Day of the Week: Friday, 2/8
Total Bill: $54.04 (before tip)
Breakdown: 1 appetizer, 3 entrees, 2 desserts
Pros: The restaurant is clean and attractive.
Cons: Way overpriced, misleading website, fake margaritas.
Verdict: Skip this place.
A few months back I saw a $12-for-$25 Groupon for this place. I checked out their website, looked it up on Urbanspoon, and decided to buy it. Hubby and I were looking for an upscale Mexican place near our house and Mekenita was close enough to fit the bill (Dale Mabry and Van Dyke Road). The Groupon was expiring in a few weeks so we decided to go Friday night.
When we walked in, we realized immediately this place was not what we expected: it’s counter service, which the website doesn’t say. The whole feel of the site indicates “sit-down restaurant.” (Their site also indicates their web designer is a 12-year-old girl – the butterfly cursor drives me crazy.) I was just looking at the sites for Pei Wei and Tijuana Flats. Their sites also don’t say the restaurants are counter service. But I feel like even if you’d never been to one of those restaurants you would realize they’re super casual and not be surprised that they’re counter service. (By the way, I HATE TJ Flats’ website. Their web designer does too many drugs.)
We were met at the front door by an overly aggressive person (manager, we’re guessing), who basically read the whole menu to us. So not helpful. As “Manager” was reading the menu to us, we noticed the prices (which are not online). $7.50 for the smoked pork tamale appetizer. $15 for crab and smoked poblano enchiladas. Are these really counter-service prices?
After a little debate about whether we were even going to get food there, we decided to get the food to go so we could relax at home and enjoy some of our craft beer collection. I ordered the smoked pork tamales (because I LOVE tamales) and the crab enchiladas (sounded different). Hubby ordered smoked pork tacos and grilled chicken tacos ($8.50 for each, three tacos in each order, no sides). The enchiladas came with rice and a choice of refried or black beans. I got refried beans because I LOVE refried beans. (In case you’re not getting a theme here, I LOVE Mexican food. Until I was 5, we lived in Texas, so I literally cut my teeth on it.) We got two orders of churros for dessert ($5.50 each).
The cashier told us the food would take about 15 minutes and offered us a drink. She told us about their salsa bar (every order comes with a side of tortilla chips). She really was a friendly girl (Rhiannon), and probably was the highlight of the experience.
As we were paying, Hubby looked around and then said to me, “I don’ think they have a full liquor license but they have margaritas on the menu. Ohhhh, I know what they’re doing. They have a beer and wine license only and they use wine-based spirits for their margaritas. A lot of places do that. That’s why they have to use fresh juices in their margaritas. Those wine-based spirits are disgusting. And talk about the worst hangover you’ll ever have.” Hubby is extremely knowledgeable about Florida’s liquor laws because of his job, so this was very credible information to me. It was also pretty outrageous because they charge $7 for a margarita. A margarita at Chili’s is about the same price. Granted, their margaritas are terrible. But at least you get real booze!
Anyway, the restaurant was really getting busy at this point (6:30ish, so people were getting off work and not wanting to cook on a Friday night), so we stood outside for a few, but the mosquitoes were biting Hubby. We went back inside and were waiting near the cash register when Manager reappeared. He asked if we needed anything and we said no. He kept staring at us. Hubby finally said, “What?” The guy said, “You didn’t get a number?” (dine-in orders get a number so the food can be brought to the table). Hubby explained we got it to go and the guy actually looked kind of peeved. I mean, the restaurant is pretty enough, but the screaming kids were a massive turn-off for us. (And it’s not just because we don’t have kids. Our parents are just as put off by that crap as we are. Guess that’s why we weren’t allowed to scream in restaurants.)
Finally, our food was ready. As the cashier was handing it to us, Hubby looked at her and asked, “What kind of tequila do you use in your margaritas?” She looked away, blushed, and laughed. She replied, “Agave wine.” Hubby had been absolutely correct.
I just realized how long this review is and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet! But that part is next.
When we got home, I sat down first with my tamale. First of all, the portion was a little small. It was just a large tamale cut in half. The filling was good enough but there was too much corn shell around it and the corn was really dry. Definitely not what I would expect from a chef who studied with Roy Yamaguchi. I ate half and threw the rest away.
My enchilada portion was a better size (three enchiladas) with a good portion of rice and beans. The enchiladas were good but you couldn’t taste the crab, just the pepper. As I thought about it, smoked pork would’ve stood up better to the pepper. Crab called for something more delicate. The rice was fine (how bad can rice be?) but the beans were terrible. I’m not sure what they put in them but whatever it was overpowered the beans. So disappointing.
Hubby said his tacos were “ok.” He said the pork was better than the chicken but neither was “good.”
Their tortilla chips were fresh and crispy but they put some spice mix on them that’s got a sweet-ish flavor. We didn’t eat many. They just didn’t appeal to us.
The churros were good. Nothing else to say about them.
The next time I want Mexican, I’ll get TJ Flats or Vallarta’s. There was a counter service place next to the Carrollwood WOB called Burrito Boarder that was also a lot better (and cheaper). We were so disappointed it closed. Don’t waste your time or money on Mekenita.
What can I say besides a disappointment… there is nothing on the website or menu that suggests that this is a Chipotle-style to-go restaurant… so we expected to go to a sit-down Mexican place that has margaritas, and other drinks. (It has margaritas, but not real ones – I’ll explain later.)
So we get there and are greeted at the door by a manager or owner. A guy with a goatee that spoke to us for ten minutes about the food, saying how everything was great and nothing was bad. As I lost interest and started looking around because he was so long winded, he gave me a funny look like, “How could you not be listening to me about this amazing experience?” So as he finally finished we ordered and I noticed that there were no bottles of liquor behind the counter, only premade margaritas and other drinks… so with my technical knowledge of the alcohol industry in Florida, I concluded that they had a beer and wine license and their DRINKS ARE MADE FROM WINE BASED TEQUILA, which, if you have ever had it, is disgusting. All of the fake wine-based spirits are awful. They are 20% alcohol made like wine and are the worst. So I think this is trickery. It doesn’t say anywhere on the menu that they are fake margaritas and made from crap and they are charging $7 a piece. I can go to Chili’s and grab their presidente margarita for the same price. To confirm my suspicion, I asked the gal at the counter if they used agave wine and she said they did, and kind of looked embarrassed.
Ok, so now onto the food. I had the chicken tacos and the pork tacos. The chicken tacos were fair, nothing too great but a fair taco. The pork tacos were very good. They had a good flavor of smoke and seasoning. The best part of the tacos are the shells. They are a soft, I believe corn based, shell. Not the wheat and flour based ones.
I also had the churros, which were good, but not the best I ever had. The chips were very good, seemed fresh, but, again, I have had better.
This one is not recommended by me, I was not a fan and would not go back.