|A few weekends ago I ventured out to Deerfoot Meadows, but it could have been Coeur DAlene (cue Coeur DAlene Casino jingle) or Spokane, Washington. With its newly planted trees, rock gardens and mammoth retail chains, the shopping district, which looks like an outlet mall (but without the great bargains), really did feel like a piece of Americana.
It was here in this grossly fabricated expanse that I chose to have dinner. Opposite IKEA, across from Fatburger and sharing the block with Opa!, Jugo Juice and Thai Thai, stands the Avocado Fresh Mexican Grill. Suitably kitschy and quick, it is the perfect place to refuel between purchases.
Avocado Fresh Mexican Grill, however, is not a chain or U.S. import its a brand new Calgary restaurant. In fact, the Avocados attempts at attracting staff offering $500 signing bonuses and trips to Mexico received much local and national press leading up to its March opening, as it became the microcosm of Albertas people-deficient service industry.
The restaurant is divided into two sections the 26-seat lounge and the 42-seat "dining room," with its booths and banquette upholstered in geometrically patterned and avocado-coloured fabric. Otherwise, the decor is sparse and the background music is whatever CJAY 92 happens to be playing at the time. However, after a long day of feeding what Im sure was a constant stream of shoppers, the restaurant needed a good sweep, as well as place settings for most of the tables.
Starring the avocado, the Mexican menu features such entradas as nachos with spicy chicken or shredded beef ($14; half order, $9.50), chicken wings with a hot scale running from amigo mild, to gringo medium, to el diablo hot ($9), and guacamole or four kinds of salsa with tortilla chips ($10.50) fresh tomato, chipotle and jalapeño, jalapeño and serrano, and fresh tomatoes and corn.
The perky teenaged server brought us a bowl of black bean soup ($5), which tasted more like tomato soup with black beans, topped with a dollop of sour cream, cilantro and tortilla slivers. Perhaps we would have fared better with the chicken posole soup, a thick, hearty soup with tender roasted chicken, corn, tomatoes, black beans, onion, garlic, green chilies and roasted bell peppers ($6.50).
For our principal platos, we ordered the burrito with marinated sirloin strips, cilantro lime rice, refried pinto beans, guacamole, greens, cheese, sour cream and salsa in a flour tortilla ($14). The other burrito choices are spicy chicken, slow-cooked marinated pork or vegetarian, accompanied by mixed greens or sweet potato fries. The burrito was big and the meat well seasoned, and the sweet potato fries were the best item on the menu.
The quesadilla was disappointing ($12). The over-baked tortilla offered a thin filling of marinated chicken, green peppers, red onions, cheese and infinitesimal slivers of bacon with sides of salsa and sour cream. The avocado salad was again nothing special, just mixed greens with avocado slices in an overly peppery creamy avocado dressing.
Other entrées include drunken chicken (chicken breast pan-seared with red onions, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes and cilantro, with a shot of tequila served on a bed of cilantro lime rice), and an eight-ounce prime rib with garlic chili spices served over grilled green peppers and onions. Children can choose between a cheese quesadilla, honey wings or small tacos, served with a choice of sweet potato fries, rice or mixed greens and a free drink.
In sum, we ate average Mexican food. But, what was I expecting, really? I had dinner at Deerfoot Meadows.
Avocado Fresh Mexican Grill is located at 933 33 Deerfoot Meadows Way, phone 255-8366.