The taco salad fajita. (Photo: Staff)

This week, Monica and I visited the popular local Mexican restaurant Fiesta Mexicana at 4021 Hixson Pike. When I write about Mexican cuisine, it never fails that somebody mentions Fiesta Mexicana as a “must-try” or as their “favorite Mexican restaurant” in the city. The only thing I knew going into our meal—thanks to Monica—was that the portions are huge.

With so many restaurants offering the familiar Tex-Mex food Americans have come to know as “Mexican,” I find they all tend to run together in my mind. Go to an Amigo or El Metate restaurant and you know exactly what to expect. It all conquers whatever cravings you might have for that type of food.

A quick, nonrelated story about “Fiesta Mexicana”: A fun practical joke I liked to play on my grandmother was to wait until she fell asleep watching TV in her favorite chair. I would sneak up behind her and steal the remote. Then, I’d switch the station to the “Fiesta Mexicana” music channel (think the loudest mariachi music you’ve ever heard) and slowly raise the volume until it was far too loud. She’d jump up and search around for the remote until I revealed myself. Anyway, that’s what I think about whenever I hear “Fiesta Mexicana.”

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A jumbo margarita and Corona Light. (Photo: Staff)

Atmosphere/drinks
Monica and I arrived to a full parking lot. A man was performing acoustic country covers near the bar. Thankfully, and no offense meant to the crooner, we were seated in the enormous main dining room in the farthest booth from the bar. A woman brought us some chips and accidentally spilled a container of salsa on the table. I acted like I was about to lick it up and she recoiled, saying, “No, no, no!” It was fun and we both laughed. Fiesta indeed!

Our server, Jim, couldn’t have been a nicer guy. The restaurant seemed fairly busy for the time. I noticed plenty of families enjoying dinner. A few solo drinker/diners were sitting at the bar, but all the booths were filled. Monica ordered a Corona Light, and I got a jumbo margarita to sip on. We also ordered a small portion of something called “fiesta dip”—a mix of queso, ground beef and pico de gallo.

Fiesta dip. (Photo: Staff)

Jim apologized for my margarita, saying it was the “bottom of the container.” I’m not sure what that means in terms of a frozen margarita, but this one was so frozen I could barely drink it. My hope was that all the alcohol had seeped to the bottom and that I would experience an elevated buzz from a single margarita. That wasn’t the case. Instead, it seemed all the margarita mix (limey flavor) had seeped to the bottom. This was not the best margarita I’ve had. It was, literally, the bottom of the barrel—although a mediocre margarita is better than no margarita.

Monica’s Corona Light was fine. She’s amazing and particularly cute when eating tortilla chips covered in queso.

A fork for scale. (Photo: Staff)

Food
We always make the mistake of filling up on chips and queso before our food comes. That is an even bigger mistake at Fiesta Mexicana, where the portions, as promised, are as large as a puppy from a midsize breed. The menu is also large. You can read the Dinner Delivered version here. If you can’t find something to eat—fajitas, nachos, burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas—you need to get out more. You can order chicken tenders and fries, too. But why would you?

Monica decided to try a taco salad fajita, and I chose the “chimichanga loca.” I asked Jim before I ordered what he suggested, and he told me that “pollo con arroz” is popular. That’s a chicken and rice dish smothered in queso that people eat because it’s easy. Jim also told me the burritos are as long as a forearm. The chimichanga loca (also big) is a flour tortilla stuffed with steak, chorizo, jalapeños, vegetables and a “special sauce.” Monica’s taco salad fajita was just a giant hard-shell taco with fajita stuffing.

The chimichanga was slightly crunchy and filled to the breaking point with morsels of chorizo and steak. It was all I could do to eat half of it. And it should be noted that chimichangas don’t reheat well in the microwave. I’d advise splitting this dish in the future. Likewise, the taco salad fajita was plenty for two people. Monica only finished about half before she turned the fork over and tapped out. A theme, apparently, I also was unable to finish my frozen margarita. I wanted to, but it was still too frozen by the end of the meal. I’ll stick to beer next time.

The check total was $46 before tip. That’s a reasonable amount for a night out for a couple. Not ordering our drinks would have saved about $15. I appreciated the atmosphere at Fiesta Mexicana, and whoever was playing guitar did an excellent cover of “Turtles All the Way Down” by Sturgill Simpson.

Would we go back?
I understand why people enjoy Fiesta Mexicana, because it has everything you’d ever want from a Mexican restaurant. However, I didn’t find it to be an exception to the myriad restaurants around the region that offer similar food. In other words, Fiesta Mexicana does a fine job at being exactly what you’d expect it to be. My favorites—Taqueria Jalisco, Taconooga and La Altena—will still be my first choices for this style of food.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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