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Dec 4, 2008 10:00 PM

Milagro's Cantina, Redwood City

Have been on a mission for years trying to find a local place as close to equal as Frontera Grill or Topolobampo (Rick Bayless) in Chicago. Topolobampo is the more formal of the 2, Frontera more fun. Milagro's in downtown RWC on the corner of Middlefield and Main is one of the closest I've found. Went for lunch, recommended by a friend, and although service was a little slow due to the holiday lunch crowd, I was impressed. Great tequila and Margarita list, more extensive by far than most in the area. Had the duo of ceviches (mahi-mahi) and both were excellent, then the Enchilads del Mar (shrimp, scallops, mahi) and also very good. It seems that their slow cooked meats are a specialty, such as classic barbacoa, but I'll have to go back to try again. Have been to many others, including Maya (not impressed) and this may be the closest to Fontera in terms of menu, tequilas, overall atmosphere. I didn't see some of the surprises that Frontera has, duck tacos, various moles (though they had at least one), and service could be a little more refined, but recommended.

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  1. Wow, I couldn't disagree more. Frontera and Topo are in a different league completely. Milagro is bulk prepared, banquet quality food that is reheated to order. The chicken mole had a tough and dry piece of chicken with gloppy, boring mole. Everything was luke warm. The food came out of the kitchen about 10 minutes after we ordered, proving that everything was premade, especially given that the place was packed. This place is on par with other family restaurants like Chevys, but a bit more expensive.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Shane Greenwood

      I was thinking the same thing. Bad food, bad service, way to expensive, not so great margaritas.

      1. re: Shane Greenwood

        Agreed... Milagro is in no way remotely close to Frontera... much less Topolobampo.

      2. It is perfectly fair to say that Milagros shoots for a higher-end Mexican dining experience, but the execution can be maladroit and the service can be either great or exceptionally dopey. It's a concept restaurant created by the restaurant group that also owns TOWN and Nola. It seems like it belongs in Vegas, and is usually fine. I don't know that it's in the same stratosphere as Rick Bayless.

        6 Replies
        1. re: orezscu

          I'll admit, as a big fan of Frontera Grill and Topo, I was hesitatant about making any comparison. I've eaten at both a combined dozen times and every experience was memorable. Never was saying Milagro's was equal to, but in the Bay Area, after a sole trip there, I drew some comparisons. The analogy to Chevy's holds no water, as Milagro's food is not pre made and reheated (I asked the same question to the server) and good luck finding any anejos on their list. Not to mention you couldn't pay me to attempt a ceviche at Chevy's. It's sounding like they're inconsistent. The search goes on.

          1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

            Purely foodwise.... Milagro's is no nowhere near the same stratosphere as say El Michoacano in Santa Rosa.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Why is that? How does it compare to the original point of Frontera/Topo in the Bay Area? Am talking about the overal picture of food, atmosphere, drink pairings. Do tell.

            2. re: Dan Wodarcyk

              You might try Mexico D.F. in the city. They are trying to execute higher quality Mexican food.

              1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                Yes it is pre-made. There is no way they could have made our dinners fresh in the time (mere minutes) between ordering and food arriving at our table. No way at all. Maybe some of the dishes are fresher than others. You're right, the analogy to Chevy's holds no water; Chevy's is better.

                1. re: Shane Greenwood

                  The menu at Mexico DF looks great. Definitely more what I've been seeking.

                  Good luck with that cevihe at Chevy's. Might want to wear one of their sombreros just in case.

            3. I've never been to Rick Bayless's restaurants (I'm told the little taqueria outpost he has in San Francisco is abysmal), but I have been to Milagro's -- I thought it was pleasant enough, but it seemed to be more like the sort of midline family Mexican places I've been to like Hola! in Belmont and La Pinata in Alameda.

