Abuelo's, a chain that has recently made its way to Carmel, bills itself as a Mexican Food Embassy, which was good for a few laughs. Can I seek asylum there? Do they have an ambassador? Do they have diplomatic immunity?
While the name sounds grand, the food was less so.
Our server started us out with the standard basket-o-tortilla-chips with salsa. The chips were *very* thin and crispy, a notable difference from the thick, greasy chips (which I rather like) as other Mexican restaurants. These were completely scarfable, though, and our table proceeded to do just that. The salsa was pleasant -- slightly chunky and just a tad spicy. Dave and I ordered a pitcher of the house special La Grandeza Margarita, which was limey and relatively strong. The server's guess of "about four glasses to a pitcher" was a gross underestimation (it was closer to six). Our friends gave thumbs up to the frozen margaritas and the housemade sangria made with burgundy, fruit, brandy and peach schnapps.
Many of the specials at Abuelo's a different from the "plate of slop" that defines many low-end Mexican chains, and in fact feature whole pieces of unmangled meat or fish, often completely free from the bonds of a tortilla wrapper. But is that a good thing?
For dinner, I had the Pescado Guerrero -- a perfectly square grilled slab of mahi-mahi decorated with shrimp, scallops and peppers, with a white wine sauce, topped with generous slices of avocado for $16.95. The fish was dense and dry, because it was seriously overcooked. It was punctuated by a burned, bitter flavor, as if it had been fired over a dirty grill. The lemony-creamy white wine sauce, however, was delicious, and (almost) covered up a multitude of fish sins. The dish was served with too-salty but otherwise standard spanish-style rice and some delicious green crunchy broccoli florets.
Dave ordered the Los Mejores De La Casa -- “The Best of the House” -- three teeny tiny bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin medallions, and three bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeno and cheese for $17.95. The beef was very tender, and they got the medium-rare request just right. Of course, anything wrapped in bacon is delicious, and this was no exception.
In addition to the specials, Abuelo's offers more standard fare such as enchiladas ($8.95 and up), fajitas ($8.95 and up) and a variety of combination platters. While I didn't try any of these, I did notice that they throw in a few interesting choices, such as avacado enchilada and crispy chicken taco.
Dessert choices are very limited: flan, margarita pie, and cheesecake. Aside from the egregious oversite of not having any chocolate, the one dessert we tried -- the margarita pie -- was tasty but not spectacular. I think you can get the same recipe exists on the side of a Jello pudding box.
The vibe is high-ceilinged and clattery -- a good thing if you have children, but otherwise a little to noisy for my taste. The faux adobe walls are painted faux adobe colors and feature faux Diego Rivera murals. Service was fresh-off-of-corporate-training courteous and professional. The waiter did his very best to answer my questions about the cocktails, for which I have to give him extra credit, since he couldn't have been more than 18.
While the drinks were very good, the food was uneven, and my mahi mahi was bad enough that I'd have to think twice about going back. The unwritten guarantee of a chain restaurant is that nothing will surprise you and everything will be pretty good. While Abuelo's nailed the former, then didn't hold up their end of the bargain on the latter.
Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy
14480 Lowes Way (in the Lowe's parking lot)
Carmel, IN 46033
They are also opening an Abuelo's at Trader's Point in early 2006.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
- About Us
- Board and Video Games
- Day Trips
- Events & Festivals
- Film & TV
- Geek Bling
- Hoosier Oddities
- Indianapolis In the News
- Indianapolis Living
- Kids' Stuff
- Local Attractions
- Local Celebrities
- Museums and Visual Arts
- Night Life