Los Mariachis in Wallingford, CT: Very Enjoyable Meal!
I never cease to be amazed. Perhaps that is why I am writing on Chowhound and not somewhere else. I like the Chowhound philosophy; meaning we sought out another Mexican restaurant and our efforts were rewarded!
When you jump on the Merritt it is fast and easy to get to Wallingford from many places. We were going to see Jon Stewart at the Chevrolet Theatre so I scouted fo a place in Wallingford, a town I am totally unfamiliar with. I came up with some recommendations but one that stuck out was one I had saved to my map, from a CH'ers recommendation.
This is a smallish place but it will seat at least eighty. There is a nice bar area with some booths, a diningroom and a patio area that seats about twenty. The bathroom was very clean and neat. Not a dive or run-down place, in any way. It's on 5, a main drag.
We were the only ones that chose to sit outside. A nice breeze blew thru and it was quite enjoyable with the shade from the tres and umbrellas. We could hear the live entertainment from outside and the two men finally came outside about the time we were going to leave. They are mariachi style but both play guitars and sing. One had a small guitar and he played higher notes, but sang lower. Very fun to listen to them as they were talented!
Oh, the food! I totally overdid it and ordered so much that we were barely able to finish the leftovers today, for lunch. The female waitress (Hispanic, but perfect English) was excellent and did not laugh at me (but I think she rolled her eyes) when I ordered so much. I ordered guacomole nachos; a first for us. Made from fresh avocados, I think they use a lot of lime and cilantro and puree it till it is pourable. There were still a few chunks of avocado to be found. I ordered hot tamales and ended up with one of each: a mild one and a red, spicy one. Pork, obviously; they were really excellent. I forgot the chips and salsas! These were good with the tamales (besides the sour cream). The have a verde, which has some chile and cilantro, in with the tomatillo. I think it was one of the best chile verdes I have had. At least in the top five. The red chile sauce is not a "salsa" in the true (?) sense of the word. No tomato and it was very smooth and not as hot as the verde. The chips were fairly conventional, but I think they were freshly made in the restaurant; they were that good
SO ordered the chicken taco salad. I could not talk her into anything different. It was very cheezy, had black olives, was too mushy and slushy, from the dressing, but had good flavor (except for the black olives) and the shell was fresh and crisp. What's up with black olives? That's not a Mexican thing, is it? Does Mexico grow olives? I 've never heard of mexican olives... Anyway, we are turned off by canned black olives since we never liked the flavor of them much in the first place, and then, we find out they are chemically treated to make them black.
I had a spicy pork tortas, which had some nice cooked jalapenos for heat. There was cheese in the tortas, too, and it came with very good thick fries. Then I had chicken en mole. This was a memorable dish. The white meat was very tender and the mole was thick and rich. One of the best moles I have ever had. The three corn tortillas (where I could have had flour) were excellent and seemed freshly made. The rice was slightly dry but the beans were flavorful, but it seemd odd for them to be covered in melted white cheese. It was not a soft or crumbly mexican cheese. It might have been a Monterrey Jack (that I'm not used to).
They have wine on the menu, though it is low-end Glen Ellen, in individual, screw-cap bottles. At least they had wine for SO; otherwise she wouldn't have been as happy. She doesn't whine too much if there is good beer available. She would have settled for my Negra Modellos.
We really enjoyed the meal, though it was not as authentic as El Sarape, in Hartford or Guadalupe La Poblanita, in Fair Haven. This is pretty authentic Mexican food with some dishes moreso than others. I'd say it leans towards Tex-Mex with a fair amount of cheese on the beans, my tortas and chicken taco salad. I can still recommend tortas, "hot" (red) tamales, guacomole nachos and the chicken mole. I want to return and explore the menu more. Our excellent waitress said they have specials like chile rellenos and posole.
I think the two-man mariachi singers play Friday and Saturday nights. Muy bueno!
(203) 265-1838. Hours: Mon., Wed.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., closed Tues. Bar open later. $. Visa/MC.
I went to Jon Stewart that night too!
