At Casa Grande 2, great Mexican on the hill (again)
THE PLACE: The owners of Casa Grande must like heights. The original Reno restaurant occupies a spot near the crest of a hill at Mae Anne Avenue and Robb Drive.
The new Casa Grande 2 enjoys an even more prime perch: the eastern edge of the Caughlin Ranch center overlooking the city. The space once housed Francis’ Asian Bistro and, before that, Café Soleil. I logged many hours at the bar of both.
CASA GRANDE 2
Address: 4796 Caughlin Parkway, in the Caughlin Ranch Center
Hours: From 11 a.m. daily
On the web:www.casagranderestaurant.com
What’s around $10 or less Everything on the lunch menu. On the regular menu, some soups, salads and appetizers; all combination plates; some burritos; and all sandwiches.
THE LOOK: Casa Grande 2 had me at hello: An image of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter whom I’ve always admired, hangs in the entryway.
Turn right, and you’re in the dining room featuring tiled tables, striped booths, red walls and views stretching eastward. Head left through the arch, and you’re in the bar, with more brightly tiled tables and walls, plus a rustic beamed back bar.
THE MEAL: My friend and I arrive around 3:30 p.m. — well past lunch, so we order from the regular menu. (The lunch menu, with everything around $10 or less, offers a great deal.)
There’s a basket of chips, a standard start, backed by small bowls of guacamole, warm refried beans, and salsa roja with a whisper of heat. A little carafe of the salsa comes along, too, so we can handle our own refills.
I spot carne asada fries among the appetizers. How can we not order them?
The fries arrive in a heap, bound by melted cheese, dolloped with guacamole and sour cream. The fries are studded with roasty bits and chunks of carne asada; chopped tomato and green onion brighten the pile.
This dish is a Mex-American version of poutine, I think, as I scramble everything into a glorious mess. We dig in.
Not too much later, we somehow manage to push the fries aside to tackle our main courses.
My companion composes a basic combination plate: a chicken enchilada and, instead of a taco or tostada, a pork tamale for a $1 upgrade. She likes this tamale’s firmer style of dough (as opposed to looser, creamier versions).
I settle on a ranchero burrito filled with chile colorado (beef in red chile sauce), rice and whole beans.
A mild ranchero sauce (seasoned tomato sauce) drapes the burrito. The sauce isn’t as heavily applied as with, say, a torta ahogada, but it’s sufficient to soften the flour tortilla appealingly.
KUDOS: Casa Grande 2’s Mexican and Mexican-inspired food suits a wide variety of palates. Portions are generous. The restaurant feels both adult (bar) and family (dining room) friendly. And I love the bright tiles and colors.
ALTERNATIVES: Grilled chicken salad, quesadilla appetizer (large enough to be a main course), large combination plate (choice of three items), chicken avocado burger or macho burrito.
RETURN TRIP?: That bar is calling to me . . . for old times’ sake.