One of the best things I took away from my time in Texas was an appreciation for good barbecue and good Mexican food. One of the things I've learned in New England is that you sometimes have to be willing to drive for good barbecue and good Mexican.
For the second one, at least, I no longer have to drive further than the other side of my own town. After several long months of suspense engendered by a "Coming Soon" banner, Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant has opened on Mass. Ave. in east Lexington.
Though it's only been open about a week, Ixtapa was already drawing a crowd as we learned last night. (Crowds on a Thursday! Obviously meeting a pent-up demand.) Despite being slammed, the service was friendly and swift (frequent water glass refills, woohoo!), and the menu large and tasty. (That's a figure of speech, btw--I didn't actually eat the menu.) Although many of the items bear a strong resemblance to those at Acapulco's (a small local chain I also happen to like--maybe Ixtapa's owner worked there?), the food was even better-prepared and the service friendlier. (For instance, despite the crowd, the owner and hostess both made a point of asking us how we enjoyed our meal, making sure we had a take-out menu, and asking us to return soon.)
I had the Shrimp Monterey (garlic, butter, mushrooms in a fabulous sauce), Jim had tasty pork carnitas, and The Boy chose chicken mole, with a rich sauce we ended up scooping onto our rice. (Jim's motto: Never give up a sauce!) Also, excellent chicken wings with just the right hint of spice. Nice margueritas, too. And the queso is white, as real queso (without the orange food coloring) was meant to be.
Aside from Indian food, Lexington is not exactly known as a hot-bed of ethnic cuisine (please, people--Vinny T's and Bertucci's do not count as ethnic). And maybe Mexican isn't exactly Nepalese (or even Guatamalan--mmm, plantains...), but it's good stuff when prepared authentically. Very good stuff.
Ixtapa--thanks for coming to my town! But one question: Have you ever thought about serving real barbacoa, Chihuahuan style? (Anyone who doesn't know what real barbacoa is, email me and I'll let you know. It's way, way better than it sounds.)