Mexicana, the new South-of-the-Border restaurant
in town, is trying to create a Mexican party for every
customer. From the brightly colored décor that
is more-Mexican-than-Mexico to the dizzying array of
menu choices, the restaurant evokes familiar memories
of similar-themed family dining. The distinguishing feature
about this place is its claim of authenticity, supported
by an all Latin American staff who assured me that the
food is truly what they would eat in their home countries.
The spacious restaurant is segmented into rows of booths that recreate
the impression of eating in a small cantina. The front displays fountains,
lanterns, wooden parrots and bronze bells. A replica of a Spanish-tiled
veranda runs the length of the restaurant, completing the image of
a Mexican courtyard. Although the set-up of the restaurant creates
a cozy feel, both the interior and the enclosed patio are roomy, making
Fiesta Mexicana an ideal place for hosting large parties.
It is also well suited to family dining with children because of the
booths’ semi-privacy. Upbeat Mariachi music plays throughout
the evening, allowing kids to make a little noise without disrupting
If the description of this festive restaurant sounds familiar, it could
be because you’ve already eaten in one, located somewhere else.
Fiesta Mexicana is the latest of ten to open up. The others are located
throughout the west, in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.
the owner is a Durango resident named Martin Rangel, the management
of the restaurants is under Dennis Cervantes, who is originally from
Mexico City and still speaks English with a lilting Hispanic accent.
He started working for the chain when it opened four years ago on July
4, 2000 in Woodland Park, Colorado.
Cervantes has since trained the new managers for all ten restaurants.
He arrived in Moab when Fiesta Mexicana opened here in March of 2004.
His explanation of why Rangel chose to open his tenth restaurant here
is simple and compelling, “We wanted to open this unique, authentic
restaurant in a unique place, which Moab is with its arches and red
Oscar Ochoa, the corporate chef, is originally from Guadelajara, Mexico.
Although he has spent the last ten years in the States, he speaks little
English and has kept very close to his Mexican roots. He asserts that
the food he prepares for Fiesta Mexicana is truly authentic and his
background would indicate as much. He acquired his culinary talents
as much from classes as from watching his mother and grandmother, whose
recipes he uses.
The menu seems never-ending in its options of seafood dishes, chicken
entrees, enchiladas, burritos and salads. There is also a plentiful
selection on the kid’s menu and many vegetarian options and side
orders. The portions are as plentiful as the choices.
Fiesta Mexicana offers several house specialties, such as Mojarra Rellena
(a whole Tilapia fish filled with octopus and shrimp) and Tacos de
Pescado (two fish tacos, marinated and sautéed in butter, Pico
de Gallo and spices).
the month of December, Chef Ochoa has planned some particularly tantalizing
specialties, particularly for seafood lovers. He plans on offering
Camarones Burrachos, a savory dish of shrimp sautéed in brandy
and red Burgandy (justifying the name of “Drunk Shrimp”)
and a soup called Siete Mares, which consists of octopus, shrimp, scallops,
mussels, clams and fresh crab legs. Ochoa is making sure that the holiday
season is no time to miss an opportunity of dining at Fiesta Mexicana.
Although Cervantes sounds like he’s quoting a familiar pop song
when he describes the restaurant as a “shiny, happy place,” he
hits the nail on the head. Fiesta Mexicana succeeds in creating a festive
atmosphere fit to celebrate any occasion, evidenced by the bulletin
board of birthday photos located in its entrance.
The staff at Fiesta Mexicana makes birthdays fun and special by giving
the celebrant flan for desert (watch out for whip cream on your nose
- it’s part of the photo op) and singing “Happy Birthday” in
English and “Las Mananitas” in Spanish.
Of course, you don’t have to wait ‘til your birthday to
celebrate Latin-style. Eating at Fiesta Mexicana is a festive occasion
every day, a fiesta in every forkful.
Fiesta Mexicana is located at 202 South Main and can be phoned at (435)
259-4366 or faxed at (435) 259-4365. They are open seven days a week,
from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., for lunch and dinner. To-go orders are available.
Entrees range in price from $6.25 (Tostada) to $13.45 (Seafood Fajita).
Fiesta Mexicana will be open all winter, except for December 25. Feliz
of the Month
(a recipe handed
down to Chef Ochoa
from his abuelita, or grandmother)
1 pat of butter
1 square chocolate
(preferably the brand “Chocolate Abuelita”)
3 tsp. Chiles Huajillo
(that have been rehydrated with a bay leaf)
1 tsp. Paprika
10 crushed Animal Crackers
(I was assured that the “elephantes” work the
3 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Peanut butter
1 tsp. Sesame seed paste (like Tahini)
Blend the chocolate,
chiles, paprika and animal crackers to form
a mole paste. Heat a pat of butter in a frying
pan. Add sugar and sautee for about 5 minutes,
until sugar melts. Add the peanut butter, sesame
seed paste and mole. Sautee until well blended
together. Pour Mole Poblano over chicken or
chicken enchiladas and sprinkle sesame seeds