Casa Mariachi in Pasadena

For a lazy Saturday night dinner, our family ended up in Pasadena. After some deliberation of where to go -- "Applebees?" "Ew! No!" -- someone suggested that we go to Casa Mariachi (5824 Spencer Highway, 281-998-2272). None of us had been, but it was near our gathering point, so we decided on Tex Mex.

The parking lot was nearly empty. We told the gentleman inside that we needed a table for a large party, and he smiled and hurried off to push some tables together. With the exception of an even larger party of at least 12, there was no one in the restaurant. We were seated fairly quickly and our drink orders were taken (the swirl mango/strawberry margarita was on special). We also ordered a basket of tortillas to snack on, as there was a tortilla maker adjacent to our table. This was at eight.

A little while later, we got baskets of hot chips and salsas. The red salsa was a little mild for our taste, but the green was amazing. It was less citrusy than a normal tomatillo salsa. For the life of us, we could not figure out what was in it, but once people tried it, the red salsas were not touched.

The menu was mostly chicken and beef fajita derivatives. We asked the waitress what was in the fajita salad. She wasn't sure, but agreed to accommodate some diet issues (no cheese for this blogger). A few minutes later, the children in the table next to us got out of their seats and proceeded to run laps around theirs and our table. We were hungry, and we were still was minus a margarita and tortillas.

Ten minutes later, the margarita finally made its appearance, along with a basket of amazing fresh tortillas. The margarita was tasty, with real fruit chunks blended in, and pretty large. For a moment, we forgot everything and just savored the frosty beverage.

At 8:58 our food finally arrived -- our margarita was almost empty, and we were mildly tipsy. Everyone dug into their piping hot dishes, and all was silent at our table (minus the children in orbit, which were getting a little too close to our table).

Our salad was nothing too amazing, but still fresh and crisp. We skipped the dressing and topped it with the green salsa instead (something about putting ranch or Italian dressing on beef and chicken fajitas just doesn't compute), and it was suddenly stellar. The beef was well seasoned, though a little cold, and the chicken was complemented nicely by the salsa.

About halfway through the meal, the enormous party with the screaming kids left, and we were in the place alone. As it got quieter, our dining companions sang praises about their enchiladas and tacos they had ordered. We enjoyed the rest of our meal, and were waited on attentively by the great staff.

Despite the long wait, we will be back.

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Becky Means