La Olla Mexican Café

Up to this point I have had only positive reviews for restaurants. That’s because they are either old favorites and I’ve been really lucky. Unfortunately, that luck has run out because this is not going to be a rave review.

But it wasn’t BAD. Just not… Good. I guess mediocre is the term I’m looking for. But maybe it was just the circumstances that hung over my dining experience, and I should give it another shot sometime.

You see, my dad decided that he’d buy a coupon for this place. $25 for $10 deal. Not bad at all. Until, that is, you read the fine print saying you have to spend at least $45 during your visit.

That’s a big problem for only two people! Luckily one of my friends from college was coming down soon to visit, so we were going to take advantage of the extra mouth to feed.

We are driving the 20ish minutes it takes to get to the restaurant from my place of residence. I’m expecting a somewhat elegant restaurant – simply because of the deal. It must be pricey food if you need to spend 45 dollars to get half off! Lo and behold when we walk in… it feels like a Mexican place in the Midwest or Europe (as in it doesn’t feel authentic at all).

I was so disappointed. I don’t know how they think they can get by with such horrible themeing and decoration. There are COUNTLESS Mexican cafés all over Tucson. They range from the cheap to the posh and trendy. Each and every one feels authentic though. It’s easy when you live only a few hours from the border.

The owners must have TRIED to look fake. The decor is terribly sparse and the little they have is stereotypical. The dining area is too open and feels like a quick serve restaurant but with a bar in the back. I simply don’t understand how they managed this disaster.

Enough of the ambience criticism. Time for the food review:

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Chips and salsa are always a hit or miss. This was a miss. Thin easily broken tastes-from-a-bag chips accompanied spicy but bland salsa.

Then we ordered a queso fundido for an appetizer. This actually wasn’t too bad. Not mind blowing, but it was a nice combo of cheeses, beans and chorizo. Pleasantly spiced and surprisingly filling for the small dish it was served in.

Our main meals were:

The green enchiladas – a nice sauce, a fun variety of vegetables inside with the chicken, the calabacitas were decent if a bit overcooked. However it was a specialty item, so it’s not always available.

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The carnitas dish – really good carnitas, actually, they were tender and flavorful, the “tamale pie” was decent too with a good texture and decent corn flavor.

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And finally, a harvest salad with chipotle chicken. It was a good salad and the chicken was nice. Not much to be said otherwise.

After this satisfactory though not entirely pleasant meal, we had to order dessert to go to reach the bill minimum. Ugh. We got a cobbler with ice cream. It had a nice crumble, the filling was nothing special though.

Overall, I don’t really want to go back. It just doesn’t seem worth it. The only thing I enjoyed were the plates. As you can see from the pictures they were colorful and fun and actually felt hispanic.

But if you are in the Silverbell area and want to give it a try, the food wasn’t terrible. Let me know if you have a more pleasant – or worse – experience than I did!

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