We had our doubts about Mi Mexico Querido. This Mexican spot looked set to move into the former Dumpling space on Minnehaha last October when its lovely floral facade went up … and then a year went by. Its perpetual non-open status became a running joke for our family, and a symbol of Longfellow’s many nearly-great but not-quite-there restaurants and bakeries.
So when a young family friend told us that the restaurant was open, we sort of gave him a “uh, yeah, it looks that way, but I wouldn’t put much stock into it,” kind of response. Then we drove past. The illuminated OPEN sign supported his side of the story.
As the years have gone by, I’ve found myself falling more and more in love with the basic-ass dish known as chicken fajitas. At Tex-Mex and primarily suburban-facing restaurants, these tend to be both expensive and bad, and they lack any of the charm and mystery of dishes like menudo or lengua tacos or any number of dishes that are deeper gastronomic cuts. But I’ve found at first generation spots, fajitas can be ravishingly delicious – the chicken deeply marinated and perfectly charred, the mix of vegetables balanced, the presentation theatrical, the overall meal sustaining, humble, and delicious. This is food I order because it makes my soul feel happy, not because I’m trying to blaze a new culinary frontier.
The Chicken Fajitas ($19) at Mi Mexico Querido initially disappointed me because my go-to favorites at Familia Dominguez offer a full spread of toppings including guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, and salsa, and none of these were in the offing at MMQ. But then I looked a little more closely at the plate – the char was impeccable, the portion was absurdly generous, the rice and beans were al dente but not undercooked, and seasoned beautifully without being salty or forgettable. The chicken and vegetables were marinated skillfully and couldn’t have been tastier. I started looking forward to reheating this impeccable dish as a next-day lunch before I finished it.
Chilaquiles Verdes were an absurd steal at $9.50. Simple as hell – tortilla chips steeped in a mild but flavorful green salsa, accompanied by a raft of gently cooked scrambled eggs – these were comfort on a plate.
We also liked our Jamaica and Horchata ($3.75 each). The former was properly tart and balanced, and the latter was unusually thick but pleasantly rich and mellow without being overspiced or oversweetened.
Two appetizers could use a little refinement – the Chorizo Sopitos ($12), thick mini-tortillas spilling over with meat, lettuce, and sour cream, were too chewy for their own good, as were the Mini Tacos Dorado ($7.50) which would’ve been tastier with more delicate shells. Both are just one or two refinements away from being good; here’s hoping they improve as the restaurant moves past opening days.
Paging through the restaurant’s dozens of menu pages was a little overwhelming, and service took a while – on pace with the delayed opening, more than an hour for lunch. But these are early days, and the fact that every item of food tasted scratch-made with love easily papers over any complaints.
Mi Mexico Querido, 4004 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, 612.315.5348, 9am-9pm DAILY