Mexican Food Comes to Harford County

Today, at the recommendation of a trusted source, I tried Fiesta Grill Mexican restaurant. Located in the mini-mall on Tollgate Road adjacent to The Harford Mall, it's an unlikely place to find authentic Mexican food. But, at long last, the real thing has arrived in Harford County. For a little background information, here is a brief history of Mexican food in Harford County. And I can assure you it will be brief as there is not much to tell.

We arrived in the area after spending a couple of years in the city. This was before the stretch of Broadway between Johns Hopkins and the Broadway Market became Spanish Town. Still there were a couple of really good places, like the late and much lamented La Rotisseria, purveyor of the best rotisserie chicken, green sauce, and (if you were really lucky), hand-made pupusas. We did not know how good we had it.

When we moved to Edgewood, our choices were quite suddenly reduced to the Taco Bell on Route 40, and the Bel Air ChiChi's. With a commute that ended at White Marsh, any hopes for a decent taco for lunch were also dashed.

Shortly after moving to Havre de Grace, the clouds parted, and we saw the arrival of La Tolteca, a regional chain in the DelMarVa area. Suddenly, we had tamales, stuffed poblanos, chorizo, and bean dip (!) within a 10-minute drive of home. We became regulars and blew through the menu in a few months. Shortly thereafter, we realized that everything actually tastes the same and is really just the same fillings and sauces in your choice of packaging. Which is one of the drawbacks of a chain. Still, the Churchville location provides live mariachi music, and some semblance of authenticity is maintained.

Now, after just over a decade in the area, we have all kinds of chain Mexican food, from the palatable (if not entirely authentic) Baja Fresh to the deplorable Chipotle Grill, the one place I walked out of based simply on the smell of the food.

This is what a taco looks like

And, just around the corner from them, the surprising Fiesta Grill. The take out menu they gave me has the tagline "Authentic Mexican and Salvadorean Cuisine", and it certainly appears to be so. The menu in the restaurant is a mixture of Spanish and English and did not include the more Anglo-sounding items I found on the take out menu, like the Surf and Turf burrito, a combination of grilled steak and crab. They also serve America's favorite items - nachos and taco salad.

The rest of the menu has a variety of burritos, tacos and quesadillas with everything from chorizo to grilled fish. I went for one of these more traditional selections and ordered the Taco de Lengua and yucca fries with a mandarin Jarritos, Mexico's ubiquitous bottled soda.

The kitchen is an open area immediately behind the counter, similar to the places I have visited in Spanish Town. You can watch them prepare your meal if the two TVs are not of interest. On my visit they were showing a Latino novella and not the usual football, so I watched the action in the kitchen.

Yucca perfection

After a brief wait, my yucca fries were delivered. Thick, tender, and steaming hot, they were lightly dusted with paprika and, despite being deep fried, were not greasy. They came with a cream-based dipping sauce that had a hint of egg similar to the aiollis I get at home.

The tacos arrived shortly afterward. The meat had been prepared in a savory brown sauce with chunks of green pepper that was flavorful without being hot. It was served on two soft corn tortillas that had that bread-like quality of freshly made tortillas and reminded me of the tortillaria on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore. There are none of the usual heavy trappings of American tacos - no cheese or sour cream - just fresh cilantro leaves and chopped onions in generous quantity, plus a thick lime wedge. I abandoned the yucca and proceeded to eat the tacos without stopping until they were both gone. And I took the yucca home with me to finish later.

Flavor Cupcakery lives up to its name

Which brings me to Friday's cupcake - this week from

Flavor Cupcakery

,  located just a couple of doors down. I stayed with the Latino theme and got the Tres Leches to go. Even in the superior packaging, it barely survived the drive home in today's pre-hurricane humidity. What I thought was icing turned out to be a very lightly sweetened whipped creme, a highly appropriate topping for the rich vanilla cake. The cake itself felt and tasted like it had indeed been soaked in cream. It was a very well executed novelty variety and a strong showing on their part. While I'm not going to throw over


anytime soon, it's nice to know I can get my cupcake fix locally and not just on Fridays. I fear for my waistline.

And for those of you who don't know what exactly was in my tacos, you'll have to Google it.