When I was a child, dining out was a privilege. We chose the restaurant carefully, taking everything into consideration. Today, I still look for that whole dining experience — a balance of reasonably priced good food, enjoyable atmosphere, and skilled servers. I am not alone when I say I cherish the whole experience, not just the food. This is why I was rather confused when I left Taco Mama, a Mexican restaurant located downtown.
Taco Mama is truly a place for a fun fiesta. The atmosphere is vibrant, much like the Mexican décor scattered along the walls. General Manager, Dave, even stated that the owner “would not care if the kitchen was on fire, as long as the atmosphere is good.” Do not read too much between the lines, the food was quite tasty. Like most businesses downtown, parking is cruel. A handful of parking spots, tucked close in front of the restaurant, would have of served better as an extended patio. The outside of the building mimics the charm of downtown. Rustic red doors sit in between two open garage doors, extending the restaurant dining area to the patio. Inside was beautiful. Polished concrete floor, brick walls, and exposed air ducts reminded you you are in downtown. Mexican décor accented the industrial space. Along the exposed brick walls were a few pictures and an occasional flat screen television. Festive red and white lights were draped from the metal ceiling. Suspended over the bar were gorgeous Mexican star tin fixtures. The area is quite snug. Table seating is limited, though bar seating is plentiful. No one seemed to care that it was hot, humid, and sticky inside.
Tables were full. Noise from the kitchen and conversation filled the room. While some may call it loud and obnoxious, others would call it fun and festive. The crowded line led us to the counter where the cashier takes orders. The menu is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. Options included tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads. A nice feature is the “build your own” section. After debating over a taco, burrito, quesadilla, or nachos, you then choose from a list of meats and an array of toppings — so many possibilities. But, I went with a traditional burrito bowl layered with Mexican rice, refried beans, shredded chicken, tomatoes, queso, and creamy avocado. My husband ordered the steak quesadilla and chips with chorizo queso. We were given a number and told to sit anywhere. The bar was the only option. Food was out in no time. A beautiful mess was set down in front of me. A small burrito mountain was covered with chunks of shredded chicken. Bright red diced tomatoes were swimming in the creamy queso. And to top it off was a fresh dollop of avocado. It was delicious. Each bite was a different. One bite may be accompanied with the cooling taste of avocado or salty thick, creamy queso. The chips with chorizo queso dip was another delicious choice. The chips were crisp, light, and thin. The queso dip had only a touch of chorizo on top, but it was adequate. The meal was going so well until my husband offered a bit of his steak quesadilla. The most prominent taste was the extra black char on the tortilla. The steak tenderloin was flavorless. Of course, drowning anything in queso dip makes it eatable. As my husband and I were discussing the pro and cons of our experience I was left confused of what I really thought about our dinner. For him, it was not the best, because of the flavorless steak quesadilla, the heat and humidity creeping in through the open garage doors, the loud noises, and the lack of table seating. After some serious thought, I came to the conclusion that I had a wonderful dining experience. I thought it was lively and fun. My food was wonderful. Yes, I was a little hot and bothered, but that’s nothing that a frozen margarita couldn’t fix. My only complaint goes to the prices and ordering process. Both of our meals, the chips and queso dip, one water, and one soda was almost $30… very overpriced for a Mexican restaurant, in my opinion. If the restaurant continues to stay packed, waiters would be more efficient, turning over more tables resulting in monetary benefits and happier customers. Let us know where you are eating, tweet us @ThePlanetWeekly.
Taco Mama sits at 2104 University Boulevard. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

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