It's a family affair at Mi Mexico.
Partnering with an experienced restaurateur relative, Antonio Amador, Juan and Endina Barajas and their son, Juan Jr., have opened their first restaurant in Buffalo Grove. Cousin Jimmy Perez handles things in the kitchen.
"My mother always wanted to open a restaurant," says Juan Jr.
The cheery new spot is quartered in the old house on Milwaukee Avenue that formerly held the Weber Grill restaurant. It's been given not only a redecorating job but also a virtual relocation. Although this building used to have a Wheeling address, the spot was lately annexed by Buffalo Grove and now has a different street number.
Inside, you'll find bright yellow walls, colorful painted chairs around inlaid tile tables, an inviting bar area and an extensive menu of Mexican and Mexican-American standards plus a few unique dishes.
The extensive scope of the menu makes me think of Chi-Chi's, a popular Mexican-American chain that flourished from the mid-1970s until just a few years ago. You'll find a little bit of everything here: tacos and burritos; salads and soups; meat, seafood and chicken entrees; combination plates; a selection of low-fat and low-cholesterol items; and burgers and sandwiches. The food is fresh, plentiful and unchallenging.
"We want a broad range of clientele," Juan Jr. says.
If you are looking for complex, boldly flavored or uniquely regional Mexican fare, Mi Mexico probably won't suit you, but if you want somewhere fun to kick back with a big margarita and a plateful of nachos or a sizzling platter of fajitas, this is the place.
The margaritas are large and tangy and the "super nachos" everything you expect of a plate of tortilla chips, covered in refried beans, chopped onions, diced tomatoes, melted cheddar, guacamole and sour cream. Next time, I might ask for a side of jalapenos.
If you want something simpler, you can get "cheese crispi," a fried tortilla gilded with melted cheese; nachos chicos, chips and cheese; or refried bean tostadas.
Tortilla soup makes a good starter. It's sized for sharing, mildly spiced but featuring well-flavored chicken broth enhanced with bits of meat, cheese, tomatoes and cilantro, along with its namesake garnish. It comes in full and half orders, and even the half was enough for two of us.
Dinner-sized soups include sopa de albondigas, with pork meatballs, and sopa siete mares, house-made seafood soup filled with fish, shrimp, crab legs, scallops, clams, mussels and squid.
Twenty-eight combination plates, priced from $9.75 to $10.95, offer generous portions of enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, flautas, tamales, etc., all served with Mexican rice, refried beans and cole slaw (as are most of the main dishes). Besides that, there are more than 30 regular offerings plus almost as many "dinner specials."
Enchiladas divorciadas, a good choice for indecisive enchilada lovers (there are more than a dozen varieties offered here), feature three plump rolls of meat-filled tortillas (your choice of filling), striped with cream sauce, mild chipotle sauce and fresh green salsa. Chili-heads might want to ask for hot sauce, yet the flavors of the individual ingredients shine through.
When I wavered over shrimp dishes, our server recommended camarones Portuguese. First-class comfort food! These are large shrimp topped with ham and cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled, and smothered in a light tomato cream sauce. Shrimp choices also include garlic-laced camarones mojo de ajo, shrimp burritos, shrimp enchiladas and camarones Mexicanos with onions, mushrooms, green peppers and cheese.
Other house specials range from meaty options such as New York steak ranchero with mushrooms and onions in wine sauce and burrito Colorado with braised beef in red sauce to fillet of snapper Veracruz and spinach enchiladas made with corn tortillas.
Desserts include the ubiquitous flan and fried ice cream with strawberry sauce and whipped cream.
Lunch specials feature daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with more than a dozen platters priced at less than $8, plus some sized-down offerings from the dinner menu.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. Our aim is to describe the overall dining experience while guiding the reader toward the menu's strengths. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
Facts: 220 Milwaukee Ave., Buffalo Grove; (847) 229-3491
Setting: Historic old house on the Milwaukee Avenue restaurant row
Price range: Appetizers $3.95 to $17.95; entrees $5.50 to $17.50; desserts $3.25 to $3.50
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Accepts: Reservations, major credit cards
Also: Full bar; free parking; lunch specials 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; children's menu