Authentic and wonderful Mexican well worth the wait at Tequila’s in Niskayuna – The Daily Gazette
If you like the food at La Mexicana, this small but authentic deli and cafe on State Street in Schenectady, you’ll love Tequila’s Mexican Bar & Grill at ShopRite Plaza in Niskayuna.
The family that runs La Mexicana have taken over the LT’s Grill space at ShopRite Plaza in Niskayuna, where they cook their wonderful, authentic Mexican cuisine. It’s much bigger and you can even get a Margarita.
Sheryl and I went for a late lunch to avoid the crowds and were pleased to see that there was only one other party in the restaurant.
Sheryl noticed the Frida Kahlo prints right away, a nice touch and a great fit for the colorful decor. The great saloon has a bar in the left corner with three large TV screens, a row of cabins aft and a raised seating area. Double glazed doors lead outside onto a lovely patio which we can only dream of enjoying one day.
The tables are covered with striped and colored covers protected by transparent plastic. The wooden chairs are painted in all matching colors. There are stained glass, Tiffany-style lamps everywhere. It’s joyful. Upbeat and upbeat music in Spanish played out loud.
The extensive menu offers tacos, fajitas, burritos, soups, and salads, then organizes more selections by type: chicken, beef, vegetarian. We love their Express Lunch menu, a wide variety of dishes ranging from $6.99 to $10.99, with photos showing exactly what you’re getting. Tequila specialties are yet another category.
An order of two a la carte tacos with chicken or beef is $7.99; a 14-ounce T-bone steak with shrimp and all sides is the most expensive item at $24.99.
It may have been off-peak, but we waited a bit, first to get drink orders. The server showed up with a basket of home fries and fresh salsa with just a little heat, so we forgave him. She had also turned down the music.
We didn’t get his attention again until almost all the chips were gone. Fortunately, we had already ordered a guacamole dip ($5.99) and an excellent Jarritos pineapple soda ($3) for me.
“The guacamole is nice and big,” Sheryl said, but not seasoned enough for her. She would have added tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeño, which is a different item on the menu. She loved him enough to finish him, though.
My notes here say, “Really long wait”, for the waiter to come back and pick up the rest of our order. We were hoping the food would be quicker, and it was.
The waiter took out the two side dishes first. Sheryl had black beans and rice. “The beans are salty and smooth,” she says approvingly.
My sides, presented on a warm white platter, were silky smooth refried beans with melted cheese, yellow rice and a generous salad of shredded iceberg lettuce topped with dollops of sour cream and guacamole and pico de gallo, an excellent fresh salsa of chopped tomato, white onion, serrano peppers and coriander. This plate could easily have served as a meal.
Sheryl had ordered Cameron’s Tacos ($16.99), three soft corn tortillas filled with grilled shrimp, cabbage, pico de gallo and thick avocado wedges. “They’re very fresh and fluffy,” she said, squeezing a wedge of lime over the tortillas.
Fortunately, she had tested the “special sauce” before pouring it over her tacos; it was really hot. “I’m glad I tasted it first,” she said, clearly relieved, and said her meal was “really good.”
We heard my meal long before it arrived – its sizzle could be heard throughout the restaurant. A cloud of steam accompanied it and it continued to inflate, and the tray continued to sizzle. “Don’t touch the tray,” the waiter said, offering the most obvious advice.
It’s the Tequilas Fajitas ($20.99) and you won’t forget it. It’s a protein platter wrapped in a spicy, delicious sauce that won’t let you forget.
Perched on top was a lovely soft flour tortilla filled with shredded cheese. I tasted the seasoning for the first time, soaked in his tortilla. I took a bite. It was the only safe thing to eat.
My meal was excessively hot; I could only eat off the outer edges of the cast iron skillet for the first five minutes. There was a package of three soft, warmed flour tortillas, but no plate to put food on to cool.
So I separated the meal until the temperature dropped. So I can account for its components individually.
The vegetables, especially the onions, which were almost caramelized, soaked up beautifully in the cumin flavored sauce. The red peppers were smooth with the sauce and cooked to a soft tenderness. I skipped the few slices of green pepper. Thick cross-sections of tomato have been cooked into a pulpy seasoned nothingness – in a good way.
The beef was thick-grained, like a skirt steak, cooked well with considerable chewiness. Four large prawns were seasoned, nicely cooked, and best arranged on top. They were excellent.
The chicken for the fajitas may be dry, but these strips were soaked in the seasoned marinade, along with a few bits of char from the hot pan. The pork was outstanding: shredded but tender and even a little greasy – I would go back for their carnitas any day. The chorizo sausage was soft, crumbled and loose, sticking to all the different elements of the dish, spreading its garlic and paprika everywhere.
It was so, so delicious.
Each fork was dragged through the dregs of the skillet, scooping up more of the savory, slightly oily sauce. I was in my own little world when Sheryl said, pointing to the foil package on the table, “You have tortillas over there.
Whoops. In the still warm and fluffy flour tortillas were onions, chicken, steak, shrimp, bringing with them that wonderful sauce. A revelation: it was even better wrapped in flour, all textures and kinds of meat combined. The beef has been much improved, its chewing not so obvious eaten this way.
If it tasted good on the plate, it was fabulous wrapped in a tortilla.
My meal was enough to serve several people, but I managed to finish the rest the next day, helped by two pesky cats.
We forgot dessert completely, too bad because I still remember the dreamy Trés Leches cake at La Mexicana. Don’t make this mistake.
The bill for our excellent meal was $60.73 including tax and tip.
We are just beginning to return to restaurants. Visiting at less busy times can result in spotty service, but at Tequila the food is well worth the wait.
Tequila’s Mexican Bar & Grill
WHERE: 2305 Nott St. E. (ShopRite Plaza), Niskayuna; (518) 280-3424; tequilasmexicanbarandgrillmx.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $60.73 with tax and tip
MORE INFO: All major credit cards. Plenty of parking in the mall. Reservations accepted. Children’s menu.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer living in Troy. Join her at [email protected]
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Categories: Food, Life and Arts