A friend suggested I go visit Mexican Asada Grill to Mr. Avocado, a modest new venue that opened on Olive Drive west of Interstate 99 last February. Only the name alone is an invitation.
This is the kind of place I’ve been paid to discover for our readers, because it’s a small operation for two, not so much in the way of the air but offering some inexpensive, authentic Mexican standards that are well worth ordering. If you skip the chicken.
We visited on a Friday and found a place with few clients, one party was three generations of males who were looking forward to getting together after work and school. There is a small patio with some colorful tiled tables but there is a highway nearby, so you get some noise inside. The interior booths are made of particleboard with laminate on top, and there are some toys and vending machines in the back for the kids’ entertainment.
Drink options are quite varied: most Mexican beers, Mexican Coca-Cola and most flavors of Garritos soda. There are nine types of meat available, including cabeza and lingua, and all kinds of Hot Chito creations which, although very trendy, are best left out of order. Sorry Frito Lay.
We had to try everything else and ordered the protein bowl with chicken ($8.89), nachos loaded with carnitas ($8.95), relish with chile verde ($4.39), triple-ended tacos ($2.85) and master avocado fish taco ($3.50). dollars) and the grilled shrimp taco ($3.25). After sampling all of this, I can understand my friend’s enthusiasm.
Most of the meats brought in a lot, especially the very crunchy carnitas on top of the fresh, imperfect French fries on those nachos. There were bits, strings, crunchy, burnt ends with sliced jalapenos, carrots, and two types of cheese: melted, shredded jack and the obnoxious yellow “nacho” cheese that seemed out of place with all the other ingredients. You would pay a lot for a plate of these at a sit-down restaurant and believe me there is enough for two on this plate.
Choosing the fried version of the fish taco (over grilled), I was surprised at how simple yet satisfying, with a piece of avocado on top of cabbage with pico de gallo. (I got the sauce on its side, so I could savor all these other great flavors.) The fish itself was a good white fish, crunchy and fresh in taste, though I’d bet anything was a frozen product.
Sope with chile verde had one of those mesa wet discs topped with respectable chile green, guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes, iceberg lettuce but no cheese. It is best eaten with a knife and fork.
The three-sided taco was like upscale carne asada, beef caramelized but still flavorful and tender, served simply with chopped white onion and cilantro. It doesn’t need more than that.
I was disappointed with both the chicken in the protein bowl and the shrimp in the shrimp taco. The shrimp was grilled but lacked all the charm of the grilled shrimp tacos I’ve enjoyed from Sancho’s Tacos. It was just boring, not grilled with garlic or butter. No pizza.
My companion ordered the protein bowl, which looked great on paper: beans, rice, avocado, pico de gallo, cheese and protein. The chicken was rough and lifeless, a stark contrast to Chipotle’s impressive new polo, seasoned with lemon, garlic, and guajillo peppers we sampled a few nights ago. My companion ate around the chicken, and she wished she had chosen one of the other proteins.
I can also recommend the Breakfast Burrito ($7.89), which includes plenty of eggs, potatoes, beans, a bit of cheese and your choice of six different types of meat. The loaded version ($8.25) adds grilled onions, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese on top. It’s big enough to drive you past lunch. This is the kind of burrito I’d have if I had a day of work in the yard.
Service was fast, although practical for two people. The man is always working on the grill, the woman takes orders and keeps things running smoothly.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: pftittl.