Costa Mesa Restaurant Week started yesterday and continues through Friday, August 26th. Within the borders…
We certainly have more than our share of Mexican restaurants in southern California; they range from corner takeout joints to gourmet fusion tacos to Baja California surfer cuisine to combination plate American-style Mexican food. But one thing is for sure, not many have been around for 40 years, seen three generations of family ownership, and are as beloved by locals as Mi Casa in Costa Mesa. I’m a total fan of any family-owned business that has served folks in their community for decades and adapted to changing tastes while continuing to keep their loyal patrons happy. Mi Casa is all of that: currently owned and operated by Ryan Moore, a third generation family member, who carries on the tradition of good food, good value, and friendly service where locals and visitors can dine with relatives and friends in a casual relaxed setting.
Mi Casa has also responded with seasonal, healthier, lighter menu options and an impressive array of handcrafted cocktails made with top-shelf brands and artisan tequilas ranging in price from $8.50 to $25.00. Yes, for the big spenders there’s the Billionaire Margarita concocted from Gran Patron Platinum Tequila and Grand Marnier! Known for their mega portions and Sonoran style Mexican food, I’m particularly happy with their Fall seasonal menu featuring four new entrees in addition to their other popular menu items.
First off, my dining partner and I wanted to sample a few of the tempting cocktails – she had been battling L.A. traffic for two hours and definitely needed a refreshment to calm her nerves and I need no excuse After much contemplation (there are three pages of drinks including margaritas, specialty cocktails, martinis, shots and after dinner drinks) we decided to spice up the evening with a Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita. Why not, it was Friday Happy Hour and I was celebrating leaving the next day for a three week trip that included Paris!
If you like it HOT and STRONG, then this one’s for you.
Or you might want to try the Habanero-infused El Jimador tequila, Cointreau, sweet & sour and lime juice – I wasn’t that brave
The restaurant decor is an eclectic mix of retro memorabilia celebrating Mi Casa’s heritage, south of the border kitschy art, and western steakhouse with leather booths, dim lighting and tabletops imprinted with cattle brands. Pitchers of chilled water are at each table and guests promptly receive a basket of chips and the house salsa to munch on while perusing the menu.
It’s been a while since I popped into Mi Casa for lunch (shredded beef tacos!) and at least a year since I’ve joined the crowd at their popular $3 Happy Hour; on this night I was there specifically to try their new Fall Menu. Although I enjoy the haute cuisine du jour and picture all manner of mouthwatering dishes in my restaurant write-ups here, my emphasis is on healthy dining options and I was pleased to see the Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos and Shrimp Enchiladas on the menu along with their Chile Relleno Puebla and Chicken Tamale.
Fish tacos were a given and the other entree we selected was the Chile Relleno Puebla – other than the ubiquitous taco, Chile Rellenos are my favorite and, way back when, I was told that you can judge a Mexican restaurant by their chile relleno, so I always order it. The mahi-mahi was well prepared, i.e. not over-cooked, with just the perfect amount of acid from the pico de gallo, salty queso fresco, and crunchy cabbage. We were both pleased to see that the Chile Relleno wasn’t smothered with a heavy batter as many are, but lightly coated with egg and, of the two sauces which we requested on the side, preferred the ranchero sauce with the ample serving of rice and beans.
By this time, we had asked for a sample of each of their salsas and, with a bottomless basket of chips, we were compelled to try another cocktail while we waited for our entrees – just one more…
The Mangorita was calling our name and the Grapefruit Margarita with St. Germain Elderflower sounded intriguing. Both were super delicious and more suited to our taste than the spicy first round; the Mangorita was almost creamy with the consistency of a smoothie which made it dangerously easy to drink and the Grapefruit Margarita had a perfectly balanced, refreshing sweet/tart taste that I love – my rapture for St. Germain Elderflower rages on.
Dessert selections include flan, arroz con leche, key lime ice cream pie, and a caramel churro sundae. Neither of us have much of a sweet tooth, so in lieu of dessert, we couldn’t resist the highly recommended X-O to end the evening. A lovely concoction indeed!
We had arrived early (natural light = better photos) and by the time we left the restaurant was buzzing with activity, every table was occupied, and the entry filled with couples and families waiting. That’s why Mi Casa’s been around for 40 years!
296 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627