Archive for category Chain Restaurant

El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant, Taunton

elmariachiEverybody’s talking about El Mariachi.

Their original restaurant in Taunton is always packed.  A newer outpost in Easton is bustling.  At the start of the new year, they opened a restaurant in Seekonk.  And in February, they’ll be opening on Main Street in Wareham.

“Everyone” includes the Big Dog’s little sister, who had told us about the Taunton location years ago. So it seemed fitting that when we went to the original for research purposes, she and her family would join us there.

The Big Dog and his brother-in-law each began with a Presidente margarita ($9.50), which they liked.  Sis ordered  a mojito ($6.75) when our server, Isabella, let her know that fresh mint was available, and it was delicious. Gina ordered a serviceable house cabernet ($5.25) and particularly liked the colorful glass, which was very thick.

While we reviewed the extensive menu, we augmented the complimentary chips and salsa with an order of guacamole ($8.50), made tableside in a stone pot and more than enough for the five of us. The chips arrive warm, with far less salt than any version that comes from a bag.

Niece Kaiya, who is in third grade and very knowledgeable about food, recommended the carne asada ($14.95).  Knowing that she was going to order it and would probably share, we made other choices, but this was definitely a good one.  After Kaiya carefully moved aside the scallion garnish, the strips of skirt steak were flavorful and tender.

Sis ordered the fish tacos: grilled cod wrapped in flour tortillas, accompanied by a do-it-yourself slaw, so you could add as much cabbage and dressing as you like, and a mound of white rice. This is probably the healthiest option on the El Mariachi menu.

Seeking the traditional Mexican restaurant experience, Gina opted for the combo plate which featured two choices ($13.75, including a dollar extra for sour cream) from among enchilada, burrito, chimichanga, chile relleno, tostada, tamale or taco, any of which can be filled with ground beef, shredded beef, shredded chicken, shredded pork or cheese. The cheese enchilada and shredded beef burrito were good choices.  Like most of the entrees, this came with yellow rice and refried beans on an enormous plate.

Brother-in-law enjoyed arroz con camarones ($15.75), a generous dish of shrimp tossed with vegetables in a red sauce.

The Big Dog choose pork carnitas ($13.95), which was the only slight misstep of the evening.  The pork was kind of dry, which would not have been noticeable had he wrapped it in the flour tortillas with accompanying red sauce and guacamole. But there was no evidence that assembly was required, and in any case, that would have taken away from the very good taste of the pork. He took home nearly half of the very large portion, and it was excellent from the food processor rolled into the tortilla with a little mayonnaise the next day for breakfast.

Kaiya talked us into trying the churros ($4.75), delicious little strips of fried dough served with fruit topped whipped cream, melted chocolate, and caramel for dipping.  They were a perfect end to a very good meal, and we look forward to Kaiya giving us guidance during future restaurant visits.

Our very attentive servers spoke with Mexican accents and dressed in festive clothing you associate with Mexico.  The decor in this storefront restaurant is warm and welcoming, with walls adorned with colorful Mexican artifacts.  A darker bar in the space next door, accessible from inside, looked like a great place to watch a football game.  While we were there, three people got the birthday treatment, which here involves singing and having an oversized sombrero placed on your head.

One warning for the budget-conscious: the portions here are big but not super-sized, and most of the prices we noticed are $1 to $2 more than what is shown on the on-line menu.

We understand the Lopez brothers, who own and operate the growing restaurant chain, are from Mexico, and seek to replicate an authentic Mexican dining experience.  We’ve never been to Mexico but we’ve been to Taunton, and we’re looking forward to an El Mariachi opening closer to home.

El Mariachi
44 Taunton Green, Taunton

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British Beer Company, Sandwich

2014-01-26 20.05.04

British Beer Company is a “chain” of 13 pubs, mostly in southeastern Massachusetts, that seeks to replicate the experience provided by a small town pub in Great Britain. We have no first-hand experience with the original concept, but a countryside dotted with BBCs seems like a pretty good idea.  We got a look at two of BBCs restaurants on one recent night, and they’re both pleasantly warm and inviting, with decor that emphasizes rough-hewn wood… and beer.

BBC offers a very large selection of draft beers, ranging from the industrial brewery Kings of Beers that people inexplicably like so much, to obscure craft brews, including the IPA from our friends nearby at Mayflower Brewing.

We stopped first at the BBC in Manomet, a neighborhood in south Plymouth, on a Sunday night, hoping for a seat at the bar to watch the Brooklyn Nets with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnet in their ultimately triumphant return to the Boston Celtics’ storied parquet floor. The bar was full and the TVs were tuned to some obscure Atlantic 10 college basketball re-run.  Fortunately, there’s another BBC right down the road, so we moved on.

Being on the Cape Cod side of the Canal, the BBC in Sandwich is far more mellow in the winter than it likely is during the summer, and probably more mellow than Plymouth is year-round.  We easily found a spot at the bar, whose only other occupants were a young couple on a first date, which we surmised because the woman’s unbearably annoying laugh would likely preclude a second encounter.

