Guadalajara Grill is hardly a hole in the wall. Its prime location on Beechmont Avenue, complete with bright awning, beckons to East side commuters on their drive by. I pass it several times a week, and not until nearly a year after it opened did I finally stop in for a visit.
The large dining room is divided into three areas with booths lining the wall and a blend of tables to accommodate larger parties, plus a decent sized bar for overflow on the weekends. The décor is minimal with the obligatory Mexican artifacts and Southwestern wall hangings to brighten the walls.
I first stopped in for a quick lunch during the week between appointments for my pesky day job. I like a place where the hostess doesn't look at you sideways if you're dining alone, which I do occasionally, spending the time to catch up on paper work. I've been to many places where solo diners are shuffled to the bar, or to the broken table in the corner near the kitchen that barely accommodates one person. But that wasn't the case here, and I soon discovered that there were other solo diners as well as large groups, couples, coworkers and a few families all still lingering long after the one o'clock lunch bell had rung.
After I raved about my lunch, my husband joined me there for dinner early on a weekday evening, still in time for the happy hour special of two-for-one margaritas ($3.50). Each meal is kicked off with a basket of warm, salty, corn tortilla chips and a large carafe of fresh salsa (which lasted through an entire second basket of chips). We added an order of the delicious, creamy, homemade Guacamole Dip ($2.99) as an appetizer.
Like most authentic Mexican restaurants, the extensive menu lists more then 75 choices, each a variation of combinations of a dozen or so core items: burritos, enchiladas, tacos, chili rellenos, chalupas, tostadas, fajitas, quesadillas, and grilled chicken or steak dishes, plus variations on each dish.
or example, my delicious Chicken Enchiladas Verdes ($7.25) were topped with a tangy green tomatillo salsa and a side of the best refried beans I've had in a long while. The enchilada choices alone consist of at least seven variations, not including the decision of chicken, beef, pork or cheese.
Combination plates let you sample several choices. My husband had No. 11: a chicken burrito, beef taco and beef enchilada ($6.75). Even the huge side of rice ($1.75) was perfectly done, not sticky or cold, but well seasoned, warm and a nice accompaniment to our spicy, flavorful dinners.
Little ones can choose from the "Little Guadalajara Plates" of one burrito, enchilada, taco or quesadilla with beans and rice ($3.50), or chicken nuggets ($3.25) for the kid whose parents just really need a margarita.
Lunch combinations are even more reasonable than dinner, with most under $6, plus a huge basket of chips and salsa.
We liked the fact that the salsa comes in a huge carafe. Too much time is spent at other Mexican restaurants hunting down a server to refill a tiny dish of salsa, never intended to last through an entire basket of chips.
One more tip: With many of the clientele and servers speaking Spanish, you can bet the dishes are authentic.
We left content with our new find of great food and eager and friendly service that made our meal even more enjoyable for under $25.
Go: 7991 Beechmont Ave., Anderson Twp.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty of choices if you like beans and cheese
Other: Carryout available