I always thought it would be great if there was a sit down restaurant that J and I could easily walk to. When we moved here, the only choices were Ponderosa or Charlie Kang’s II. We put off Ponderosa for a long time (and with good reason) and we’re not into any Asian cuisine. When I saw work at the closed Charlie Kang’s, I had hopes that it would be someplace we might like. When I saw the building being painted orange, there was no doubt a Mexican restaurant was moving in.
For the last several weeks, we passed by hoping to see signs of life inside or at least a “coming soon” side. On Thursday, we saw the “open” sign lighted up and by the time we finished running errands, there was a huge “now open” banner on the side of the road. It was just a matter of time before we stopped in for lunch.
Fiesta Vallarta is on South Cedar Street almost underneath I-94. It takes the spot that used to be Charlie Kang’s II. I never went in that business, but I never saw cars out front. I’ve seen more cars in the last four days at Fiesta Vallarta than I did in almost a year at Charlie Kang’s.
I’m not 100% on the story behind the business. When I got home, I typed http://www.fiestavallarta.cominto my browser. What popped up was a website for a Fiesta Vallarta in California. The menu was nothing like this one in Lansing, but the logo’s were very, very close. Turns out, I typed the address wrong. It’s actually a .mx address, but it’s http://www.fiestavallarta.com.mx. So, I don’t know if there’s a relationship, coincidence, or an homage to the California restaurant.
We found a parking spot in front of the building, but there’s also parking in back and along the side. The door is accessible from both the front and back lots. When we got inside, we came to a waiting area with a cash register. There was a waiter who handed us two menus and told us to find a seat. That seemed odd. The next party that came in was shown to a table. The party after that was treated like we were. There was a pattern I’m not going to mention and just believe it was coincidence.
There are two dining room spaces. We walked through the first area into the second larger room. There are booths along the windows and a number of tables and chairs. There is then a water feature that sort of looks like a well in the middle of the room. Behind that is a buffet table and a few more two tops. The buffet wasn’t an option when we were there, but they have a “lunch buffet” sign in the window.
A few minutes after looking over the menu, a waiter came over with a large basket of chips and some salsa. We put in orders for Cokes and continued to look over the large menu. We still weren’t quite ready when he came back, so he moved to the table next to us. They had a lot of questions about the menu so it took him a few minutes to get back. No worries as we had chips and salsa to munch on. It was a little later in the afternoon and we were starving. We tore through that basket of chips and our pops while we were waiting.
When the waiter came back, the first thing he did was apologize which wasn’t necessary. We could see that he was busy with the table behind us. Before bringing out refills on both our pops and the chips, he took down the order.
Fiesta Vallarta has a very similar menu to most of the other Mexican restaurants in town. They offer the same type of dishes, combination platters and an a la carte menu. I considered ordering an enchilada and a couple tacos, but the quesadila a la diabla caught my attention. The menu calls it a “tempting combination of chicken, chorizo, and cheese grilled in a large tortilla.” I love chorizo. I really love chorizo and that was about the only dish I noticed it, so I ordered. Notice it didn’t say anything about onions or green peppers. When the plates were brought out, the first thing I noticed was the onion hanging out the side of the tortilla. I opened it up to find green peppers as well. Not a big problem. The pieces were big enough that I could easily pick them out. Something I’d rather not do, but it didn’t ruin the meal. The chicken was delicious. Some of the best grilled chicken pieces that I’ve had. The chorizo was exactly what I was looking for. Except for the minor setback of ingredients that weren’t listed on the menu, the quesadilla was really good. It came with the choice of rice or beans and since I don’t normally like either, I chose rice. I took a bite and it was alright, but I just don’t really like rice. The plate also came with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream on the side should you like that on your quesadilla’s.
J pointed out to me that Fiesta Vallarta has a veggie meal which does make it different than some of the other Mexican places. She’s not a vegetarian, but does prefer not to have huge chunks of meat in her meals. She went with Platillos Vegetarianos C which was a cheese quesadilla, bean burrito, and a tostado. She mentioned that she’s really come to like tostado’s. It’s not something she was very familiar with until we started eating more Mexican, but it’s something that has grown on her. She liked everything on her plate, but made the mistake we always seem to make of filling up on chips. She finished off the tostado and the quesadilla, but only ate half of the burrito which came with a red sauce. She offered it to me, but I was stuffed to.
Our waiter was really on top of things. The thing we noticed is that Fiesta Vallarta was really well staffed. Our drinks never sat empty and the minute we finished off the salsa, there was another cup being brought to the table. As we were finishing up, the other couple that showed themselves to a table were just starting to look over their menus. They noticed a lot of seafood offerings and the waiter offered to bring out a few samples for them which is a wonderful way to build a clientele.
Our bill was right around twenty bucks. We were a little confused when it came time to pay. We noticed a cash register when we walked in, but the bill was handed to us in one of those black credit card books, so we didn’t know what to do. I put my card in the book and waited. When the waiter just walked by, I figured we needed to take it to the front, so I got up to pay. When we got up there, another waiter was dealing with a carry-out customer. When he saw me, he went behind the counter and took my card.
Fiesta Vallarta was really good and something I know we’re going to enjoy being so close to. I’m confident we’ll check out the lunch buffet soon. The reason we have made multiple visits to Aldaco’s is their buffet and if Fiesta Vallarta’s is as good as that one, we’ll be able to walk our lunch off after pigging out.