Menu Please: Mazatlan Grill – Well, cover me with guacamole and call me Sally

Longtime Redding residents will remember the old Italian Cottage on Hilltop Drive, pre-dating even the Mount Shasta Mall. Sawdust was piled high enough on the floor to get in your shoes, they put an olive in your beer, and the minestrone had hard vegetables mixed with squashy ones. Femme de Joie has fond memories of trying to fit a small group of friends into one of those corner booths without getting jabbed by the sharp table corner; she remembers even more fondly the pastrami sandwich. Italian Cottage morphed into Corina’s; when that closed, the building lay vacant and unloved for years, increasing amounts of trash gathering in the dead landscaping, until a Mexican restaurant-cum-tequila bar opened a few years ago and closed again last year.

Now Mazatlan Grill lives in the old Italian Cottage spot. There are a lot of  restaurants named Mazatlan Grill in the US but this one is independently owned and operated. Spacious and airy inside, the decor is bright, fresh and cheerful, with patio seating available. M. de Joie’s first visit was after the lunch hour, where she pretty much had the entire place to herself. Staff – who are efficient and friendly in a perfunctory way – greeted her immediately. The menu is lengthy and not easy to read, with one of those cutesy fonts that make you squint.

Femme de Joie ordered a margarita, which came within 30 seconds of the waiter taking the order. Is there a giant margarita truck in back with a hose hooked up to the bar? It had to have come from a bucket or hose to be delivered that fast. It was quite sweet. The standard chips-in-a-basket plus salsa were put on the table. While the salsa was adequate, the chips seemed to have been around since the first “Star Wars” movie came out.

Shrimp enchiladas ($14.99, though the menu read $13.49)

When the shrimp enchiladas were placed on the table, a waiter made a point of smiling broadly and saying, “Senorita, I am so jealous of you!” which confused Femme de Joie. “That looks so good!” It was at that moment that M. de Joie had a flashback to Papa de Joie, who suffered no fools gladly and would snap, “Ya wanna bite?” when dealing with a fatuous remark like that  However, she restrained herself from doing the same.

The menu description of the shrimp enchiladas read that they were covered in “creamy sauce made with tomatillos.”  There may have been a tomatillo present in the kitchen when the sauce was made, but none made it into the cheesy creamy sauce.  If the tortilla chips had been around since the first Star Wars movie, the shrimp in the enchiladas had been languishing in the freezer since the first “Star Trek” television series.

Chimichanga, $8.99

M.de Joie’s second visit was during the lunch hour proper, and once again there was a shortage of other customers. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but under that sour cream and guacamole is a chile verde chimichanga. It was on her table precisely four minutes after she ordered it. The bottom of the chimichanga had a little crispness from a very brief encounter with a frying surface, but the top – beneath that blanket of goo – was unfried tortilla. Inside was a lot of shredded pork and no verde. Well, that isn’t quite true – after prodding around, Femme de Joie spotted a thin, thin layer of something green in a fold of tortilla, but it didn’t seem to have any taste. There was certainly none of the green sauce that one associates with chile verde. In fact, there was nothing inside the tortilla – excusez-moi, the chimichanga – except plain unseasoned shredded pork.

Burrito Panchito Deluxe, $8.99

Femme de Joie was a bit surprised on her third visit to actually be among other customers. Where had they been before? No matter. She ordered Burrito Panchito Deluxe with chicken. Unlike her previous meals delivered at the speed of sound, it took a good ten minutes to arrive. She isn’t sure what was Deluxe about it. The filling was a lot of shredded chicken with nothing else, no sauce, no seasonings, though as with the chimichanga there was a surplus of sour cream and guacamole. The guacamole worried her a little, as it had that color she associates with guacamole seen in the freezer section of supermarkets.

What to conclude about Mazatlan? It’s all over the place. Those elderly shrimp shouldn’t have been served at all. Pork and chicken fillings were tender and moist but utterly without any taste. Sides of rice and beans were just taking up space on the plate – nothing to recommend them or not recommend them; the diner eats them because they come with the meal, not because they’re delicious. Waitstaff is efficient and polite. Some people may love getting their food so fast, but M. de Joie wonders what is going on in the kitchen that one meal takes four minutes and a virtually identical one takes ten. While Mazatlan Grill is inoffensive, she thinks there is better Mexican food for your dollar elsewhere.

Mazatlan Grill, 1630 Hilltop Drive, Redding, CA 96002. 530-223-2454. Open Sunday-Thursday 11 AM – 10 PM; Friday & Saturday 11 AM – 11 PM. Cards, cash; no checks. Full bar. Children’s menu. Patio dining. Vegetarian options. Parking lot.

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.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

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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17 Responses

  1. Avatar EasternShastaCounty says:

    Every time I drive by Mazatlan Grill in the late afternoon/evening, the parking lot is overflowing. We thought we'd try it yesterday; however, our timing was bad and we ended up getting pizza from the new little kiosk next to IHOP, Bruciante. The pizzas were terrific, the people super nice, and Odie the dog gave us a good sniff and was fun to watch chewing his Frisbee. After reading your review, I'm happy we chose Bruciante.

