Move aside Chipotle. Take a seat Big City. Q’doba… I don’t think I even have to tell you what to do. There’s a new hombre in town and it’s time to make room for him among the group of elitist burrito joints.
If you haven’t been to Cafe Mexicali, you must. The restaurant (the only one), locally owned and operated, just opened in November and might possibly soon dominate the Mexican fast-foodish market. They offer a menu quite similar to most places like Chipotle and Q’doba, but it isn’t simply a reflection of its competitors.
There are choices of salads, enchiladas, quesole (a type of grilled burrito), soup, tacos, smothered burritos and desserts. To fill your entree, there is a lineup of meats (pork, beef, chicken and steak) along with vegetables and a vegetarian option. Your meal can be topped with an array of sauces varying in spiciness.
The food is made directly in front of you… all of it. The process begins with your tortilla being heated and fluffed to accommodate the enormous amount of food it is about to be filled with. Then your meats, sauces and cheese are all piled in right before the meal is put through a toaster grill to melt everything together into fiesta goodness. To complete the process, any vegetables or condiments are added to the massive aluminum bucket your entree requires.
At places other than Cafe Mexicali, only the brave take on their burrito without utensils. At Mexicali, there isn’t exactly that option. By the end of the construction phase, I couldn’t even fathom manhandling my meal. Huge portions are not just a characteristic affiliated with Americans, but it’s how college kids survive. Most of us will pilfer around for a few days eating the Ramen or Spaghetti-Os in the back of the cupboard until we manage to scrounge enough money to go out. At that point, we want the largest and most delicious meal that can possibly be served. Clearly, Cafe Mexicali understands this lifestyle.
While most everything we ate was equally delicious, the meats are superb and shined among other establishments. The pork a few of us ordered in our burritos and enchiladas is actually sweet pork. It’s a little bizarre at first, but the flavor is a new and welcome flavor after the initial bite. The other traditional meats, like beef and chicken, are nothing short of fantastic. One of the reviewers ordered a shredded beef quesole and it was agreed on by all that the beef was so jam-packed with flavor, that it made the meal. As far as sauces go, most of us got a combination. The medium creamy white sauce seems to be quite popular gathered from what most people were ordering in line, but if you want to add a little bite to your burrito, the green chile has the perfect balance of flavor and spice.
Like everything else on the menu, the desserts are made fresh. Although we didn’t think we were going to be able to stuff a treat down after our massive meal, we ordered tres leches (three-milk cake) and fresh key lime pie. As a warning, prepare yourself before these desserts. Once you start, you will not be able to stop, so make sure you physically have room in your stomach before proceeding. Even after the meal, a few of us could not stop raving about the slice of perfection that they entitled key lime pie.
As if Cafe Mexicali couldn’t get any better, the prices are fair too. Entrees range from about $5 (vegetarian) to $7 (steak). There is also the option of purchasing tortillas, sauces and meats to take home and make it yourself for around the same price. Dessert is about $3 and beverages are about a dollar. If you are looking to have an alcoholic drink with your meal, they offer beer and margaritas. However tasty, the margaritas clearly aren’t made to get you drunk, but they’re a nice addition to bring out the flavor of your meal. The raspberry margarita (made with whole and fresh raspberries) was decidedly girly, but the best choice out of the drinks.
Although there has been an ongoing rave about how good Cafe Mexicali is, we just couldn’t find anything bad about the place. You would be doing yourself a favor to try it out immediately and decide for yourself if, like the reviewing board and myself, will be newly born Cafe Mexicali addicts.
Cafe Mexicali 2925 S. College Ave. 970-266-9292