A few things tend to make me wary of a restaurant, outside of obvious health and service warning signs. For instance, a massive menu suggests among other things that the kitchen has gone scattershot instead of polishing a few dishes to a mirror shine. Similarly, we shy away from drinks menus that include two dozen casual dining chain standards like mudslides and fuzzy navels.
But when my preconceived notions are wrong, I will readily and proudly eat my words right off an inch-thick menu. And Mi Mexico's brightly painted chairs and sectioned-out dining area proves to be a fine venue for just that.
Mi Mexico is a Colorado chain, with locations in Montrose and Grand Junction, and a kinship with Falcon's Guadalajara Family Mexican Restaurant. The Academy and Austin Bluffs spot held its grand opening on Oct. 26, but it doesn't dine like a month-old eatery.
On first visit, I sample the daily special pastor burrito, a Mission-style meal that comes smothered in green chile, cheese and cilantro-heavy pico de gallo. Beyond passable rice and beans, the pork earns special commentary for a notable citrus punch. And the sheer amount of food satisfies for two lunches — not bad at all for a $9 burrito.
On second visit, my guest and I rack up a $74 bill, pre-tip, with two drinks, an appetizer and two entrées. It's hard to justify that price, except for the fact that we took home more food than we ate. We start with the appropriately named Mi Mexico taquiza (taco party). For $22, we get eight meat-packed tacos, sampling less-citrusy al pastor, pleasant carnitas, and grill-tasting asada and pollo asado. Served with a plate of diced white onion, cilantro, a quartered lime and a bowl of beans, it's a meal for two on its own.
We also try a quality ceviche, with mild fish under heavy citrus, onion and tomato served with house-fried tostadas. And, to branch out, we order pollo Culichi, a dish ascribed to Sinaloan capital Culiacán. It's a massive plate of grill-forward chicken under green poblano-spinach-cream sauce, mildly spiced and rich, with plenty of garlicky refried beans and rice. This $14 dish can feed two also.
Oh, and the complimentary salsa has real kick, so bonus.
As for drinks, the menu holds a few highbrow options, with the "original margarita" featuring solid Hornitos reposado, plus a sizable list of silver, reposado and añejo tequilas listed. But after a long and stressful week, we want lowbrow: sugary and as strong as possible.
A regular-sized (20-ounce) melon frozen margarita arrives in a hurricane glass, lime-and-tequila slush floated on melon liqueur with grenadine atop. Pretty as it may be, it takes heavy stirring and plenty of melting before the liqueur and margarita slush mix. And mixing is mandatory for those who don't want to drink two or three shots of alcoholic snow-cone syrup.
From the menu, a Kiss of the Dragon sounds sickly, which is pretty accurate. Southern Comfort, Chambord, melon liqueur, and cranberry and orange juices turn into something between fruit punch and cherry cough syrup, kicked into high gear by vodka and a float of overproof rum. My dining companion considers it the Long Island Iced Tea of his dreams.
Make no mistake, this isn't gourmet, nor is it hole-in-the-wall heaven. But the food's solid and served in generous portions. Bring friends.