#247: Moe’s Southwest Grill

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It feels like we’ve had a lot of traditionally non-California chains expanding into our area over the last couple of years.  Moe’s is one of the newest and I was brought here by an offer of a free burrito for downloading their rewards app.  They are located at the corner of Sunrise and Cirby, in the new building next to Starbucks.  Since they’re a big chain I’ll let the photos do most of the talking, but my overall impression is that it’s like a more colorful version of Chipotle.

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My burrito was the following: pulled pork, southwestern rice, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, grilled bell peppers, sour cream, guacamole, corn salsa and a creamy southwest-type of dressing with a bit of heat, then finally finished off with a dash of their hottest sauce.  It had to be double-tortilla wrapped due to how stuffed it was.  Overall it was enjoyable.  I must admit however that I have a huge love for Freebirds and will most likely continue to go there for my spicy burrito needs.  One nice thing here is that they deep fry their complimentary tortilla chips right in-store.  Downside is that the side of guac I got was tiny (+$2.80 for the guac and a soda).

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#245: La Fiesta Alteña

La Fiesta Alteña is a new Mexican taqueria located at Lead Hill & Eureka in the old Mas location.  They worked on it for many months and I was surprised to see it was open one day when I was going to a movie at Century 14 in the same center.  On Friday I met my mom for some dinner to try it out.

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We arrived at 5:30 and headed in.  The front door is not obvious, aside from a small little engraved, office-like plaque that said “Entrance”.  They had the far patio door open at the time and, while we went in the front (I stopped in previously to take a peek), we noticed a lot of people walk right past it and head into the patio area, then eventually find their way inside.  When you first walk in it feels like this will be an order-at-the-counter type of place.  There are registers and LCD displays set up at what looks like a counter that you should approach.  Instead, those are for the servers use, and we were greeted and shown to a table.

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The interior has seen extensive remodeling, and it feels very open now, with only a handful of booths in some areas.  The patio is still a fairly unique one in that it is open to the outside, yet sheltered with high glass walls from the wind and elements.  Heaters and fans should keep the space usable year-round.

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When we sat down and started looking over the menus we both noticed that they had the air conditioners BLASTING.  It was downright cold inside on this high-90s day (may have been 100, it was hot either way).  This comes into play, I feel, in a couple ways.  The first was obvious.  Later, they opened the door to the patio from inside the restaurant.  Quickly, a lot of the cool air was lost to the outside and the temperature rose to a more comfortable level.  I’ll get to the 2nd in a moment.

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We skimmed the menus, including the happy hour options (link to the menu, drinks and happy hour here).  I ordered a Model Special [$4 happy hour] and my mom got a margarita [$6 happy hour].  These came out right about the time we ordered.  I decided on the Chile Verde (slow cooked succulent pork, coated with roasted jalapeños and tangy tomatillos served with rice and refried beans)[$11.75].  My mom got the happy hour Nachos with chicken (choice of asada, pastor, carnitas, pollo with melted cheese, guacamole & sour cream)[$5].  We were also served chips and a trio of salsas.

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The chips were very standard, nothing special.  The pico de gallo was the most flavorful and was clearly fresh.  The other, more blended salsa packed a nice heat to it, but otherwise didn’t have much going on.  The beans were warm, mild and enjoyable.

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Our orders came out in roughly ten minutes.  The nacho plate was impressive for $5.  My picture, I am realizing as I look at it now, does not really do it justice.  The plate is actually an oval and it looks like a small circle how I shot it.  That and it was deeper than you’d expect.  It consisted of the same average chips, but was totally loaded with the toppings and there was plenty left over at the end.  This is a great value.

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My chile verde tasted pretty good and had some nice spice and flavor from the jalapeños, however the pork was not quite as tender as I anticipated.  The beans and rice were very standard.  There was a ton of cool sour cream.  At first I didn’t see any guacamole, but later found it hidden under some stray lettuce from the little salad.  It was fresh and delicious.  This is where I think the 2nd point about the air conditioning comes into play.  My plate was somewhat cold, and as a result the beans, rice and chili verde were all room temperature at best.  I think the overlay-chilled air had caused the plates in the kitchen to end up colder than usual, and they definitely didn’t warm them up prior to plating.  It just sapped all the heat out of the food.  That was pretty disappointing.  The nacho plate seemed to be OK though.

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Towards the end of our dinner a mariachi band set up in the patio on a raised stage and started cranking out music.  It was heard pretty easily inside with the door open, and was fairly loud in the patio.  I took a little bit of video (below) before we left.

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The heat issue will leave an impression in my mind but I do think this is definitely a good spot for happy hour.  Those nachos were a great deal for $5.

Website: http://lafiestaaltena.com

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

#243: Nixtaco Mexican Taqueria

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Nixtaco Taqueria is one of the newest spots in Roseville.  They opened just over 3 weeks ago at Cirby & Rocky Ridge, previously occupied by the short-lived Bhan Thai.  I’ve been hyper aware of their inevitable opening since following them on Facebook several months ago.  They are extremely active and had photos to share every day, even if a lot of them were meme-like, to work up anticipation.

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Owner Patricio Wise comes from Monterrey, Mexico and brings flavors from that region with him.  (random side note, my work has a plant in Monterrey and I look forward to bringing my colleagues here, when they occasionally visit our headquarters, to see what they think).  Nixtaco grinds corn and makes tortillas fresh every day, among other items.