I've heard some things about El Mariachi, I may just have to go check it out now.
SO likes this place (and so do I)! Not too "authentic", because for her authentic has become synonymous with less meat, less expensive, more starch and less flavor).
I will say this again: Los Mariachis is more like Tex-Mex food than what is many Gringonated places in the New Haven hemisphere. It looks Mexican/Tex-Mexican. Coyote Blue could take some cues from here to look less like a tourist trap or Chili's. It's colorful and festive, like only Mexicans can do.
I thought it strange, on a Saturday from noon till past 1PM, that we were their only customers!
The only employee we saw turned on the music just after we came in. This was our second visit. The first meal was an early dinner and the place was pretty busy.
We had Negra Modello and Cabernet Sauvignon to drink. They have quite a few beers.
We started with pork tamales. These fluffy masa tubes were filled with lots of tender, chunky pork with the tomatillo sauce as internal seasoning. Slightly unusual since they've offered them with red chile seasoning in the past. That's sour cream that came with them, not mayo...
SO had chicken fajitas. These were very flavorful and well made. The guacomole with it was very lemony tart. The pico de gallo was perfect. We had a choice of corn or flour tortillas. I like flour with fajitas.
I had chicken enchiladas with mole platilla. Three big, bodacious enchiladas smothered in a dark brown, slightly sweet mole that was creamy smooth. Perhaps minutely sweeter than I would do it, but still delicious. The beans were slightly soupy and very authentic for Tex-Mex. If it were Mexican I think it would have queso fresca or a similar cheese on it. The rice was fluffy perfect with just a hint of tomato. Just look at it!
Hey! I forgot the salsas and chips. These are simple, authentic recipes. A red chile one that is not too hot and a mild tomatillo and cilantro "salsa verde". The only thing I cannot put my finger on is that they both seemed to have a clear thickener which did not affect taste. The chips were fresh and crisp.
I asked the manager how he would categorize his food and he said "authentic Mexican". I asked, "Northern Mexican or Tex-Mex?" He said more like central Mexico. Whatever; It reminds me of a lot of Tex-Mex with the grated Monterrey Jack and the way it is seasoned and cooked. I like it. Reminds me of home. The place with the most similar style of food is Puerto Vallarta, in Middletown.
I highly recommend you try this place. It has a nice bar and bar dining area. It has a patio area with shade trees next to it and umbrellas. On some nights they have mariachi to serenade you.
Back again to Los Mariachis for some good, but not wholly authentic, Mexican food. The salsa is not really a salsa, it is a chile sauce, like you might get in New Mexico. Nice and red and fairly hot and no sugar or tomatoes. The green is a tomatillo-based salsa that is mild.
They have giant burritos which can include guacamole and rice! This is a meal in a wrap!
I had the taco plate, which is three soft tacos with rice and beans. The "hot pork" was especially good and the beef taco was OK. The rice and beans were exceptionally fresh and good, even at 1PM. We shared a bowl of freshly made guacamole that was somewhat unusual, but made fresh and quite tasty. No tomato or onion and nothing but green... I'm guessing green chiles, lime and perhaps cilantro.
My only complaint was that the bartender went too heavy on the blue curacao for my second "Blue Gecko" margarita.
The food is an interesting mix of authentic Mexican, So-Cal, Tex-Mex and local Connecticut improv. The main thing is that the food is consistently well prepared and tasty. I believe it is all made on the premises and that nothing is Sysco or from a can.
It is inexpensive, too! Three of us had four alcoholic drinks, two sodas and three meals (including free salsa and chips), and the out the door price was $68.
See my other posts and pictures. This was probably our fourth visit.
Don't like Union League? Well, that's another thread. :')
I have to admit, that our experience may vary from those who go at other times, or peak times. They seem lightly staffed.
I go for long periods without good Mex or Tex-Mex... I may be light-headed from withdrawal, but El Mariachi seems to be better than 90% of what I've tried in the NH area. As I said, some of it is a weird, bastardized version of Mexican, but I like it.