By Christopher Malone
Fulton has more flavor with new Mexican restaurant
For reviews, I’ve been frequenting restaurants attached to or sharing property with hotels as of late. It’s not a bad thing. For travelers staying at those hotels, it’s comforting to know the place you’re staying has a place to eat attached to it. It cuts down on driving and time spent deliberating and deciding where to go.
In this case, for those staying at the Red Roof Inn on First Street in Fulton, your decision has already been made. For locals, you may not be going to the fanciest hotel to dine at its restaurant, but — not to get ahead in this review — you’re going to leave between the scale of pleasantly surprised and happy. Perhaps both.
When sitting down at El Mezquite de Luna to enjoy some comforting Mexican food, the restaurant is a fresh two-week-old establishment. The space formerly housing Anchor Pub & Restaurant gets a cultural upgrade. It’s clean. The atmosphere is relaxed. And covers of American pop music is played through the speakers, but the songs are not in English. Conversational, yes, and it gives people who took Spanish years ago an opportunity to brush up on the language.
There is a testament to their teamwork, as I was greeted and served by several kind and conversational staffers throughout my experience. When asked what I wanted to drink, El Mezquite de Luna was very apologetic about not having alcohol just yet. Hopefully, the state liquor authority is diligent and expedites the process. Those who have been on this side of the fence know it can take a while.
Cue the complimentary house-made tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were warm and very crispy. The salsa exceeded expectations. The light-bodied appetizer was bursting with flavor — bright lime and cilantro were noticeable but not overwhelming.
The menu at El Mezquite is huge. I didn’t count but there are dozens upon dozens of food items broken down into sections (beef, chicken, seafood, etc.) with similar items just for each of those proteins of choice.
If you want to try as many items as possible without overdoing it, dart your eye over to the combination plates. There are only 20 of those and you can order a couple and not repeat particular items. They range from $12 to $12.75 on the menu but not on the bill — more on that in a moment.
Between the two combination platters ordered I was able to enjoy: chile relleno, a taco, a burrito, an enchilada, a tostada and a tamal.
The seasoning of the meats hit the right height of flavor without coming across salty or washing out the flavor of the beef (taco, enchilada and burrito) or tamal. The meat itself wasn’t dry or overcooked either. With the pork in the tamal, there is that chance cooking it once and enough before cooking it inside the shell could overdo it.
The crispy corn tortilla of the tostada and shell of the taco were strong but not tough. They didn’t break too easily and held the ingredients well. The tostada was topped with fresh veggies, flavorful and creamy guacamole and refried beans.
The chile relleno may have been my favorite of the group. Similar to the burrito and enchilada, it was slathered in cheese and sauce. There was a subtle smokiness to it, too. Cutting into it was easy, not tough.
Happy to admit — the food wasn’t heavy. Granted, I did pace myself and take leftovers. However, I’ve eaten at Mexican restaurants where the food, comparatively, was much heavier. After eating at one place in Syracuse, which will go unnamed (plus, it’s now closed), left me in pain halfway through the meal.
With such delight, I ordered dessert, an order of churros (four in an order) and fried ice cream (both $6.25 each).
The churros, or crispy cinnamon and sugar sticks, were drizzled with chocolate and topped with some sprinkles (a nice aesthetic touch, but not needed). The crispy sticks had a heavenly warm and chewy inside. The little bit of chocolate was also welcomed as a nice, subtle complement.
The fried ice cream was much larger than expected. Similar to the intimidation John Candy’s character in “The Great Outdoors” felt when presented with the Ol’ 96er, I questioned whether or not I could finish it.
This was ice cream, so there was no taking this home. So, I finished the massive ball of ice cream and rice cereal sitting in a flaky shell, which could be shared comfortably by four or five people; it was at least the size of a softball. It was also topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and, yes, more sprinkles.
Despite my drastically unhealthy choice and desire to not waste food, I chipped my way through it — yes, being fried ice cream, you had to chip away for the bites of ice cream. Of course, it got softer as time went on.
Before tip, the filling meal added up to just over $44. Not to be nitpicky, but the prices of the combination plates on the menu were $1 more on the bill. It’s not a big deal to me. But it may irk some others (similar to what was mentioned at the beginning — you can’t please everyone). Again, at El Mezquite de Luna is going through its beginning stages and probably just has to update the menu.
El Mezquite de Luna is off to a great start, and I’m curious to see how the restaurant continues and evolves.
El Mezquite de Luna Mexican
930 S. First St. (inside Red Roof Inn on Route 481), Fulton
Sun.: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Tues. – Sat.: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.