Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hector's Mexican Restaurant

Restaurant: Hector's Mexican Restaurant
Address: 3007 S 83rd Plz - Behind the Goodwill
Website: None known.
Genres: mexican, baja
Check Constraints: No split checks, 18% gratuity for parties of 6 or more (though we got hit for it with only 5 people).
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: Yes.

  • Iced Tea ($1.90)
  • Appetizer Sampler ($13.50)
    • Cheese quesadilla
    • 3 Chicken Taquito Bites
    • 3 Shredded Beef Taquito Bites
    • Queso Fundido (with chorizo)
    • Bean Dip
    • Salsa Picada
  • Queso Fundido (with chorizo) ($5.95 $6.45)
  • Carne Adovada Taco ($3.90)
  • Chili Verde Burrito ($8.40)
Hector's is tucked back among some other stores in what amounts to a mini-mall, which is itself tucked back away from 84th street, along which it resides. It's slightly difficult to find the first time, especially if you're just looking from the road. That's not, however, to say that it's a hidden treasure; it's been in Omaha a long time, and has a second location out west. This is the original, though, and to say it gets crowded at lunch is only not an understatement compared to how crowded it gets during dinner. We got there at 11:40 or so, and only just beat the lunch rush.

It's possible that the exceptionally slow service we got was a result of the lunch rush, but you'd think a restaurant with that much traffic would have figured out how to account for it at some point. Mecha and I have eaten there for dinner before, and while the service was a little better, it wasn't what I would call attentive. But then, you probably don't come here to hear us rant about the service, right? Just the food.

Costs at Hector's are a little on the high side, especially when compared with places like Jonesy's and their gigantic portions. Still, the food is generally worth it. Baja cuisine comes from the Baja peninsula of California, and is predominately concerned with seafood and going light on the spices. There's not much used besides salt, garlic, and chilies, plus fairly generous helpings of tomato, onion, and cilantro. In fact, the carne adovada taco wasn't much more than chile-flavored pork cubes with some pico de gallo and a ton of cilantro on a corn tortilla. That made it a little dry, but it was a delicious if interesting taste.

The burrito was, perhaps, a little humdrum. The tortilla was filled with pork cubes, tomatillos, and chiles, and covered with their chili verde sauce and some cheese. It tasted alright enough, but there wasn't much that stood out flavorwise. It had a mild (keep in mind I like my food blistering hot) heat to it which was pleasant, but had no real chile, lime, or cilantro taste to it. Still, it was a solid choice and it wasn't like I was dissatisfied with it.

The appetizers were okay. The taquito bites were remarkably tiny and almost not worth commenting about; the queso fundido was delicious until it congealed as melted cheese is wont to do. The dips were average - they come served in corn tortilla bowls, and the best out of the three was the bean dip, while the worst was probably the bland guacamole. Finally, the quesadilla was again pretty average. I get the feeling that a lot of the "obligatory" Mexican there is going to be on the average side of things, while venturing into the cilantro-and-fish realm will net you some of their better dishes.

A small note to cap my part of the review; either their menu is off, or their server was way further into the weeds than he should have been, since several of the prices on the actual bill varied from what we thought they were going to be. I'd recommend going for a very late lunch or early dinner when they're not so rushed or hurried.

  • Iced Tea ($1.90)
  • #10 Combo (Ground Beef Taco, Shredded Beef Enchilada, Chicken Burrito)($10.50)
While Cham is apparently in love with this place, I'm somewhat less so. I'm a big fan of their chorizo and cheese spread. Two cheeses, excellent sausage. It tastes a little of Worchestershire sauce, but I love that taste, so it's all good. The bean dip I don't think is as good as Senor Matias or Jonesey's, but it was servicable. The salsa was actually the type I like, slightly hot and not at all chunky, which is pretty uncommon, and the chicken taquitos that came on the combo platter were quite good, as well.

What wasn't so good were the ground beef and the shredded beef. The shredded beef was overly dry and extremely hard to cut through to get a clean bite. All the moisture seemed to have migrated to the ground beef, which dripped vigorously with every bite. There's nothing special about the ground beef taco at all. You could get practically the same from Taco Bell. Also worthy of note is that unlike both other Mexican restaurants we've gone to, this one sees fit to put the cheese -inside- the tortilla, instead of layering it generously over the top. This makes it easier to take bites, but also results in MUCH less cheese.

On the other hand, I can forgive most of this for the chicken. The chicken burrito was a wonder. Spiced perfectly, just juicy enough to bring wonderful flavor without drenching the plate in juices when you cut into it. I have it on good authority that the chicken is just as good in the enchilada and taco.

