On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Chile relleno

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This is a pretty good Tex Mex chain. The menu is quite extensive, and there should be something to please almost everyone, as long as you’re not looking for authentic Mexican food.

The trick is to order items done on the mesquite grill, as they are very nicely flavored. I had the shrimp tacos (I ordered the fish tacos, but that’s another story). My companion had the chile relleno, and didn’t care for the clumsy breading and flavorless stuffing. But the accompanying brisket enchilada was pretty good.

Our favorite item was actually the queso cheese dip. It’s not something I would normally order, but it was a Yelp freebie, and it was excellent, a large serving, filled with lightly spiced peppers. It went well with the complimentary chips and salsa.

Also included in each meal are unlimited black beans and yellow rice. The rice is nicely seasoned and was much better than typical chain restaurant Mexican rice.

Our server was well trained but not a good listener.

The interior build-out is quite nice. It’s hard to imagine that this space the plaza was once occupied by card stores and sunglasses shops.

On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
12517 State Rd 535
Orlando, FL 32836
(321) 329-3188
https://www.yelp.com/biz/on-the-border-mexican-grill-and-cantina-orlando-4

Avocado Mexican Grill

Quesadilla

Relleno and enchilada

Nachos supreme but without the beans and meat

Interior

** (2 stars)

Two stars is generous. This might be a good place to sit at a sidewalk table and have some chips and a drink, but it’s not a place for good Mexican food. The best of what we had was edible, and not everything qualified.

Runny queso poured over tortillas chips is not nachos. And the refried beans were a remarkable pool of puree closer to the consistency of split pea soup.

The saving grace was the chile relleno, which was fine.

Service was friendly but completely incompetent. It took a half hour just to get the check after we finished eating. I was beginning to wonder if our waitress had gone to another restaurant to have lunch. I wish we had.

Avocado Mexican Grill
715 Bloom St
Ste 130
Celebration, FL 34747
(407) 566-1212
https://www.yelp.com/biz/avocado-mexican-grill-celebration

Taco Norteño

Nachos with ground beef

Tostada Barbacoa, taco pastor

Exterior

Interior

Salsa bar

**** (4 stars)

This neighborhood Mexican restaurant is very popular, probably in part due to the fact that their tacos start at $1.85.

I tried the taco pastor with a soft corn tortilla, the tostada barbacoa, and the nachos with ground beef.

My favorite item was the tostada, which had a nice, crisp, sturdy tortilla and generous slices of avocado. The barbacoa didn’t have a lot of flavor, but the refried beans did.

I didn’t care for the pastor, which was completely dry, with no evidence of marinade or sauce, and didn’t include the somewhat traditional pineapple either.

The nachos were by far the most expensive, but the serving was giant. You have a choice of meat, and indeed they were all about the meat, with very little cheese, and the limited cheese was a thin queso anyway.

The best feature of Norteno is the salsa bar, which offers not only an array of salsas, but also fresh cilantro, onions, jalapenos and limes, so you can deck out your food however you like. There are also free chips to accompany it.

Taco Norteño
12307 W Colonial Dr
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 656-2567
https://www.yelp.com/biz/taco-norte%C3%B1o-winter-garden

Las 3 Maria’s Mexican Restaurant

Exterior

Interior

Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

This small restaurant might seem like a counter serve place, but they actually don’t have a counter, and it’s full table service. The menu may seem rudimentary, but the standards are all here: tacos, enchiladas, chilaquiles, tortas and more. It’s all fixed from scratch by a lady who I assume is named Maria.

And when I say “from scratch” I really mean it. I ordered tacos, and she started with corn meal, formed, pressed and grilled the tortillas herself, and then filled them with my selections of meat.

I liked the chicken best, as the steak and carnitas weren’t quite as tender. All were covered with onions and cilantro. They were small but at $1.50 per taco, they were a good deal.

Las 3 Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
4862 Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 925-4174
https://www.yelp.com/biz/las-3-marias-mexican-restaurant-orlando

La Fiesta Mexican Grill

Chilequiles

Chili replenish and quesadilla

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

While the rave reviews got me excited about La Fiesta, we didn’t find anything particularly remarkable about the place. The best thing we had by far was the sangria, which wasn’t too sweet and has lots of fruit chunks.

Cheese nachos were pretty bland, consisting of good chips covered with a liquid white cheese and nothing else, no jalapenos.

