In an effort to expand the gastronomic vision of the inhabitants of Provo beyond that of Cafe Rio and Chili’s, Rhombus has enlisted the help of three of the most overqualified food critics from across the country. These infamous connoisseurs concocted a plan to explore a variety of local restaurants in the Valley and dissect their cuisine. Each week the Munchmobile Crew will report their findings so you can eat with confidence, broaden your horizons and tip the scales with delight. Please enjoy a unique take on our unique Provo food scene as tasted through the buds of Jake Welch, Ben Wagner and Jamie Wood. Let the munching begin.
WEEK 1 — HECHO EN MEXICO GRILL
Located on the corner of 300 South and 300 East in Provo, owner Alfredo Torres has opened his doors and his fine recipes to the public through this little hole in the wall establishment well off the beaten path south of BYU campus. As you walk through the doors, you’re not overwhelmed with sombreros hanging from every corner, “It’s always Cinco de Mayo in here’ Corona posters or neon cacti with drunken neon amigos slouched over next to them. Instead you are greeted by a true Mexican touch of empty glass Coke bottles and a collage of Telemundo soap opera flyers on the wall.The menu is limited at Hecho En Mexico (Spanish for “Made in Mexico”), keeping things simple and sticking to what they do best. When we asked Alfredo for his advised dish, he quickly suggested the Tacos al Pastor: delicious, specially marinated spicy pork tacos topped with cilantro and fresh pineapple. He informed us that this menu item alone accounts for 65% of the restaurant’s sales, evidence of its mass appeal.
Next, he suggested we sample the homemade “horchata,” a traditional rice and milk drink that seems to elude the desire of the gringo pallet. He quickly pointed out that Hecho En Mexico’s horchata was made with coconut, not rice, and is therefore one of their specialties. Alfredo turned and quickly brought each of us a small plastic cup with a sampling of the drink. Each was immediately downed with significant satisfaction and subsequently ordered for a whopping $2.50 per glass. (A little steep, but incredibly worth it.) “As someone who was forced to drink Horchata almost everyday for two years and never liked it, this is the best horchata I’ve ever had,” Ben Wagner commented. Orders were made, chips and salsa (which rocked) were delivered, horchata was sipped,and our experience had officially begun. Here is the skinny on a few thick meals:
Jamie Wood — Torta de Carne Asada
As an established connoisseur in the realm of Latin foods and, more specifically, of the Mexican sandwich that is “the torta,” I feel completely justified in saying that this was hands down a technically sound sandwich. Bursting with marinated steak, avocados, onions, jalapenos and basted with seasoned refried beans, this torta packed a punch and hit the spot. This scrumptious sandwich from south of the border was surprisingly easy to manage as compared to other tortas. All the ingredients were comfortably situated within the classic Mexican bread, making it easy to enjoy without the mess. For those gringos out there, like myself, who want to ease into the spicy and often overwhelming sector of authentic Mexican food, the torta is your best bet for a smooth entry. It talks like a hamburger, but it’s swagger is puro mexicano. Be sure to ask for everything on it to get the full experience. 4.5 out of 5 tacos.
Ben Wagner – Tacos al Pastor
Mexico City is renowned for its tacos al pastor and, having lived there for two years, I consider myself an expert on the subject. I have tried just about every Mexican joint in town in an attempt to find that authentic al pastor taste. Perhaps it’s been the lack of dogs roaming the street or the contaminated air of Mexico City, but I have yet to find any taco that matches the ones sold in the streets of the D.F. However, the Tacos at Hecho En Mexico are as close as it gets. The meat on each taco almost overran the small flour tortilla used to contain it. The marinades used on the meat were excellent and each piece of meat was cooked to perfection. The pineapple used was real, fresh (well, as fresh as it can get in Provo), and didn’t come out of the canned fruit aisle at Smith’s. Again, the flavor was as close to authentic Mexican tacos al pastor as I’ve seen; Hecho En Mexico is indeed an appropriate name. If you’re never going to make it south of the border, at least make it south of campus and try out the most authentic tacos al pastor in town. 5 out of 5 sombreros.
Jake Welch – Tacos de Asada
You know you’re going into a legit Mexican restaurant when you don’t see burritos on the menu. Contrary to popular belief, burritos are seldom found in authentic eateries south of the border. I was pleased to find a very simple menu upon entering Hecho En Mexico. They have the basics: tacos, tortas, rice and beans. If you’re looking for a large elaborate menu of average dishes, this is not for you. This is a legit taco shop. Because I joined the crew a little late, I decided to go easy and just get two tacos. The taco de asada (or steak taco) hit the spot. They didn’t skimp on the meat and the salsa had the perfect amount of kick. I am not one for weak salsa and they follow the same philosophy at Hecho En Mexico. I also ordered one taco al pastor and it was everything a taco should be and more. The only downer about the restaurant is that it is only open in the evenings. The owner, Alfredo, said that should change once business picks up. He also said they might have certain days of the week where they will have Mole, God’s gift to Mexican food. Even without the dish, this taco shop gets my seal of approval. 4 out of 5 Horchata glasses.
There you have it: one full-blooded gringo and two honorary Mexicanos agree that Hecho En Mexico Grill is worth the drive down south and the small dent in your pocketbook. The full price for the torta and horchata came out to be a little over $8 — chump change for the seasoned veteran of Latin cuisine and well worth it for the fiesta that will ensue inside your mouth. Break out the pinatas and mariachi band, because Hecho En Mexico is “livin’ la vida loca” on the Provo food scene. Overall: 4.5 out of 5 churros
For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.
Jamie Wood, Jake Welch and Ben Wagner are correspondents for Rhombus Magazine. For more of their thoughts on Mexican cuisine and imaginary rock bands, check them out on Twitter at @jamie_wood, @jraywelch and @ben_wagner, respectively.
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