Sunday, January 24, 2010

La Fiesta

Wow, really good food, great service, and a popular place! I have been to La Fiesta before--it's always busy, always crowded, and always a bit of a wait. My friend Tommy and I went there at prime time on a Saturday evening and guess what? There was a bit of a wait! Duh-oh! We knew there would be one. Fortunately, we found two empty barstools and so had a drink while we waited. 

OK, the bartender was busy, but not paying good attention. I was sitting right by the beer taps and spied Dos Equis XX on tap. I asked for that and Tommy asked for a margarita. The bartender never asked what size, but served the largest size, a 28 oz., $7.99 behemoth. He should have asked. I asked for a Dox Equis XX tap and got a bottle--in his defense, it was loud and maybe he did not hear me, or maybe it was out. My change from a $20 was $12. I asked for the reciept...he should have provided that. To his credit, he gave me $8 change when the bill was about a quarter over $12. Still, he was a bit unattentive, or at the least, very busy. But, the margarita was good and had an very ample quantity of Tequila in it. It lasted my friend through the whole meal, and he noted that it was plenty to drink--he could certainly feel it. 

Our buzzer went off once and the host quickly hurried over to apologize and say that was a mistake. No problem. A few minutes later it went off "for real." I think our total wait was maybe 20 minutes, not real bad, actually. As we approached our table, the host noticed it was not cleaned yet! Oh no! But within maybe 20 seconds, bus boys and waiters appeared from nowhere and cleaned it spotless. I was impressed by the quick service. We were not even settled in our chairs when chips and salsa appeared. Wow, they are fast here.

If you follow my blog, you may recall my recent post on another "Mexican" restaurant in the Daytona Beach area--i was not impressed by the watery, bland salsa. Not so here at La Fiesta. Wow, the salsa was excellent! It had a nice hearty tomato flavor, you could taste the sharpness of the cilantro, and they were not afraid of a little bit of heat. Not too much for the faint of heart, but certainly the heat was evident. One of the best salsa's I've had--ever (except of course, for my own....). The tortilla chips were crisp and fresh as well. We did eventually finish the salsa--it was that good. There was also some sort fo crema servered along with it. It was creamy and spicy hot and sweet all at the same time. I liked it, it was different. Even though spicy, it had a mellowing affect on the spice. Another hit in my book.

La Fiesta has an extensive menu, it took quite some time to devour it. But eventually we decided on our meals. Tommy recognized our server, Omar, as being a long term employee. He was certainly very competent and provided us great service.

Tommy ordered the Quesadilla La Fiesta with chicken, a grilled flour tortilla fille with cheese and chicken, served with rice, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. He liked it. No, actually, he loved it an pretty much ate the whole thing. Fortuantely, I had a taste--it was excellent. The chicken was tender, the tortilla crisp, the cheese creamy. What a nice dish. Simple and yes elegant, all that a quesadilla should be.

It took me a long time to decide, partly because the menu is so extensive, partly because i was so hungry and wanted one of everything, and partly because it all sounded so great. But eventually I decided on the Pollo Fiesta. Wow, what a good choice! This was a grilled chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese, then cooked with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and medium hot chipotle peppers. It was served with rich, refried beans, and three tortillas. Oh my! it was to die for. I slice off a third of this and loaded it onto one of the tortillas, adding a bit of the refried beans. A very handy way to eat it. And the was magnificent. I could taste all of the ingredients: the chicken was tender, the smokiness of the ham, the creaminess of the cheese, the mushrooms, onion and all made for a food orgy in my mouth. I am not kidding--it was that good. Simple ingredients. Fresh ingredients. Cooked well. Married well together. It was an excellent dish. And the best part: I have 1/3 of it in a "to go" box in my refrigerator right now, ready for take two!

A word about the sides. I tasted Tommy's guacamole, it was pretty good (OK, not as good as I make, but certainly good for restaurant are. The refried beans were average, but good. The rice...oh, wow, that was awesome, too. It had bits of carrot, lima beans, peas, green beans, and corn in it, among other things. It was sweet and savory at the same time. It was very, very good, actually, not your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant-type rice. Mmmmm!

Our total bill for the two meals (recall we ordered and paid for drinks earlier) was just under $22 before tax and a most generous tip--our waiter and the whole staff worked hard and deserved a generous tip. The Lake Mary Food Critic works a real job and eating well and blogging is my hobby--I believe in tipping well for a job well done, too.

This was certainly an excellent dining experience--an excellent meal, great service, a nice atmosphere, and a good time. There is a reason this place is always packed! Even when we left, there were a lot of people waiting for a table, a great testament to just how great a place this is. Though I live closer to Orlando, I am not aware of any place in Orlando that is this good when it comes to Mexican food, though I see that the owners have opened an Orlando location called Agave Azul. Yes, it's in the "tourist area" near Universal Studios. Still, based on my experience at the "mother restaurant," I'd like to try out this other location as well. But in the meantime, I highly recommend La Fiesta to all. It's great Mexican food at a decent price, definitely a value, definitely worth your time!
La Fiesta on Urbanspoon

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