Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill

Name: La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill
Address: 409 S Clinton St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 422-8811
Neighborhood: Downtown (Armory Square)
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Mexican
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Wednesday 10:30 AM - 10 PM, Thursday to Friday 10:30 AM - 3AM, Saturday 11 AM - 3 AM
Parking: On-Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Catering: Yes

I hesitated stopping in here for dinner as I walked by it on my way up Clinton St (I was heading towards Lao Village and in dire need of some red curry). After arriving at my destination only to find it was closed for the day for no apparent reason, I walked back to Armory Square and decided to give La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill a try.

In what was the former Cafe Gyro Basha (a mediocre gyro place that used bagged lettuce with carrots as filling. Blel!), and the former Slices (a decent pizza substitute for Armory Square late nighters whenever Nick's was too crowded) is now home to La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill - a Mexican-style off-shoot of Dolce Vita World Bistro on E Genesee St. Since opening earlier this year, the place began its mark with a complete interior and exterior makeover that brought in a cafeteria-style ordering station, foundation restructuring and expansion, separate dining areas, and was completed with a tasteful, Hacienda-style look on the outside. It was a huge overhaul and a major improvement from the shoddiness and badly lit interior that existed there just a couple of years prior. The inside also features clean and cohesive looking tables and chairs, a huge flat screen TV over a fireplace, and stools up near the window overlooking Clinton Street. It's a very warm and relaxing atmosphere (at least on this occasion - I can't necessarily vouch for the lunch crowd rush).

Again, ordering is cafeteria-style with a few members of the staff hosting different stations and handling each aspect of the food. While they specialize in mostly burritos, tacos, and quesadillas here, there's a few other surprises on the menu like potato salad (with red potatoes, avocado, and jalapenos), stuffed peppers (baked green peppers stuffed with beef and rice and topped with cheese), and the grande nachos (with with about every topping choice available). The tacos and burritos come with your standard choice of fillings as well as choices like tequila-lime marinated tofu, chicken marinated in chipotle habanero sauce, homemade salsas, and fresh jalapenos and cilantro. It's nice not to be charged for each individual ingredient for the burritos, but opt for sour cream and guacamole and it will run your meal a little higher. Bottled drinks and fountain drinks are available and are mostly Coca-Cola products. And I did spy me some Jarritos.

The order...

Carnitas Burrito: $6.50
Soda with Chips & Salsa combo: $2.00
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $10

Chips and salsa? Meh. Not terrible. The mild salsa was kind of bland, had scallions in it, and had a ton of cilantro (which is one of my favorite herbs, but it was a bit overbearing). Chips were a tad on the stale side. In the small paper cup, that's a free sample of the habanero pepper salsa. Unfortunately, I don't really remember anything else about it.

Also pictured (in foil) is the Carnitas Burrito with Mexican pulled pork, cilantro lime rice, black beans, mild salsa, cilantro, fresh jalapenos, and red onions.

Honestly, I wasn't too keen on the burrito. The cilantro lime rice sounded good in theory, but didn't really have any noticeable cilantro presence or lime taste, the red onions were really strong and over-whelming, and the floor tortilla was a really strange texture - it's hard to explain, but it was really, really dry, pulled apart easily, and one of the oddest flour tortillas I can remember having. As for the large portion of pulled pork inside, it was relatively dry (despite being dredged in the traditional meat liquid before serving) and was really off-putting. For lack of a better description, it tasted like powdered beef jerky and was a taste that I really couldn't get past, especially because there was so much of it. Beef jerky isn't so bad on its own, but I'd rather not have it in burrito form. It kind of through off the entire experience for me.

I'm not really sure if this was a bad meal or if I just wasn't in the mood for it. I'd rather not give a bad review based on being unmotivated before even walking into a place. But at the same time, nothing really excited me. It caters towards the lunch and late night crowds, but it's also not a bad stop for a sit-down meal and a quick dinner. Points for fast and friendly service (a great spot for food on-the-go), a nice menu, and a comfortable, fresh, and clean interior. I'd give the food a low rating for this particular experience, but I wouldn't rule out going back again. The menu has some other enticing options that I'd be willing to give a try for next time.

My rating of La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill:

Your rating of La Taqueria Fresh Mexican Grill:

1 comment:

Stefanie Noble said...

Hmmm... I haven't had their chips or burritos, but I'm a regular lunch customer for hard tacos. I usually get black beans, chicken, salsa and guacamole and I have no complaints on that!