Overall, I have to say I wouldn't put this place ahead of Senor Matias or Jonesey's, but it's not a bad diversion. And I imagine that the fishier dishes are probably better, but they're way more expensive. Too expensive for me.

  • Soda Pop ($1.90)
  • #10 Combo (Chicken Taco, Ground Beef Chicken Enchilada, Shredded Beef Burrito)($10.50)
I generally agree with ND. I enjoyed the fundi with chorizo (if you get it, you should get the chorizo added on. It wouldn't have been nearly as good otherwise), though you need to be sure to eat it before it congeals into a bowl-shaped block of cheese. The most notable part of the sampler platter was the extra helping of fundi with chorizo. The bean dip was gritty, there weren't enough chicken taquito bites, and the salsa picada and guacamole were unremarkable.

I'm actually very glad that they messed up my order. By some provenance of the gods, they replaced the Ground Beef Enchilada that I ordered with a Chicken Enchilada. If you're going to get any assortment of burritos, enchiladas, or tacos from the combo menu, get chicken. The chicken was juicy and spiced just right. The Chicken Taco was the highlight of my meal and, because they didn't smear cheese and sauce over everything on my plate, it wasn't too messy to eat. On the other hand, the shredded beef was terribly dry and tough. To worsen matters, I got the shredded beef burrito, so I had the flour tortilla soaking up what remained of my saliva after the filling had had its go.

Overall, I don't expect I'll advocate returning to Hector's. It wasn't terrible--it just wasn't good enough for the price and I didn't appreciate the mangling of the bill or the forced gratuity for 5 people.

  • Carne Adovada Taco ($3.90)
  • Seafood Enchilada ($4.20)
The queso fundido appetizer was interesting and delicious. It turned out to be very greasy, and the tortilla could not contain it completely. Within seconds, the thing was soaked through. The appetizer sampler didn't impress me too much, and it was pretty expensive. The dips were not terribly impressive. I didn't try the quesadilla. The taquito was a little dry, but good. They also serve chips and salsa at every table. They say the chips and salsa are made fresh daily. They were pretty good. The salsa was fairly mild, but it had a decent, strong taste. It wasn't tomatoey, so it was probably more peppery.

I tried the enchilada first, which was quite different. It was slathered in cheese and a sort of cream sauce. It came with shrimp, scallops, crab meat, and that same cream sauce inside. There was no mistaking it for something other than seafood, but it was still really good. It was nearly twice the price of the basic enchiladas, however.

The taco was also something unique. Being seasoned with cilantro, it was a very different experience. It comes packed with meat and toppings and is not a bad size. The meat didn't have much of a strong flavor though, and it was a bit dry. What I tasted most was cilantro and corn tortilla. The texture was mostly tortilla also. If you get it, just know that it's not going to be your average taco experience. To me, it was worth trying once at least.

Overall, it was some very different tasting Mexican food. The stuff I had seemed fairly lightweight. I felt like I needed a little more food afterward, but it did hold me over. As the others have said, seafood or chicken is likely the way to go, and I'll confirm that the enchilada was quite tasty.

  • Tortilla Soup ($4.25)
  • #12 (Grande Burrito (I chose Carne Asada for the meat) w/rice and beans) ($9.45 $9.95)
I thought the place was okay last I went, but this time I was less impressed, which is a shame. Also, similarly, note the slight bill-to-menu discrepancy there.

One good note is that the chips (made on-site, says ND) and the salsa are actually very flavorful. No heat, but lots of fruit, as it were. A definite plus. The appetizers were okay fare, and they fill the stomach.

The Tortilla Soup was actually fairly enjoyable, with large chunks of avocado and tortillas, however, was not really a 'chunky' soup. I ate it all and could go for it again.

However, I wouldn't say the same about the Grande Burrito. I expected cheese of some sort, or something, on the inside or outside. Instead, I got a very large burrito which consisted of 90% Guacamole and Pico de Gallo, and 10% Carne Asada. The meat was actually very good, when I could find it, but there's only so much of that vegetable mass I could stand. The rice was standard and fine, and the beans similarly, but... I wanted a Grande Burrito, even if my appetite has been substandard recently. And that means lots of meat and cheese and stuff. I mean, Chipotle has just as grande burritos, and are far less stingy on the stuff inside them. And Jonsey's was a very pure and good meat, cheese, and tortilla. So yeah.

On the overall, it seems like the place has a lot of hit and miss to it, and the price isn't in the cheapness range one generally expects from mexican food. I wouldn't mind going back, using the knowledge we all gained. The place also, as is typical for mexican places, was big on getting some alcohol (which also looked sorta expensive), and we avoided that due to the lunch hour. Maybe it's just better on the boozamahol.

No comments: