Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant

Restaurant: Margarita's Mexican Restaurant
Address: 3636 S 72nd St - attached to the Howard Johnson
Website: None
Genres: Mexican
Check Constraints: If there were any, we missed them.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Enchiladas Suizas Lunch Special
  • Tamale
  • Sopapilla with Ice Cream
Last week's lunch feels like it happened in some kind of fugue state - I remember trying to decide where to go, and then somehow we were there. Work had started to taper off, but the accompanying brain fuzz had not yet been dispelled... as a result, the whole experience seems fairly dreamlike, and the quality of the review suffers for it. We offer our apologies in advance. We also lost the receipt - since there's no known website for the restaurant that means we're even lacking prices. Mea culpa.

Margarita's came about sometime last year, replacing the "Dreamers Bar & Grill" previously in the same location. I'd always intended to try it, but it somehow never managed to come up until last week. The place wasn't crowded, but we did show up at 11:30 since one of our number needed to be back at work for a phone meeting. Seating was fast, and though it took a minute to get drinks, chips and salsa, it wasn't overly long. Unfortunately, none of the above ever got refilled during the meal. It's a restaurant's prerogative to limit it to one basket of chips, I just wish they'd put that on the menu somewhere. There's little excuse for the drinks, though.

It being lunch, I ordered a lunch enchilada special. I also ordered what I thought were three tamales, that being the only number listed on the ala carte section of the menu. However, only one came out - I'm not sure if it cost less, since we lost the receipt, but I imagine it did. Anyhow, the enchiladas were chicken, and coated in a green sauce. They were kind of tiny for examples of their species, but they did taste good. Oddly enough, they were topped by what looked and tasted like pregrated parmesan instead of some more traditional Mexican cheese (Oaxaca comes to mind). It actually went pretty well with the flavor of the enchiladas, I just remember being tired enough I did a doubletake when it wound up on the table. The tamale was also a little small, but good as well. Like a lot of its kind it came unwrapped from the corn husk already, and instead of just being covered in red sauce it was served under what was almost a chili; lots of cumin and beans.

We ordered sopapilla with ice cream, but unfortunately Mecha and I had to skip out before they arrived at the table because the whole dining process was taking quite a while. We'd have made it an hour lunch if we hadn't done the ice cream, but ordering 5 of those added an extra half an hour to the meal, easily. The rest of the guys brought us our desserts in to-go boxes, and I wish I'd had time to eat it while it was warm (if it ever was). The sopapilla itself was not as sweet as it could have been, which was honestly a plus in my eyes, but it makes the ice cream a necessity if you're looking for a typical American sugarbomb dessert. Forgoing a spoon and using the pieces of sopapilla to scoop up and eat the ice cream is definitely the way to go with this dish, by the way.

Given my state of mind at the time, I am wary of condemning the restaurant for the speed or the portion-size, especially in the absence of the receipt. I will say that I'm not especially eager to go back and verify our experience - not when there are places I know are much better and new places to try, as well.

  • #19 Lunch Combo (Enchilada, Burrito, and Chalupa)
  • Sopapilla with Ice Cream
It's actually my fault we have no recipt, but I can tell you that for the five of us, with dessert, it came to 66bux. Not surprising, for a mexican restaurant, but I can tell you that the portions were surprisingly small for one. I ordered a triple combo, which at the other mexican places we've done was enough to defeat, or nearly defeat, even my capacious stomach. This place didn't even come close.

Worse, the lunch combos are ground beef only, and while the ground beef was good quality, and the cheese and cheese sauce over the top were quality, the chalupa left something to be desired. It came out more like a tostada. I didn't even recognize it as anything but a side salad, as the shell was soggy by the time it got to us, and was invisible under the beans and salad on top. It was very much a waste of money, and I definitely should have ordered something else.

It seemed to take half an hour for them to get us the sopapillas after they were ordered, so much so that by the time I had to flag down the waitress and ask for them to be boxed, they hadn't even actually started working on them. The sopapillas themselves were... bland, I suppose is the term. I mean, a fried tortilla with cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate sauce is something I am inclined to like, but this was lacking, even with the ice cream on top.

This isn't a place I'd willingly go to again, not with places like Senor Matias and Jonesey's Taco House around.

  • Margarita's Burrito Lunch Special - Spicy Chicken (Somewhere between $6 and $7)
  • Sopapilla with Ice Cream
I know that my dish was somewhere in the upper $6 range. A lot of the lunch specials were about the same, plus or minus a dollar or two. I think my plate was almost a reasonable size for the price. It was a medium sized burrito filled with "spicy" chicken and sauce. It was buried under lettuce, a little cheese, and a big blob of sour cream. There were fried rice and refried beans on the side. The chicken itself was pretty good, if not very spicy. It wasn't dry like I've seen in other places. The rice was pretty bland and the beans were ok.

The sopapilla didn't impress me at all. It was pretty bland, as the others have said. To me, it was just eating ice cream with a crunchy, unappetizing tortilla. It wasn't even like having an ice cream cone. It was just "meh." I couldn't taste the cinnamon or chocolate... I could, however, taste black pepper. It was the stranges thing, but I think it was due to the to-go utensils we were given. Even though it did take forever to get our desserts, they were well prepared with special to-go containers and pre-packaged plastic utensils. Now the thing is, the utensils came with a packet of salt and pepper inside. Clever, but not useful for ice cream. I had eaten a few bites and was wondering why it tasted like pepper when I realized the pepper packet was right under my nose. I thought removing it from the area would help, but it seems that the spoon became infused with pepper. That may have had a hand in ruining my sopapilla experience, but it was probably just the icing on the bland tortilla/ice cream dish. (Not cake. I would have rather had cake.) However much this thing cost me, it wasn't worth it.

A note on the service: It looked like our server might have been the only server. I can't remember if she seated us as well or not. When food came out, it seemed like the chef(s) brought the dishes out. It wasn't terribly busy, but there were enough people that one server would not have been enough. It may not have been 100% the waitress' fault, but she certainly didn't look like she was in a rush either.

I don't think I'd visit again unless it was with friends who really wanted to go (and these guys don't seem too enthused with the idea). The food was unremarkable, the prices were not the best, and the service was really slow (which may or may not be typical).

  • #15 Lunch Combo (Enchilada, Burrito, and Tamale)
  • Sopapilla with Ice Cream
As ND said, the only option for the meat for the enchilada and burrito was beef. The burrito was pretty good. It was smothered with cheese, but was terribly small at about the diameter of a half-dollar. The enchilada had something off about it. I think it was missing the sauce you normally get with such and it came in at about the diameter of a quarter. The tamale came unwrapped with lettuce and some sort of chili bean concoction on top. It almost resembled what you would get from a can of chili beans (though I don't contend that was where it came from). The tamale was actually pretty good in retrospect. That was the entirety of the platter. There were no refried beans or anything else. The portions were grotesquely small for the $7.79 I paid for it and I didn't even have the option of chicken or cheese as every other mexican restaurant in existence gives.

The sopapilla was a bit plain. It could have used a touch more cinnamon and sugar and I think they would have been better off serving it nacho style--quarter it then third those quarters and scoop up the ice cream with your "chips."

As others have hinted, the service was atrocious. The whole experience ended up taking well over 1.5 hours. We only got one basket of chips and a small caraffe of salsa for 5 of us. We never got a refill on our drinks. And we ended up having to get our desserts to-go, because it had been 20 minutes with no sign of them.

I don't think this will be a place that I return to. The service was terrible and the portions were way too small for the prices.

  • Some Lunch Combo (3? 5?) (Beef Burrito and Enchilada) (~5.50)
  • Sopapilla with Ice Cream (~2.50)
I can add to price analysis by pointing out that my mind said, with tip and tax, that 10 bucks would cover my piece.

The place actually had some interesting flavors in their dishes, which gave both Cham and I a little pause, IIRC, but ND and Maple are right: the portions were surprisingly small for a mexican place. The place did have more than one _person_ there, as they also tried to ask us for our drink orders, but the service was still incredibly slow.

I'm not sure I'd go back to this place either, all things considered. The chips/salsa were standard fare, the meat actually worked for me, the sauce was a little odd but okay, and the sopapilla I really would have liked warmer (that phone con really didn't help)... but there are a lot more solid options around. Looking for a place to eat is a bit of a competition, and this place really doesn't compare.

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