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In Dining Reviews

Chips and salsa are still free at Guanajuato. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska)

In Dining Reviews

The menu goes beyond the typical fare of Mexican resturants. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska)

In Dining Reviews

There's nothing fancy about Guanajuato's decor. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska)

Thrifty, filling meals (and free chips) at Guanajuato


On the heels of both an inquiry from a fan asking for an inexpensive Mexican dining option, and Molly Snyder's recent piece on free chips in Mexican restaurants (for the record, Riviera Maya in Bay View is the first Mexican Restaurant I know of to have eschewed free chips and salsa), I reviewed Guanajuato, 2310 S. Howell Ave., this week; a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Mexican diner which formerly housed the aforementioned Riviera Maya, when it was then known as Xel-Ha.

Guanajuato manages to be thrifty, while at the same time, delivers some menu options you won't readily see in other establishments.

And yes, they offer complimentary chips and salsa.

Guanajuato's menu also offers lengua, or beef tongue, as a meat option, and diners can also order cecina, a dried and salted beef, in addition to Americanized standbys like chicken, steak, pork and ground or shredded beef. A separate section of the menu offers mariscos, or seafood, predominantly in the form of cod fish or camarones (shrimp).

Diners at Guanajuato should expect what you would expect of most hole-in-the-wall restaurants: good, if not sometimes exceptional food, with an emphasis on flavors and delivery rather than beautiful presentation and flawless service. Guanajuato is made for the diner who likes to dabble outside the basic taco or enchilada and is okay with waiting a few extra moments if the restaurant is packed with takeout and dine in orders.

Several recent visits to Guanajuato brought with them surprisingly interesting dining options for prices that are reminiscent of what one used to pay for a Mexican meal, back before they became so popular in the marketplace. Very few options land above $10, and most include rice and homemade refried beans.

Additionally, Guanajuato serves breakfast all day, with standard huevos rancheros ($5.50), huevos con chorizo ($5.50) and machado con huevo ($5.50) eggs with shredded beef, tomato, and onion, making an appearance.

Guacamole ($5.50) at Guanajuato falls at par, with a slight bite of coriander, and is more creamy than chunky in texture. Queso fundido ($5.75) with chorizo, layers just a bit too much oiliness over the melted cheese, but the flavors are sinfully delicious when folded into a flour tortilla.

For dinner, samplings of two enchiladas with chicken, suizas ($8.25) and rojas ($8.25) were both very good, with the suizas version, layered with its green sauce, cheese and sour cream, making it truly exceptional.

A house specialty of huaraches ($6.25) carried great weight with a vegetarian dining companion who found these to be a favorite. The thick tortilla is meant to look like a sandal with layers of lettuce, tomato and cheese, and is decorated with thick slices of fresh avocado.

Whether or not you can see the footwear in these, you'll see a lovely plate of fresh ingredients, and the flavors are excellent. This was also true, of the mole con pollo ($8.25), a simple, straightforward chile mole with chunks of tender chicken, served with warm tortillas, slices of tomato, and shredded lettuce.

Margaritas at Guanajuato are of the premixed, bottled variety, which perhaps make it more important that you visit here to sample some more interesting Mexican cuisine than what you may otherwise stick your fork into.

They offer a good selection of Jarritos - Mexican sodas - and Milk shakes. And if you're lucky enough to venture in on the weekend, they also offer Menudo, a traditional and popular tripe soup, which is rarely seen in restaurants; get it to go for $10.50, or eat in for $6.50 (this is the one section of the menu, too, which is tellingly written wholly in Spanish).

The latter proves they aren't fooling around at Guanajuato; there is much more significance to what they put on your plate here than what comes in the accompanying beverage-ware.


Talkbacks

hifimono | Dec. 11, 2009 at 12:37 a.m. (report)

Their steak tacos with onion & cilantro are so flavorful. Lots of steak and there salsa is to die for

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fivefoottwo | Dec. 9, 2009 at 3:32 p.m. (report)

This place is a real gem. As a Mexican-American, their food is fantastic and authentic. Super reasonable prices too. I think what I like most is that you can see how hardworking the owner, family, and staff are. I hope they stay in business forever!

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m_veloz89 | Dec. 7, 2009 at 12:21 p.m. (report)

This place is alright. But you have to try El Senorial. Try the Parriada regular. Its amazing. It is a little more expensive but delicious.

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MrsKC | Dec. 7, 2009 at 12:20 p.m. (report)

I go there for lunch intending to get their a lunch special, but can't resist the fresh avacado & cilantro on the huraches. So delicious.

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missyouhoo | Dec. 7, 2009 at 11:14 a.m. (report)

You have to try the sopas, its stacked and 1 is very filling.

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