Time and money

Delicious at any hour: Richardo Higareda shows off a beef enchilada at La Michoacana.

Delicious at any hour: Richardo Higareda shows off a beef enchilada at La Michoacana.


La Michoacana is open 24 hours a day.

La Michoacana

4950 S Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 826-4144

I understand that many diners, in assessing a restaurant experience, look for an optimal balance of ambiance, service, and value for the taste. But why not go for (not) broke every now and then and just focus on the latter?

At La Michoacana—named for the Mexican state—it’s not personal; it’s business. There are no printed menus, no servers, no bar and no bullshit. And while it definitely qualifies as Mexican “fast food”—open 24 hours a day to provide quick provisions for everyone from taxed families needing a stress-free weeknight meal to night owls with a burrito hankering—for my husband and me on a semi-busy weeknight, it was good Mexican fast food.

The layout is a little bizarre. You walk in from the parking lot off Virginia and it seems you need a telescope to see the service counter over the vast dining hall that looks as if it could seat 100 diners. Don’t wait to get greeted or seated, either; you’re on your own to order and retrieve your food. The small, industrious staff has way more important things to worry about until you’ve paid. The video games in the corner were unused when we went; any competent child player would probably find his food ready before he finished his round.

We made the intergalactic trek past fellow diners and some un-bussed tables to the register, where we quickly learned that what you see on the price posters on the wall above the counter is, by and large, what you get. You have to work with generic categories like “taco” and “tamale,” and specify beef, chicken or whatever from those foundations.

The food was prepared quickly and the chips and salsa ($1.99) were accompaniment, not appetizer. The chips were crisp—not the crumbling fractions and has-beens from the bottom of the bag some places try to foist on you. The salsa was fresh and flavorful, but benefited tremendously from being blended with the homemade hot sauce. The latter had that lovely intimation of roasted garlic which, for this reviewer, flags the best salsas.

The Spanish rice and refried beans that came on the side with my husband’s slightly skimpy cheese enchiladas ($6.99) were a solid complement, and my basic bean-and-cheese burrito ($5.99) was frankly better than what you might get at upper-scale chains and their imitators.

But the La Michoacana conveyor belt can just as easily dispense, among other items, 99-cent tacos, quesadillas ($1.99), flautas ($5.99), tortas ($4.99) and tamales ($1.99). My husband insists we return to sample them as a coda to our next shopping excursion in South Reno.

A few tables near us remained un-bussed throughout our meal, which is a bit tacky, but respectably prepared grub gets your mind off the little things, especially when it’s cheap; because, in the end, the spiciest part of the meal was the bill. We escaped with an appetizer and two decent entrees for under $15. You have to decide what’s important to you. I wouldn’t recommend going there on a first date, but if a dearth of flowery decorations and mood music, self-service, and a screaming baby or two are tolerable to you, save yourself some time and money with an occasional sojourn to La Michoacana.