Our pleasant but brisk bartender, Sunny, offered us a taste of some fancy cabernet, but Gina opted instead for the house (Avalon, $7), in part because the sample was overpowered by the odor of chlorine in the glass. The Big Dog spotted one of those little spoons that signifies the possibility of a black and tan, and got a muddled version ($6.50).

We started with an order of Andouille Scotch Eggs ($8.99).  We’d never had any Scotch eggs before, and the basic premise, involving soft-boiled eggs baked in a crust, made Gina squeamish.  But these were outstanding.  The Andouille sausage made for a flavorful coating, the eggs were lightly cooked but not runny, and the presentation was nice.

The Big Dog ordered a steak and ale pie ($13.99, pictured above) as his entree. It came with a sauteed zucchini and carrot medley that was delicious unless you have an irrational dislike for green summer squash, and mashed potatoes.  The crust was heavy and the Dog characterized the gravy inside the pie as “overbearing,” and the steak inside was overcooked.  But we’re both Irish enough to know that this is probably just how people in the Old Country like it.

Gina ordered a mahi mahi dish ($16.99) off the full page of “gluten friendly” offerings. While the dish was delicious — moist fish topped with a piquant mango pico, with jasmine rice and approximately seven green beans — the order was apparently so confusing that the kitchen cooked something else entirely then discarded it before starting in on the proper order.  We didn’t take note of the time and weren’t in a hurry, but the result was definitely a complimentary-dessert-grade delay, if not handwringing apology from the manager.  Here, nothing.

There was enough positive about our visit to the British Beer Company to ensure our return, not just to Sandwich but also to Plymouth.  The prices were very reasonable, portions large, food pretty good, and the atmosphere was comfortable. Maybe we just need to recalibrate our expectations before we go.

British Beer Company
46 Route 6a, Sandwich
www.britishbeer.com

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Not Your Average Joe’s, Dartmouth

2013-12-05 14.00.06Confession time: Gina and the Big Dog have been holding out on you.  We’ve been telling you about all these great restaurants in the Southcoast region, but not about the one near the very top of our list.

We love Not Your Average Joe’s, a small regional chain whose closest restaurant to us is on Route 6 in Dartmouth. We go there whenever we find ourselves west of New Bedford.  Or north of New Bedford.  Or near New Bedford.  We bought a Jeep from a dealership across the street, only because we could envision long delicious lunches while we waited for oil changes.

Last summer we managed to convince ourselves that Route 6 in Dartmouth was on the way to Foxborough (it is not) so we could stop for lunch on our way to the Patriots’ training camp. Let’s do a review! we exclaimed.  This is delicious! we raved.  What a wonderful spot! we enthused.

But for you… nothing. No commentary on cilantro-laced corn garnish, no photos of succulent scallops. Frankly, here’s the problem: we don’t want any more competition for a seat at the comfortable bar. But we do feel kinda bad about holding out, so here are reparations.

Not Your Average Joe’s is a wide open space, from dining room through bar area and into the kitchen. Clever Southwestern-inspired decor makes it work, and even at a crowded happy hour, conversation is comfortable. The center of the bar provides an entertaining view of the pizza prep area and wood-fired oven.

Our most recent visit was for a late lunch on a cold and drizzly day, and we were pleased to see that the menu had changed subtly with the season. Gone were the sunny avocado slices, replaced by warming butternut chunks.

With a basket of delicious chunky bread served with a peppery parmesan oil, we dove into a bottle of Clos du Bois cabernet ($30),  a bottle we like enough to buy for evenings in The Doghouse.

The Big Dog ordered a Backyard Burger ($9.99) with cheese, and yes, it tasted like something that might have come out of our Weber, but for the accoutrements — a gleaming soft bun, a sliver of pickle, a soupcon of mustard. He choose greens as an accompaniment in lieu of fries and earned an entire pint of salted caramel ice cream points, redeemed later at home. The burger was perfectly cooked and delicious.

Gina started with a Not Your Average Salad, $3,99 with entree: a melange of young greens with the unexpected addition of hunks of blue cheese and blobs of dried tomatoes in oil. Love either and you’re in heaven.  Hate both, like Gina does, and you’re still extremely happy with the remaining fresh salad.

For an entree, Gina picked the chicken enchiladas ($11.99).  Two rolled corn tortillas arrived atop yellow rice with black beans, and under an outstanding herb-y poblano crema sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The enchiladas were meaty and delicious throughout, but each roll’s crunchy end was particularly delightful.

The folks next to us at the bar ordered what we’re guessing was the raspberry sorbet ($6.99, like all desserts) and we apologize for not being able to take a photo of the beautiful presentation, for fear of seeming totally creepy.  Take our word for it — the dessert was surrounded by piles of fresh fruit and poufs of whipped cream and looked outstanding.

So, to summarize: the food’s okay, the atmosphere is okay, and you probably shouldn’t go here.  Especially when Gina and the Big Dog have a reason to be in Dartmouth, or anywhere near there.

Not Your Average Joe’s
61 State Road, North Dartmouth
www.notyouraveragejoes.com

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