Off the chain
Antonio’s Mexican Grill may have the appearance of a national chain, but this family-owned restaurant is anything but. It’s just the kind of place for a meal with my food-loving family.
Everything that can be is made in-house, including a choice of hot sauces—one green and mild, one medium hot, and a third with pepper flakes and considerably more heat. The flavors of all three were quite good, with a noticeable hint of smoke in both red sauces.
My younger son’s choice of carne asada, chile verde and rojas veggie gorditas was the day’s special (three for $7). Tucked between two thick circles of crispy, fried masa, a layer of refried beans and queso fresco supported the meats. Both beef and pork were tender and well seasoned, but the melted Oaxaca cheese and veggie mix of roasted poblano peppers with sautéed mushroom and onion stood apart on flavor.
A hefty torta ($6.95) with chorizo, lettuce, tomato, refried beans, avocado and mayonnaise was next. Although the roll wasn’t as crusty as my daughter-in-law prefers, it was stuffed with ingredients. The chorizo surprised me a bit, consisting of meaty chunks mixed with the loose meat sausage—overall a pretty decent sandwich.
My wife loves fajitas and so ordered a very similar dish, chicken alambres ($8.95). The word alambre means “wire” in Spanish, alluding to the traditional use of skewers for cooking the ingredients. In this instance, a mix of sautéed onion, bell pepper and chicken breast was served on a hot iron skillet with plenty of melted Oaxaca and piping hot tortillas on the side.
My older son and his toddler enjoyed a pair of burritos. The bean burrito ($7.95) kept the little guy temporarily focused enough for his dad to tuck into a sizeable shrimp burrito ($8.95) stuffed with refried beans, rice, cilantro, onions, tomato, romaine lettuce, sour cream and salsa. The bite I tasted was full of tender shrimp and really fresh ingredients.
The table shared an a la carte chimichanga ($8.95), served with sour cream and guacamole on the side. The fried tortilla was beautifully golden, light and flakey, reminiscent of savory pastry. At least as big as the burrito, it was full of al pastor pork, melted cheese and refried beans. The guacamole was particularly good, with chunks of avocado mixed in with the mash and just a touch of seasoning. With just a dash of housemade hot sauce, the plate was quickly cleared.
Years ago, I encountered a chile relleno that was so good it ruined me for lesser fare. Every now and then I’ll order one—usually for a review—and am invariably disappointed. They’re often either drenched in too much sauce, or likely made in advance, refrigerated, then microwaved. But the chile relleno paired with a chicken enchilada on my combo plate ($11.95) was the closest I’ve come to finding “The One.” The side of beans and rice were fine, and the enchilada was good if not particularly notable. But the relleno’s poblano pepper and its coating were nicely cooked, filled with plenty of thoroughly melted cheese and topped with broiled cheese and just enough sauce to complement each bite. I took my time, savoring both the flavor and the discovery.