If it’s wrong to take one’s current flame to an eatery that was introduced by an ex, then I just don’t want to be right. I believe that good food is meant to be shared under all circumstances, even somewhat awkward ones. Plus, they don’t call it the past for nothin’!
Back in high school, my boyfriend and I used to frequent Mario’s De La Mesa a couple times a month for casual Mexican fare. Curious to see if it could still stack up as one of my favorite restaurants, I returned recently with the squeeze to shame all other squeezes, The Astronomer.
Not much has changed at Mario’s since I last visited sometime back in 2000. The plastic booths were eerily familiar, as were the brass parrots hanging from the ceiling and the faded Diego Rivera posters plastered on the walls. The place was bumpin’ on a Saturday night.
The Astronomer started off with an ice cold Dos Equis Amber, one of his all-time favorite beers. I sipped some ice cold water and dabbled in complimentary chips and salsa.
The Astronomer ordered a fish taco platter. The battered and fried nuggets of white fish were sauteed with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Fresh corn tortillas, crema, coleslaw, and a plate of beans and rice were served on the side. On the authenticity scale, Mario’s fish tacos ranked fairly low. However, on the tasty scale, it was just what The Astronomer was craving this evening.
My standby dish at Mario’s is the machaca platter, which is served with rice, beans, and a wicked ranchero sauce. Machaca, which comes from the verb machacar (to pound or crush), is comprised of stringy bits of beef that have been seared and seasoned along with bell peppers and onions. It’s an extremely flavorful dish that is usually eaten for breakfast with eggs, but I prefer to have it for lunch or dinner. I like to eat my machaca wrapped up in a warm flour tortillas with a bit of ranchero sauce and a slathering of guacamole (Mario’s house-made guacamole is fantastic). Machaca is the polar opposite of a tender steak, and I love it for that very reason.
Even after exploring the tremendous Mexican cuisine available in Tijuana and Ensenada, there’s still a very special place in my heart (and gullet) for Mario’s De La Mesa and its seemingly timeless machaca platter.
Mario’s De La Mesa
8425 La Mesa Boulevard
La Mesa, CA 91941