MenuPlease at El Mariachi’s: Good Mexican at Four Corners

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The spot occupied by El Mariachi’s has seen a host of restaurants come and go over the years. If Femme de Joie’s memory serves her, El Mariachi’s was previously owned by the fine folks at La Cabana and has been under the current ownership for about two years. M. de Joie ate there once shortly after the new management took over and wasn’t too impressed, but thought it was time to give it another try.

El Mariachi’s has a spacious interior with tables and booths, plus a sort of enclosed verandahseparate from the inside, where booths have a window view of Churn Creek Road. There’s a salsa bar where diners can choose from an assortment of house-made salsas (pay heed to the signs: what looks like guacamole is actually pureed jalapenos) and accompaniments like hot carrots, lime wedges, and a mixture of chopped onion and cilantro.

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A flyer on the table advertised specialty tacos, including lengue (tongue), buche (pig’s stomach) and shrimp ceviche. The buche had a nice chewy texture and a mild taste, while the tongue was delicately flavored and wonderfully tender. These tacos were about half the size of Taco Bell-type tacos, each wrapped in two steamed corn tortillas, with mild salsa and chopped cilantro. Two or three of these make a lovely light lunch – or a nice appetizer for a hungrier person.

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The shrimp ceviche taco was outstanding. Rock shrimp marinated in lime juice and chiles with slices of avocado atop, more lime on the side – this was one of the lightest and freshest ceviches M. de Joie has ever found.

A word here about presentation: Femme de Joie isn’t usually very concerned about how a dish looks when it comes out of the kitchen. Back in the opulent 1980s, more than enough was not enough and minimalism was shunned: gilt on lacquer on cloisonné, while food was secondary to the dishes. Then came the 1990s when “stack it high” was tres chic – from stacked Caesar salad to stacked duck-legs-on-potatoes to stacked cake/berries/cake/sauce/berries, all on gigantic stark white plates. After all that, M. de Joie does appreciate a simple-but-arresting visual. El Mariachi’s uses faux-Fiestaware, brightly-glazed dishes that give an exciting dimension and make the food really pop with color.

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Taco salad is anything but Mexican – it’s strictly an American idea, and is often piled together with a surplus of bland fatty dressings like sour cream and creamy guacamole that mask the crisp salad. Taco salad served up at El Mariachi’s ($8.99) avoided the too-much-goop and was a nice balance of fresh salad, chips, shredded beef and a sprinkling of cheese atop a modest amount of sour cream. It still wasn’t what anyone could claim to be diet food, but offered a lighter option to some of the heavy dishes on the menu. Skip the dressings and go easy on the chips, and this could almost be healthy.

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At Femme de Joie’s request, a tangy salsa verde was substituted on chicken enchiladas ($8.99) in place of the usual red sauce (which to her taste seems more appropriate on strongly-flavored fillings like beef or pork). The chicken enchilada plate (with rice and beans) might be thought of as an old reliable – maybe not the most exciting version you ever tried, but no-fail and dependable – comfort food. As noted above, El Mariachi’s goes easy on the sour cream toppings, which lets you taste delicate ingredients and textures.

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Chicken mole, $7.99. The menu did say the mole sauce was “sweetish” – a bit toosweet for M. de Joie’s taste. But the smooth textured mole with hints of chocolate and chiles was too intriguing to ignore. Solution: a sprinkling of the chopped onion-cilantro relish from the salsa bar added a nice crunchy element and tamed the sweetness.

El Mariachi’s isn’t far from a chain Mexican restaurant but here you won’t be asked to slam a tequila shooter and yell, “Yee-ha!” This isn’t that kind of place. Service is quick, friendly, efficient, and accommodating. M. de Joie recommends El Mariachi’s as a casual neighborhood restaurant to enjoy a low-key meal and not break the bank. Family-friendly.

El Mariachi’s, 2914 Churn Creek Road, Redding, 96002. 530-224-1847, fax 530-221-8116. Open Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 10:00 AM-9:00 PM, Friday and Saturday, 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beer and wine; wine cocktails. Vegetarian options. On-site parking. Cash, cards.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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5 Responses

  1. Avatar LR Watson says:

    Didn't the Chris and Mel Corbett occupy this location with one of their restaurants for a number of years? If memory serves me correctly (and if often doesn't) they operated an American style eatery in this location in the late 90's.

    That said, we love this place. Simply put, La Mariachi's consistently delivers wholesome and vibrant Mexican cuisine. We've also frequented their Anderson restaurant, and found it to be every bit as good of this location. For something different try their albondigas soup. And thanks for the tip on requesting a substitution of salsa verde in place of red sauce. The latter served on chicken enchiladas just wasn't ever to my liking.

  2. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    I like this restaurant a lot and have never had a bad meal there. I love me some green sauce, but I never thought about asking for it instead of the red sauce on chicken enchiladas.

    The things I learn here! Yet another masterpiece.

  3. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I've enjoyed Mariachi's for years. I've always thought that Mexican Restaurants in Redding had a fine line to walk between authentic Mexican food (that I enjoyed in Southern California) and the tastes of people in Northern California, which do influence the menu of a business that wants to survive. Great review.

  4. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    There are a ton of basic Mexican places that are okay, but none seem to be really that great. It seems like enough of us have been to Mexico to appreciate a place that shakes up the tired formula. Even a variation of black beans for the typical refried practically shocks me.

  5. Avatar Coach Bob says:

    Well, I agree with gamerjohn. Last time I was there the service was horrible…and it was right after opening with only a few customers.

    And, the menu was the exact same as La Cabana on Market St.

    I ate at Cabana a few nights ago. Main dish was fine but the rice and beans were "out of a can" and room temp. This is typical of too many Mexican places. They put some thought into the main thing and none into the sides.

    Too many Mexican places for my money. For service and consistent quality I'll take Guadalahara (sp?) any day. Colorful; no staff turn-over; consistently good food. Always a smile and not looking like they'd rather be somewhere else.

    If you're gonna have a Mexican joint I really think you need to be waaayy above the others…not just a cookie-cutter copy of all the others. After all….it's rice, beans, cheese, eggs, tortillas, etc. Some chicken, ground beef, and maybe shrimp. Not much changes. If they don't have a sauce they don't have a meal (and, for the record, melted cheese is NOT a sauce).

    God, I miss Ramona's! 🙁

    Just my opinion