    But on the Mexican food front, we have yet to try Cicada Cantina. It may be wonderful, but the exterior colors of mud brown trimmed in lime green and purple are a real turn off. With the addition of sheets of plywood boarding up the windows, it would fit right in to a barrio on the downslide.

  2. Avatar Ginny says:

    Looks good in the photos, but the photo is not what one wants to eat or food that sounds better left on the pretty plate!

    Well, can't say I'd enjoy eating there. I know there has to be better places. Thanks for you input!

  3. Avatar CoachBob says:

    Ya know, I don't give a restaurant three (3) tries. I gave this one one only, and I probably will not be back. I know I'm cynical about Mexican restaurants, but hells bells, when you're primary (maybe ONLY) ingredients are a tortilla, melted cheese, pork/chicken/ground beef, a reddish/greenish sauce….there's a good chance ALL Mexican restaurants would taste the same. Much like most burger joints.

    My experience was right after they opened. Few late afternoon customers. That's fine, but what I mainly didn't like was the staff "over" hoovering at my table. I want my food, a few refills of tea, and then just leave me the hell alone to enjoy my meal with my date. Jeeze, I'm having a conversation here! More then three staff members were constantly at my side asking about the experience. The experience got increasingly worse with each question about the experience.

    I'm tellin' ya….there's a very high bar for Mexican after Ramona's closed.

    Just my opinion.

    Coach Bob

  4. Avatar Carol M says:

    Thanks for the input. I've been a bit skeptical about trying this restaurant because it seems like this location has some kind of bad ju-ju associated with it. Bad ju-ju I can live with, bad food, not so much.

  5. Avatar LJ says:

    It's unfortunate that you had those experiences. Ours have been nothing like yours. And we have been many, many times. We have enjoyed delicious food, fresh warm chips and some of the best guacamole around! And a huge plus, we don't go home smelling like fajitas!! I hope you will try it again. And for those of you reading this review, please try it.

    • Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

      Sounds like you have personal interest in Mazatlan Grill.

      • Avatar LJ says:

        None whatsoever! I'm retired and work pt in retail. I just really like their food as do many of my friends who meet up with us there for dinner.

        • Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

          Hmm… I drive by there frequently during prime lunch time and have never seen more than a couple cars in their parking lot. Many times none.

  6. Avatar c says:

    Been there 3 times – the food sucks. Nothing else to say.

  7. Avatar roy says:

    Been there 3 times and puked 3 times, I never learn 🙂

    Seriously the salsa it what makes it come back up.

    Nasty dirty and now I have learned my lesson,

    Cicada for me ! Thanks Joe.

  8. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Thank you for your description of the Matzalan; I do remember the Italian Cottage and the sawdust. We kinda liked it, but, then, we were younger. We took some New Yor relatives there, and they did not like it one bit. Anyhow, loved your description of the food — don't think we will try it. There are some good Mexican restaurants around town, and we plan to go to them.

  9. Avatar Karen C says:

    Like Coach Bob, I give a restaurant one try. I wait until I think the buggy things have been worked out and then give it a try. I drive by this restaurant every week, no cars tells me to stay away.

    As far as Cicada Cantina, I have heard nothing but bad reports…not going there either.

    I wish someone would open a really well thought out Mexican food restaurant here in Redding. Not Tex-Mex. We have good friends who come from Mexico and the food at their home is fabulous. Fresh, healthy, well prepared food that has a ton of flavor using fresh herbs and good spices. I have yet to find a tasty refried bean or rice dish in Redding. I do not want food just to fill my tummy, I want fresh tasting, healthy and full of yummyness. We can buy good seafood in Redding, plus just about anything from the Farmer's Markets that is just picked! No reason why an authentic Mexican food place could not survive here, if they did it right.

  10. What? Puke? This is confusing to me, because the tableside guac and the fajitas were most excellent when we hit the outdoor patio during a recent grad party. As a health coach, I usually avoid Mexican restaurants in general, but I found the food here fresh and delicious–and the fajitas, not too oily as is usually the case across the planet (except for NY because they don't know how to make Mexican food). I don't usually get into a debate over food, but feel the need to speak up here. I loved the Italian Cottage (the French Dip and was too young to know about the olive in the beer), but I haven't been able to stop thinking about the tableside guac since I visited (more a reflection on my own obsession with good food than anything else.) That, I think, is a thumbs up for Mazatlan. Viva, Grill!

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Jamie,

      Femme de Joie is not a huge fan of fajitas so she didn't try them; she will take your word for it that they were delicious. And the tableside guacamole may be wonderful – again, she did not order that, so she wouldn't know.

      She does know that the guacamole on her food was not prepared tableside and was not most excellent, and she strongly suspects there is a caste system of guacamole going on in the kitchen. The spirulina-colored guacamole on her burrito was an interesting experience she hopes to not have again soon.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Femme de Joie

  11. Avatar Canda says:

    Unfortunately we had a similar experience the one time we tried the Mazatlan Grill. We were thrilled to walk in and see the beautiful decor, but the food didn't come close to the design elements. We won't be back.

  12. Avatar c says:

    anyone try Dos Marias on Bechelli (formerly Bartels)?

  13. Avatar Tom says:

    I have found Senior Rosas to have the best Mexican food in town.