#157: Nela’s Mexican Restaurant

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I just returned from Nela’s Mexican Restaurant, where I had dinner tonight.  This family run Mexican joint sits on Vernon St. in downtown Roseville, just a couple spots over from Sammy Hagar’s place.  I had intended to go to an Indian restaurant nearby, called Shalimar Indian Cuisine, but they seem to have gone out of business because I couldn’t find it.

Before I dive into this one I just want to say hello to any new visitors that might see this.  Facebook offered me a little advertising credit, because I had been poking around in the ad stuff, so I figured I might as well use it.  In less than 24 hours almost 100 people have liked the Eating Through Roseville page, which was a nearly 50% increase.  Crazy.  I hope you guys enjoy the blog and find it useful!

Nela’s was Eva’s at some point.  In fact I thought it was still Eva’s up until I saw the menu.  There is practically no signage on the building.  The only things that give this place away are the Corona decals in half of the windows and a little sign that says “Mexican Restaurant” propped up against the glass from the inside.  It’s a much bigger space than I was expecting.  When I showed up and first took a picture of the outside I only included the Corona windows because I thought the other half was a different business.  It wasn’t until I walked up and realized that there was no handle on the right side door that it was twice as wide.  I headed to the left, through that door and inside.  Right at the door I passed an employee that was cleaning the windows.  There a little counter and register up front.  I missed the smallish sign that said “seat yourself” and waited awkwardly for about 15-20 seconds until the guy finished his window and asked if I was ordering takeout.  He told me to sit wherever I liked after I said I would be dining in.

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The dining area is a big rectangular area that is lined mostly with booths and filled with tables in the center.  They had them arranged into a few long tables for a big group that I guess was coming in later.  Not long after I sat down they were setting them up with chips and salsa.  Nobody had arrived by the time I left about a half hour later.  My table had a couple menus there already and the guy that was cleaning windows ended up being the server.  He brought me water just a moment after I had made myself comfortable and asked if I wanted to order anything to drink.  I was looking over the drink menu and told him not quite yet.  They have a fairly typical drink selection, about 7 or 8 beers, mostly imports from Mexico, Jarritos, regular sodas and a non-alcoholic, grape flavored sangria.

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Just a minute or two later he returned with chips and salsa.  I had decided to stick with water as nothing was really tickling my fancy tonight.  I still needed a few minutes to peruse the menu(PDF).  I figured I’d be getting their carnitas plate, assuming they had one (spoiler: they do), but I wanted to take a look at everything first.  It was pretty typical, appetizers, soups/salads, burritos, make-your-own combos and finally the house specialties.  I was really hungry this evening so, to be honest, a lot of it sounded pretty damn good.  Of course I eventually found the carnitas, at the very end, and ordered that up (roasted pork served with shredded lettuce, fresh sliced onions, tomatoes and avocado)[$11.95].  It included beans, rice and a small salad.

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Much like my recent visit, to Cafe Delicias, I was served two types of salsa — Pico de gallo in a little cup and a salsa roja in a squeeze bottle with a dish for it.  The chips were served at room tempurature and were thicker than average.  Not quite Carmelita’s-thick, but getting there.  With their thickness and rigidity they easily scooped up as much salsa as I desired.  They could probably stand up to even the heartiest of bean dips.  They had a very nice, solid crunch to them, but not much in the way of flavor.  I found that to be pretty much in line with most of the boring chips you get around Roseville.  Texture is about the only thing that set these aside.  The cool pico de gallo seemed very fresh, was quite mild and almost refreshing in a way.  I really dug it, and I’m not that much of a pico de gallo guy.  I tend to gravitate more to the thinner, hotter salsas, such as what was in the bottle next to it.  This was very bold and had a roasty chili flavor to it, as well as an immediate kick that lingered on my tongue.  I could tell instantly that this could build quickly over consecutive scoops if left unchecked.

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I didn’t get more than a few chips in and my side salad arrived.  This visit was starting to feel more and more like Cafe Delicias.  It was about the same sized little salad with just a touch too much dressing for what it was.  Again, the blue cheese dressing was plenty good and the lettuce was very crisp and cold.  They were tearing it up in the kitchen (read: plating pre-prepped food) because I didn’t even get halfway through my salad before I saw my server walking towards me with my carnitas plate.  I quickly slid a bunch of things aside to make room for it.  Again, just like Cafe Delicias, I was told that the plate was very hot and to be careful.  I was having serious déjà vu.

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This plate, however, was nowhere near as hot as that other one.  The first thing that I noticed was how big the carnitas chunks were.  Instead of the typical shredded bits it was 3 or 4 big chunks.  The usual re-fried beans and rice took a good chunk of the plate and a nice presentation of tomato, onion and avocado slices atop a small pile of shredded lettuce finished off the plate.  I had a little concern regarding the pork and it being such big chunks.  I figured that there would not be much in the way of crispy edges compared to the shredded style.  In this I was right.  It pulled apart with my fork and knife pretty easily and at least appeared to be nice and moist.  Unfortunately looks were somewhat deceiving here.  I found that most of the meat was somewhat dry.  A handful of bites were pretty tender and delicious with a crispy edge to it, but they were few and far between.  I strategically used tomato slices to counter the dryness, but there wasn’t much to go around.  In hindsight I wish I had asked for some sour cream, which probably would have helped out a ton.  As for the rice and beans, I also found the rice to be on the dry side, though it was actually some of the tastier rice I’ve had in recent memory.  I mixed it into the very mediocre beans and crisp shredded lettuce after a couple bites.

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The service was ridiculously fast and the guy was friendly and patient.  Unfortunately the food just didn’t do anything for me.  The best part of my meal was the salsas.  Not exactly what you look for in a Mexican restaurant, right?  So pretty disappointing overall.  Fortunately we have lots of fantastic Mexican to choose from in Roseville.

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One thought on “#157: Nela’s Mexican Restaurant

  1. My husband and I love this restaurant. The decor hasn’t changed since you went, but it’s been remodeled in the front and there is a sign out front now. It’s always busy when we go and the service times vary every time we go, sometimes super fast other times super slow. Glad I found this blog!

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