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I met up with my parents for dinner last night.  The space has been hugely updated from when Bhan Thai was here.  There is still a bar/counter, but this one is completely new.  The space otherwise is rectangular and straightforward, a grid of 2-4 person tables with funky looking chairs (the Thai place had odd chairs too come to think of it).  At the end of the bar is the register where you place your order.

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The place was fairly packed when I arrived.  We were still waiting on my dad who was a few minutes behind, so I meandered up near the register to look at the menu. Patricio greeted me and asked if he could get me started with a beer and said we could pay when we placed the rest of the order.  That sounded great so I got a Biere Blanche, a witbier by The Monk’s Cellar on Vernon, took a little table marker and took a seat with a menu.

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Obviously the focus here is tacos, but they do have a good selection of appetizers and burritos.  They also serve brunch from 11-3 on Sunday.  They have 6 tacos to choose from, and if you’re like me you’ll want to try them all, but $3.50 a pop will get a little pricey and you probably won’t be able to finish them all.  Nixtaco had me covered though, they have a sampler for just $9 that has one of each of the 6 tacos on a 2.5″ tortilla, little baby tacos!  I ordered that and we got some guacamole to share (House made guacamole with real avocado, serrano chiles, tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Chips or tortillas)[$5.50].  My dad ordered the Short Rib Barbacoa burrito (Beef short-rib braised “barbacoa-style” in our guajillo-chipotle and onion braise)[$10] and my mom ordered two of the Shrimp Mazatlan Style tacos (Inspired by the classic “Taco Gobernador”: Sautéed shrimp, with caramelized bacon, garlic, and melted Oaxaca cheese)[$3.50ea].

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We were served complimentary salsas, in addition to the guac we had coming.  There were 3 or 4 of them, we were fairly certain the two were the same, but I might be wrong.  All were tasty and packed a little kick to them, but the most interesting and unique one had a peanut flavoring to it.  I found myself continuing to go back to it all throughout dinner.

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Our fresh guacamole arrived soon and we dug into it.  It was topped with bright red onions pickled in lime juice.  In fact, the whole thing had a strong lime flavor to it.  It was definitely good, but it would have been nice to be able to taste the avocados themselves a little more.  It was about this time that they had a line to the door, which persisted for much of our stay.  Things got a bit hectic.  We quickly ran out of chips since we were using them for both salsa and guac.  I asked someone rushing past our table if we could get some more.  It took a little while though.  They were clearly overwhelmed with the amount of customers that had, and were continuing to, pile in.

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My mom’s tacos arrived first, but had a random 3rd taco with them.  It took us a second to realize that this was not part of our order.  I think we may have received someone else’s plate, however it did have 2 of the tacos correct.  After that there was kind of a long wait before the other items finally came.  We were close to asking about them, but it was obvious that they knew something had been mixed up and were trying to find out where it went wrong.  Eventually, about 10 minutes after the first tacos arrived, my dad’s burrito and my taco sampler showed up.  So we ended up with an extra taco, which appeared to be the Short Rib Barbacoa.

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My mom was not crazy about the shrimp tacos, mostly because she didn’t seem to like the sauce that the Oaxaca cheese was melted into, and also because one of the shrimp still had a bit of tail remaining that didn’t get caught in cleaning them.  She did enjoy the short rib barbacoa though.  On the contrary I loved my shrimp taco.  The sauce was much thicker and richer than I was expecting and all three of my shrimp were well cleaned.

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The burrito wasn’t much to look at, but my dad liked it.  It’s hard to photograph a burrito and have it look good unless you cut it in half and can see into it, so I give the appearance a pass.

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My remaining five tacos were:

Chicharron (Pork belly sliced thin and roasted, then diced and sauteed in salsa verde. Lime-pickled onions on top).  This was really tasty.  The pork was incredibly tender and flavorful.  It pretty much melted in my mouth.

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Asado Norteño (Pork shoulder diced and slowly stewed in our orange-guajillo adobo. Avocado mousse on top).  This was rich and had a lovely citrus flavor to it.ETR 243 Nixtaco Mexican Taqueria 012 2016-06-25 18-51-38 Pollo en Mole (Shredded roasted chicken, simmered in our House-made mole. House-made crema and toasted black sesame seeds on top).  Easily the messiest of my tacos.  This was ok, nothing really stood out to me flavor-wise though.

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Short Rib Barbacoa (Beef short-rib braised “barbacoa-style” in our guajillo-chipotle and onion braise. Avocado mousse on top).  Similar to the Pollo en Mole, I felt it was a bit one-dimensional.

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Finally, the surprise hit and something I know I will be back for repeatedly: Rajas con Queso (Roasted poblano “in rajas”, sauteed with House-made crema, Oaxaca cheese and corn).  Who would have guessed that my favorite item would be the vegetarian option?!  This was so incredibly delicious, I was picking every last bit of poblano from the plate where it had escaped the little tortilla.

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Not every taco was for me, but overall I really enjoyed just about everything.  I definitely expect to return for full-sized Rajas con Queso.  And there were a few things on the menu that we didn’t order that I am very interested in checking out, including the Roasted Bone Marrow appetizer (something you don’t see too often in this area, but is usually delicious) and, from the brunch menu, the Nixtaco Poached Egg (Mexican take on Scotch Egg: soft poached egg, enrobed in our short rib barbacoa, then covered in masa and deep fried. Served on a bed guacamole with salsas verde and rosa).  That sounds amazing!

Website: http://nixta.co