Sunday, January 22, 2012

Road Trip Food Report! Sergio's and Tequila's

Mexican restaurants - there's something about the sounds, the smells, and the margaritas that we find irresistible when we're in the mood for it.  Two small southern Illinois chains captured our interest last week: Tequila's, located just behind the Murdale shopping center in Carbondale, and Sergio's, near Murphysboro.  We've taste-tested two favorite dishes from each location, with help from my co-workers enjoying a birthday outing.

Chicken Taco Salad

The chicken taco salad at Tequila's is familiar - I'm there occasionally for lunch because it's close to where I work, and it's a good place to chat with friends.  In the typical round, fluted fried flour tortilla, Tequila's gives an ample portion of lettuce along with chicken (there's not much chicken, and you have to dig to find it - but it's well-seasoned), sour cream, just a smidgen of monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo (not shown here) and white cheese sauce.  The spicy cheese sauce tastes good - most of it lies on the bottom of the crispy bowl, adorning the chicken.  It's tasty when you finally get to it.

Sergio's chicken taco salad was a nice surprise.  Their fried flour tortilla is shaped like a giant taco.  Of course, the basic ingredients are the same but I found it superior, with their addition of guacamole and a large portion of fresh, shredded chicken.  The cheese sauce here was tasty, too, and the shell a little more crispy (just short of well done).  The taco salad at Sergio's was overall more tasty, although it might have been more balanced if they'd added more lettuce.   


Chimichangas aren't all alike but the basic structure is the same.  Meat, which is sometimes grilled with onions/peppers, is wrapped in a flour tortilla, fried, then drowned in cheese sauce - in a good way.  Generally, a chimi is served with refried beans, rice, and a little lettuce/tomato combo on the side.  Note the plating differences below.  What's in a chimichanga is where the taste difference will lie - I prefer chicken, T prefers beef.  For review purposes, let's call this a visual chimichanga dinner comparison:


The Carbondale area has several other choices for Mexican food. I haven't visited all of them.  The longstanding Tres Hombres is a popular choice with ambiance that speaks of years of service.  I found an exceptionally tasty Mexican pizza there - especially the California one that's available on lunch special some days, with chicken, avocado, cheeses.  Arturo's Mexican Grill on Rt. 13 between Carbondale and Marion has a good lunch buffet; basic, but tasty.  I guess most Mexican restaurants are somewhat 'basic' - sometimes I think they copy each other's menus.  Especially the little photos. 

Last but certainly not least:  Tortilla chips

So familiar, yet so important.

Kudos to Sergios for the best chips around!  Very thin, crispy, and warm when served.

Road Trip Rating based on overall flavor, ambiance, and cordial waitstaff:

Mexican sports t.v., loud music, a fusion of Mexican meets southern Illinois.  Photos of happy customers line the walls.  Patio seating.
Bright, clean, colorful; moderate noise level/music, adequate food.

Have some chicken or turkey leftovers?  Here's a very easy Mexican (with a distinct American spin) dish.  It's a standard for those post-holiday meals when there's more turkey in the fridge than you know what to do with.  Or when you just want to cook up a few chicken breasts...or stop for one of those roasted chickens on your way home from work.  (Are you noting my partiality to those fine grocery-store-roasted chickens?  Don't they just smell SO good?!?)  Picture a 9x13 dish full of cheesy chicken nachos...add a side vegetable, and you can call this dinner.

Mexican Chicken

Layer about 1/2 bag of tortilla chips on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.   The fun part: smash them with your fist, just to flatten them a bit.  Next, a layer of coarsely chopped chicken.  In a small bowl, combine 2 cans of cream of mushroom (or cream of chicken.  or cream of whatever you have/like) soup with one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes - the heat factor (mild or medium) is up to you.  It becomes a little spicier if you pour in the juice, as well.  Then top with 2 cups of a Mexican-combo, or cheddar, or a combo of cheddar with a little mozzarella to 'up' the stringy-factor.  Bake uncovered in a 350 oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted thoroughly.

Hasta maƱana.


1 comment:

  1. Now I want to go to Sergio's :)