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Jan 19, 2011 04:56 AM

Plaza Azteca in Methuen, MA

After my negative review of Famous Dave's, I'd be remiss by not giving some positive attention to a newcomer 0n the Methuen/Salem order on Route 28: Plaza Azteca.

This restaurant is located in the old Pizzeria Uno building just south of the NH border. It appears to be a chain restaurant, since a Google search for the name reveals a map location in Worcester as the first hit.

My wife and I had lunch there to check the place out. We arrived around 1:30pm on Monday (MLK birthday holiday), and although the parking lot looked crowded, the interior showed plenty of room. The place retains the layout from when it was Unos, including the large bar, but the decor has lots of Mexican and Central American themes. The lunch menu was very affordable. I had a draft beer (they have standard glasses, pitchers, and a 34 oz "large glass" to choose from) and my wife just had water. Although we saw some interesting choices in the appetizer section (Queso Fundido, freshly made Guacamole), we simply ordered lunch--I got a taco/enchilada combination with an extra taco, my wife had the lunch chicken Chimichanga.

The food was excellent. The service was leisurely (especially compared to the unearthly speed of delivery of your order from La Carreta!) but we weren't waiting too long, nor did we feel rushed at any time.

During our meal, I kept hearing a "clackety clack" sound from another part of the room; when I asked one of the waiters about it, he explained that they make their fresh Guacamole at the table--I was hearing the food being made. My wife and I think we'll try it during our next visit. If anything, it could be an interesting side show.

In addition, I saw a lot of items on the menu that just beg to be tried out, especially some with pork and seafood, so I will keep visiting as long as the food continues to be good.

Although I've only visited this place once, I feel it is a fresh break from the "NH Mex" style of food popularized by La Carreta (Derry, Manchester, Nashua). It also offers a different style from Mexico Lindo, which is about a mile down the street, further south of the NH border.

It's nice to know there we are getting more and better options for Mexican in the southern NH area.

La Carreta
35 Manchester Rd, Derry, NH 03053

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  1. My wife and I returned last night for dinner. There was a fifteen minute wait for a table, but I found a few seats at the bar, and we decided to have our meals there.

    As promised, I ordered their fresh guacamole for an appetizer, and then the Camerones a la Diabla--spicy shrimp. My wife got one of their combination dishes which consisted of a chicken enchilada and tortilla soup.

    Due to a bit of a snafu, the main courses arrived before the appetizer. The bartender apologized and took it off our check, and I was a bit disappointed. The bar manager came over and apologized and told us he wasn't going to charge us for it. (We were thinking, why would we be charged for an item that didn't arrive?) Then we discovered that he had the person that does the guac come to the bar and make it for us anyway (so he wasn't charging us for it, but was still providing it, despite the fact it came out later). Anyway, this restaurant just opened, and you can forgive mistakes like that, especially if the manager tries to make it better.

    The food was great. My wife loved her meal, and my shrimp dish was great. On a spicy scale, it was about a "medium." Not too spicy at all, but the sauce was very, very good.

    The guacamole? It was made fresh in front of us (actually in back of us; we were sitting at the bar!). The "clackety clack" I heard the last time I visited is the two large spoons they use to mash the avocados and the other ingredients together--no food processor here! It ended up tasting as fresh as it looked. There was too much for us to eat, especially with our dinners already served, but we took it home (they added some additional tortilla chips), and when our daughter came home from work, she finished it off for us.

    My initial opinion of the place has unchanged. The food is great, and the service is good. There may be a bit of growing pains as they work to get the kinks out of their system, but they seem to be interested in keeping the customers happy.

    Totally recommended!

    1 Reply
    1. re: lar3ry

      After seeing lar3ry's reviews, my husband and I had lunch here on Saturday. Knowing it had just opened, we kept our expectations low. We were seated quickly, got chips and salsa immediately. Our server did a good job.

      We were a little bummed that the lunch specials are only Mon-Fri. Husband got the Chihuahua combo, one taco, two enchiladas with rice and beans. I got the enchiladas Cozumel (which isn't on the online menu), three enchiladas stuffed with crab meat, covered in a bright green avocado/spinach sauce, with shrimp and scallops on top.

      My enchiladas were very tasty, the shrimp and scallops on top of the enchiladas were perfectly cooked. They could have been an entree by themselves. The avocado/spinach sauce was a brilliant green. I was a bit surprised because the menu description said "guacamole". It was not guacamole as one usually sees it but it was smooth with pieces of spinach. It was delicious.

      My husband enjoyed his meal. I didn't taste his meal so I can't really say much more.

      We had been waiting for this place to open. Thanks for the heads up, lar3ry!