On average, I don’t think I regularly experience a case of the “Mondays”. Usually on Mondays I try to get a good workout in and get my favorite dollar tacos at Patron Mexican Grill. Rarely do I let Mondays get to me. However, last Monday…oh last Monday…I had a bad case of the Mondays.
On that fateful Monday, I had Nate drive my beloved 2003 Honda CRV (aka Silver Bullet) to work at the Washington Auto Mall so he could get her annual state inspection. I usually dread the state inspections because the Silver Bullet usually needs some fixings due to her advanced age and mileage. Long story short, she was found incredibly unsafe to drive and would require a lot of work ($1,300 with employee pricing) for an uncertain life expectancy afterwards. Finally, I took the advice of many family members, friends, and coworkers over the past years and started to car shop.
On the flip side with many visits to the Washington Auto Mall to browse new cars, I was close to a Mexican restaurant that I have only been to once before and rarely get to go to because of the distance from the city. Near the Tanger Outlets in Washington County at 125 Murtland Avenue, stands a restaurant called Old Mexico. According to Nate, Old Mexico has a few other locations.(Locally Belle Vernon and West Mifflin, however Nate’s family learned they ALSO have a location outside Montgomery, Alabama during a drive to the Gulf Coast of Florida)..that we know of. I remember thoroughly enjoying my first visit to Old Mexico so I was thrilled to be back. I needed tacos more than ever to keep me somewhat sane during week one of the car fiasco situation.
Nate and I were greeted and seated immediately. The restaurant was about at half capacity. I saw mainly families coming out for dinner who were not looking to cook (like us) on a Friday night. Not too long after we sat down, complimentary chips (only for the first round) and salsa were brought to our table. Don’t let the two dishes of salsa with different textures fool you, they are the exact same spice level and salsa, just one dish had diced onions and cilantro added to make it chunkier. I liked having the option for texture. The salsa was fairly addicting and the chips were flaky but not easily breakable, and crispy but not too greasy. It was very hard to not eat the entire basket of chips prior to our main entrees.
Almost 99.9% of the time at Mexican restaurants, I will order food from the combination portion of the menu instead of the specialty section. I started ordering combination platters for the better price and the variety when I was about 12 years old and haven’t been able to break away since. There were 3 designated taco specialty meals on the menu as well which included tacos al pastor, beef tacos, and fish tacos, but I just couldn’t resist the combination options. Nate is more well rounded with his choices and orders something different off the menu each time.
During this visit we ordered the following:
Me- Combination platter letter “D” with one ground beef taco, one chicken burrito, and ground beef enchilada.
Nate- Mexican Plate #25 with one tamale, chili con carne, rice , one enchilada and one taco.
While we were waiting for our food, Nate ordered a margarita. I just now realized I didn’t steal a sip. Once he finished his house margarita, Nate was asked at least three times if he wanted another one. The staff was extremely friendly and also firm supporters of the boozy drinks.
Once our hot plates arrived, I caught eyes with the taco. I always eat the crunchy taco first as the other items make for better leftovers. I loved that the crunchy hard shell taco was at least half full of ground beef and that tomatoes were also added to the cheese and lettuce. I could tell the tomatoes were fresh. The only downside of the taco was that the meat tasted a little “watery” to me. The ground beef seemed soaked in a lot of liquid that diluted the taste. Next, I moved onto the chicken burrito. I love ordering burritos because of the warm flour tortilla shell has that just seems to have more doughy thickness than a normal store bought packaged tortilla. Taking a bite of a good burrito is like being wrapped up in a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. This burrito shell brought that sensation back. I guess I would consider this as a wet burrito because the sauce and cheese are added on the top and meant to be eaten with a fork and knife. The sauce had a tomato-y mild chile taste to it which amplified the delicious shell. Unfortunately, the only thing I did not like was meat filling. The shredded chicken was a little too dry and since chicken is the only ingredient wrapped inside, each bite was too dry even with the sauce on top. An additional sauce mixed with the chicken may be needed. Lastly, I tried the enchilada which has a corn tortilla wrap instead of the large flour tortilla. I wish I did not save the enchilada for last because when I finally cut into the enchilada, I realized they gave me a cheese instead of a ground beef filled enchilada. It was too cheesy and heavy to eat by itself so I cut up parts of the enchilada and placed them on the surviving chips to make a rich nacho bite.
I tried a bite of Nate’s tamale since that was one of his favorite items on the menu so far. Basically, tamales consist of a dish where the corn masa is kneaded with lard and pieces of meat or another ingredient are added. It is then wrapped in corn husks (or a banana tree leaf), and boiled or steamed. Shredded chicken was inside the tamale here surrounded by what looked like cake doughnut texture. I could first taste the sweetness from the sauce covering the tamale, followed by a thick dough flavor, then ending with a heavy starch taste by the end of the bite. I am not sure if I was a big fan of the starchy taste at the end but would probably give tamales a second chance-maybe somewhere else to get a comparison. Differences in tamales depend on filling, ingredients, wrappings, sizes, and ways of cooking them so I have to give them another chance.
All in all, I will still return to Old Mexico anytime I am in the Washington County area (Nate note-she doesn’t know there’s a Las Palmas nearby!). Even though the best tacos may not be found here, they still do a great job of satisfying the Mexican food craving and I will definitely be back. It just won’t be the Silver Bullet taking me to tacos again. RIP Silver Bullet.
Price: $7.50-9.75 per dinner combination platter, Nate said lunch specials from from $6-7 during the week which makes this place one of the best Mexican restaurants on the wallet.