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Mexicali - Birmingham

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I've done a good bit of reading on CH, but very little posting. The fact that this place has zero mention on the whole site makes me sad enough to create a topic.

I suppose the fact that it's further out of town might deter the Birmingham people that post on here, but Mexicali is the landslide favorite Mexican place for people who live in the North Shelby County/ Inverness/ Greystone area (not Superior). It's located on Highway 280 in the strip mall adjacent to the entrance to the Brook Highland and Meadow Brook neighborhoods (the one with the Lowes). It's hugely popular in the area. Personally, I've been going there since it opened (maybe 1998-ish?) and for about 4 years we went there at least once a week. When I went to college, I would look forward to trips home so I could go to Mexicali, and now that I've graduated and moved to Southern California, I must admit that I can't find any Mexican food around here that can satisfy me. I went there for my bachelorette party dinner last summer and my birthday in December. Heck, I've even been there twice in one day, and I am far from the only one.

The chips are hot and plentiful, and the salsa is excellent, though its flavor and heat vary a bit depending on the day. It's the main basis for my cravings. The margaritas are tasty (I recommend the large over the regular). Most people order the same food every time, and the waiters get to know the regulars..."Number 24", "J with no rice", etc.

Maybe it's only popular because everyone goes there...vicious circle...but it's my kind of Mexican food. Perhaps I have low tastes, but I just don't like the Mexican I've been offered in LA thus far.

If you decide to try it and for whatever reason don't like the place, the worst you'll have done is the drive down 280, because the cost is very cheap.

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  1. I'm so jealous! We used to have a Mexicali in Orlando, but it wasn't in a prominent location so it only lasted about two years. But it was near our house and we went there all the time! They had a great sopapilla dessert with whipped cream and honey - yum!

    I'm glad to know there is one in B'ham, because I drive through there every now and then to visit family. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: starbucksbrew

      That's cool, but I seriously doubt that your Mexicali and my Mexicali are related to each other in the least. I don't know about yours, but mine is a random little greasy hole in the wall. If it is a chain, I wouldn't care though, I would just pray that it get to LA in the very very near future. ; )

    2. How far would this be from the Convention Center downtown, and do they have a private dining room for a private party?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ckeirn

        Depending on traffic, maybe 30 minutes from the BJCC? But I wouldn't be the authority on that because I don't drive from downtown to the suburbs often.

        They definitely don't have a private room or take reservations or anything. But if you're looking for somewhere of the same ilk (and in the same area), I would try Superior Grill. In fact, my sister-in-law had an engagement party there recently. It's NOT fancy in any way, but they will host events there.

      2. I used to go to Mexicali at least once a week (back when I was attending a certain Mega Church in the area). It's definitely a no-frills kinda place. The food is good and the service is fast. And the servers do get to know the regulars. But I wouldn't call it destination dining. It's very similar to any number of Mexican places around town. Zapata's, Frontera Grill, Mariachi Grille, Habenero's . . . they all serve basically the same food with the same taste. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Mexican food!!! If I'm in the area I usually stop and eat there, but I wouldn't drive out of my way.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sheilal

          I agree in that if I lived elsewhere in town, I'd probably just eat the same/similar food from a closer place. But for anyone that does live in the neighborhood, it's the spot.

          The sad thing is that what I took to be standard Mexican fare (you said it yourself, all the places around town serve about the same thing), is nowhere to be found in Los Angeles, where I live now. I've been looking for an acceptable replacement, but it just doesn't exist, and I'm fairly well heartbroken.

          I'm curious as to which mega-church you are referring, seeing as there's plenty in the area. I got married at Asbury UMC last summer.

          1. re: mygirlbakes AL

            I read your post on the LA board about your American/Mexican dilemna. The trouble there is obviously the proliferation of Hispanics have brought in their Tex/Mex or authentic Mexican dishes. Goat & tongue probably abound. Personally, I like goat (but can't stomach tongue). It's similar to Americanized Chinese food. The average citizen doesn't have a clue as to what true chinese food tastes/looks like.

            I would guess that touristy areas would have more of the Mexican dishes you desire. Fact is, they are catering to non-Cali, non-Southwest visitors. So they should have the more generic stuff. Trouble is, they are probably more expensive which is not what you're looking for.

            To acclimate to more authentic fare, try something new each time your go. Masa tamales, carnitas, ceviche, cactus, chorizo, tortas, mole sauce, fish tacos - these are not too terribly adventurous (not like the goat anyway). You'll probably never lose your love for cheap southern Mexican food, but you should be able to appreciate the authentic stuff as well. Good Luck!!

            1. re: mygirlbakes AL

              Mexicali is not standard mexican fare...it's Tex Mex. It's also not very good compared to most other places in Birmingham. It's fine if you're out out on 280 (god forbid), but there is no way I would drive all the way out there for it. Now, we do drive out for Superior Grill, which is great.

              I would guess that the mega-church she means is Church of BrookHills. Asbury is a quaint country church compared to CBH.

              1. re: KateMW

                Since I live in Inverness, Mexicali is fairly close by, so I gave it a try last night. I would call it very standard Tex-Mex. The only meats on the menu are beef, chicken and shrimp, and the dishes available are pretty much the same as what you can get in dozens of "Mexican" restaurants throughout the Southeast. [Actually, the word "dozens" is based solely on my personal experience -- the true number is more likely in the hundreds, at least.] It's a lot like going to the Mexican analog of a "Chinese" chop suey restaurant.