Heading to the new Casa Mexico in East Grand Forks, my hopes were high.
Everybody I could find said it was great, some hoping for a respite from Americanized Mexican food we’re so accustomed to:
Let’s see if this is authentic Mexican food or yet another stupid Paradiso and Mexican Village. -Jason
Others who had tried it had loved it:
Just gave you a try and we were very impressed!!! Loved your menu…so many different things we want to try in the future! -Jolene
Amazing !! Can’t wait to go back and try something else. -Lisa
So could Casa be the new place to go for great, fresh Mexican food? Might we be saved from the never-ending mediocrity that is Paradiso and Mexican Village? We had Mi Mexico for a while and Chacherz in the Grand Cities Mall is great, but it’s more of a grab-and-go place. (I highly recommend Chacherz, by the way, for tasty Tex-Mex with no frills.)
Well, let’s start at the beginning.
Casa takes the place of a Mexican restaurant you might remember, Tortilla Flats. The food was by no means a revelation but it satisfied that hankering one gets every once in a while. I was sad to see it go a few years back.
Casa Mexico owner Sergio Aguirre has a few other places, with the closest to us in Wahpeton.
The people at Casa have re-vamped the sign out front with a bright, rainbow-colored neon and spruced up the interior. Bright pastel blue, green and red paint adorn the walls inside, with a big fountain in the middle of the upper dining room. There’s booths lining the walls and tables and chairs in the middle of the room. I noticed a downstairs, something I can’t remember at Tortilla Flats, that may be a party room area, but I’m not sure.
There are big, barrel chairs for the seating that I thought were a whimsical touch. The owners have done quite a bit to the already Mexican-themed joint to make it feel like you’re actually in Mexico.
When I and a few others went to Casa last Saturday, the parking lot was packed. And there’s quite a bit of parking. We were seated immediately.
We were served the common chips and salsa, with the chips hot and fresh from the fryer. The salsa had a heat level I’d call medium for most Midwesterners and a generous helping of cilantro in it.
I ordered the #23 combo which came with rice, a beef burrito and a chile relleno. One of my partners got the vegetable quesadilla.
The food was out amazingly fast. We ordered at about 6:15 and it arrived at 6:30.
I thought the serving of rice on my dish was fairly good. It was moist but a bit under-seasoned. I’ve had much worse. The beef burrito was also under-seasoned, topped with red sauce and a plastic-like white cheese.
A few notes on the red sauce and cheese: the sauce was overly tomatoey, without any real spice. It pains me to say it, but it seemed to be not much more than sauce from a can. Some “gravies” I’ve had at other Mexican places have been better. And the cheese thrown on the burrito and relleno was fine in flavor, but the texture was off-putting, reminding me of Velveeta.
The relleno tasted fine, but the texture was soggy possibly from being under-fried. I love a good chile relleno and was not at all enthralled with this version.
I tried the vegetable quesadilla and remarked that the cooks did a nice job on the vegetables and pressing of the tortilla. It came with the ubiquitous shredded iceberg lettuce and sour cream.
And while the chips were tasty and warm, the sauce nicely flavored, we were never once offered a refill on either. You get one order of chips and salsa for free.
As you might be able to tell, I was disappointed with my first experience at Casa Mexico. I will definitely go back, as it is far and away better than the other options in the area (except Chacherz). But when I went looking for “authentic” Mexican, I found the normal Americanized version I’m used to.
Look, I want you to try it out. And go back every week if you like it.
We need more options when it comes to Mexican around here. It’s great to have another.