              I did see you're among the Chowhounds who aren't impressed with Maya, but its menu has always been consistently more, well, interesting than other Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area I've tried -- perhaps they don't execute consistently and I've just been lucky, or perhaps I'm too prone to give restaurants points for ambition, I don't know. But I can only think of a handful of places that even try to be in the same league: Mexico DF, Dona Tomas, and the various Resmex incarnations (Conseula in San Jose, Zazil and Colibri in SF). El Rincon in Morgan Hill is actually up there, too, despite being a hole in the wall. Of those, Of those, Mexico DF tends to get the most props, but I've only been there once as part of "Dine About Town," which gave me: carnitas. It was a great carnitas plate, but it was a carnitas plate, you know? I'm not kidding when I say I've seen more ambitious specials at an El Torito. So far my favorite may be Zazil.

              At any rate, maybe I'll check out Milagro's again when I can.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chipotle

                Thanks for the suggestions. My experience at Maya has been one time only and I recall the small plates being much better than the entrees. I've also been to the Sandoval place in Denver and it's almost identical. I've had mixed experiences at Dona Tomas. I look forward to trying Mexico DF and Zazil.

                1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                  Try that link again. I wasn't thrilled with Maya either. The reports are mixed on the board. Some like it, some don't.


                  1099 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City, CA 94061

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I found the margaritas to be light on alcohol and the food to be just one step above Chevy's. What's amazing is that real Mexican food, minus the atmosphere and booze, is available just a few blocks away on Middlefield. There's a huge community of Michoacan immigrants there and the food is much better and cheaper. I like Mexico DF and Maya, and if you didn't like Maya before, you should try again next month, they have a new chef and menu coming in. I've never found quality "upscale Mexican" here despite the better places, nothing like you can find in Mexico City (which is the "DF",) Oaxaca, Puebla, or Merida. One other recommendation is the guacamole at Colibri, there is nothing like it here, and unfortunately, nothing else on the menu quite as good, although drinks are terrific.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: realspear

                    Folks, I used to work for Milagros until couple of months ago. Eventhough I left in bad terms--no comments-- I can tell you the food it's never pre made or pre heated! Melisa the chef will flip! believe me! Inconsitency plays a big part on the comments above. For the person who said their food was pre heated because it took only 10 minutes to come question to you is HOW LONG DO YOU THINK AN ENCHILADA TAKES TO MAKE? Margaritas are done as they are done at tommys bar in the city, which means tequila, fresh squeeze lime juice and agave nectar.. i dont think chevys does that yet. yea perhaps your margarita might not be huge but its compacted in flavors, unless you like having 4 or 5 oz of that nasty sweet and sour then yea go to chevys! folks Milagros might not be perfect but they are trying to improve and have more consistency. well this is just my honest opinion about this place.

                    1. re: elcantinero

                      The problem isn't how the margaritas are made at Milagro's, it's that the alcohol pour is minuscule. Tommy's actually puts enough tequila into theirs so that you can tell the difference between margaritas made with different tequilas. At Milagro's, it can be hard to tell that there's alcohol in them.

                      1. re: elcantinero

                        I was the one who said that and I stand by my comment as it pertains to my dish. I ordered the chicken mole not an enchilada (not sure why you mention that). The chicken was over-cooked and dry and the mole sauce was luke warm. If it was made to order and brought to my table that fast (within 10 minutes of ordering) it should have been hot. If the chicken was grilled to order it should have taken a little longer to prepare. I know my food, the consistency and temp of that chicken was unmistakable, it was cooked well before I ordered it and then it was sort of reheated. No respectable chef would let that go out. Look, it's common in big restaurants, especially on busy nights to pre-cook or par-cook popular items. Obviously a sauce like mole isn't made to order and I don't expect it be. But it should be hot. This place was not good. Maybe an off night, I can't say because I won't be going back to find out.

                      2. re: realspear

                        Am realizing that I made a very poor comparsion to 2 of my favorite restaurants on earth, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago. I look forward to tyrying Mexico D.F. and others as suggested, but I stand by my solo experience at Milagro's as better than so many others in the area, with Chevy's as not even close. And tell me of one good tequila pairing over on Middlefield. I wish I had that in-built, in-mistakeable chicken thermometer as well, but it appears inconsistency is their problem, which has never been an issue with Bayless's 2 sites.