The relleno was pretty weird, although the waiter did warn us that it was stuffed with mashed potatoes. We should have followed his suggestion to substitute some kind of meat. The quesadilla was nicely grilled, and filled with cheese and chicken. It was okay, not great, as were the fairly bland rice and beans.

The best entree was the chilaquiles, which seems to be available only at lunch. The green sauce had a lot of flavor, and the shredded chicken and fried egg were good. The chips didn’t really stand up to the sauce, though, and quickly dissolved.

The decor of the restaurant is nice, but overhead fluorescent light aren’t in keeping with the restaurant ambiance.

Service was excellent.

La Fiesta Mexican Grill
3000 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 985-4340
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-fiesta-mexican-grill-orlando

Bartaco

Ceviche

Cheese quesadilla

Mahi, Cauliflower, Baha, Chiclen tacos

Interior

Menu

**** (4 stars)

This surprisingly large space is divided into several indoor areas and a large patio. Tacos are ordered using a form at the table which you then place in a stand to attract your server’s attention.

Each taco is about four bites, and costs either $2.50 or $3.50. The Mahi Mahi taco was healthful, but the Baja taco, which was deep fried with a crunchy crust was better. The most flavorful taco we tried was the cauliflower, because of the spicy, nutty sauce. Least interesting was the chicken.

We also tried the cheese quesadilla and the ceviche. The quesadilla was nicely cooked to a golden brown, but the cheese wasn’t particularly flavorful. Addition of the hot sauces on the table helped. The ceviche contained a nice portion of Mahi Mahi in lime juice, and was good, if more expensive than the other items at $7.

A lunch deal give you a choice of three tacos and a soup or salad, not a big discount, but a nice combination.

There is a short list of wines and a longer list of beers.

Service was extremely attentive.

Bartaco
7600 Dr Phillips Blvd
Ste 28
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 801-8226
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bartaco-orlando-2

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos

Fish and carnival tacos

Interior

Exterior

Interior

Menu

**** (4 stars)

This is a funky taco place with an extensive, if somewhat bewildering, menu. The prices are moderate, but each taco comes with two tortillas, and can be disassembled into two tacos. The fish was good, although the carnitas was juicier and had more flavor.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
418 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-9125
https://www.yelp.com/biz/wahoos-fish-tacos-santa-monica

The Mex Authentic

Nachos Al pastor

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Excellent service is the highlight of this nice sit down Mexican restaurant at the base of State Street.

The tortilla chips are authentic and obviously homemade, and the salsa is fresh and not terribly spicy.

We started with the Nachos Pastor, a loaded version of nachos the included beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, seeded raw jalapenos and pork pastor. It was delicious, however the two of us could only make our way halfway through it! So when I say “we started with” I also mean “we finished with”!

I’m looking forward to returnign and trying some of their other offerings.

The Mex Authentic
413 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 845-6364
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-mex-authentic-santa-barbara

Del Taco

Tostada

**** (4 stars)

Del Taco consistently seems a bit more generous than Taco Bell, and the ingredients often seem a bit fresher, or at least more discrete. This location–a rarity in Central Florida–seems fairly friendly and efficient.

My wife and I have always disagreed about whether Taco Bell’s or Del Taco’s tostadas are better. There’s a philosophical argument about whether the cheese belongs underneath the lettuce, where it melts, or on top, where it imparts more flavor but falls off. More research is needed. I’m on it.

Del Taco
6855 Grand National Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-0738
https://www.yelp.com/biz/del-taco-orlando-2

Chuy’s

Elvis green chili fried chicken (green chili festival)

Valley combo (green chili festival)

Bar

**** (4 stars)

This location of Chuy’s is a bit easier to get to than the one in the very crowded stretch of International Drive. The decor is the same funky coolness, but with different themes and pictures.

We went during the annual green chili festival, which offered some different menu items, although they didn’t have the promised complementary fresh green chilis.

The best thing to get at Chuy’s is the appetizer combo, which makes a great and economical meal for two people. Another excellent selection is the taco salad, one of the more healthful (as in “more healthful than extremely bad for you”) items. Get it with the creamy jalapeno dressing. You can also ask for that as a chip dipping sauce, which is delicious.

Speaking of chips, perhaps the very best thing about Chuy’s is the ultra-thin chips served when you sit down. They are always crisp, and despite their thinness they are sturdy enough to support a big scoop of salsa.

Margaritas are also excellent.

Our server here seemed like she was still learning, but she was a bit busy.

Overall a very good experience.

Chuy’s
7913 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34747
(407) 787-3545
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chuys-kissimmee