic or onion flavors found in traditional taco seasonings. The texture, however, was perfect. The meat was not too dry or so juicy that it made the shell soggy. In fact, I was impressed by how well it was preserved from pick-up to home.
It was packed full of ingredients and maintained a crunchy shell with tender beef, which is more than I could say for a cheaply packed Taco Bell taco.
Mexican rice: 5/5
I’m a big fan of Mexican rice, and it’s always been my preferred side. Good rice can make or break a Mexican restaurant. It’s a key ingredient in many dishes and the rice here was the classic orange in color, with just enough tomato flavoring to be a modest side dish. It was cooked well, without being too dry or mushy in texture. The rice was great eaten alone, and I could envision it mixed with other foods without suppressing other flavors.
Corn tortillas are usually a bit rubbery in texture, but this soft enchilada shell broke apart into small pieces when sliced with my fork. Ultimately, this just made it harder to eat and I found myself scooping chunks of tortilla along with the clumps of meat instead of eating clean slices. The red sauce on top was almost marinara-like in flavor. Like the meat, it was absent of chili powder and other traditional Mexican spices.
If one of your favorite Mexican dishes is an enchilada, I would look elsewhere.
Chips and Salsa: 2.5/5
Most Mexican restaurants offer complimentary chips and salsa when you dine in. Fewer honor this with take-out orders, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the little brown paper bag of chips and a cup of salsa. The yellow corn tortilla chips were very thick and slightly burnt, which I found unappealing; I prefer thinner, flakier chips. The salsa was a little too pureed and watery. The salsa was also very mild, with not even a hint of spice.
Overall, the chips and salsa were not great. However, the fact that they were free was factored into my score.