I grew up going to Fiesta Mexico; my family still celebrates most birthdays and special occasions there, and we go for no particular reason at all. A lot has remained remarkably constant since its opening in 1984. The wonderful weekend guitarists are always the same. Everyone’s favorite waiter, Alfredo, seems to practically live there (if he were to take a rare day off, the food just wouldn’t taste the same). And while there have been tweaks to the menu over the years, old favorites are always made with perfect consistency.
I should mention that this isn’t really the place to bring your Southern Californian foodie friend who subsists on a steady supply of authentic rolled tacos and carnitas; this cuisine is definitely the more Tex-Mex that we Northerners are more accustomed to. For what it is, though, it is delicious, and for myself and others I know who grew up around Orangeburg, those cheese-covered platters of rice, beans and burritos are our ultimate comfort foods.
The white concrete exterior resembles a Mexican hacienda, featuring an arched walkway lined with wooden corbels. In fair weather, the front courtyard fountain bubbles happily amid umbrella-topped mosaic tables. Wrought iron front doors bring you into the interior space, past one of several autographed posters of acclaimed salsa musician Tito Puente, who was a local, and patronized the restaurant frequently. The restaurant is divided into three parts: a front dining room and bar to the right, and the main dining room to the left. Wooden beams, clay tile ceilings, and stucco walls accented with decorative tiles add to the Mexican ambiance. Arches in the dining room house paintings of Mexican life — one of which, a marketplace scene, is fitted perfectly to the arch.
What we tried
Quesadilla appetizer with chorizo: I grew up on these quesadillas and am pleased that my son is now doing the same! They’re simple; not the ubiquitous butter-grilled, crispy, cheddar-oozing behemoths you see elsewhere. Three small, soft white flour tortillas are filled with Muenster cheese and a little bit of crumbled chorizo (you can also get it filled with chicken, beef, vegetables, or plain cheese). I’ve never skipped ordering these.
Queso con chorizo: The gratin dish of melted cheese was served piping hot. Chorizo was crumbled as in the quesadilla but in slightly larger chunks — I really wanted more of it, as I’ve seen the dish elsewhere with large, generous chorizo slices. A plate of yellow corn tortillas was served alongside.
Vegetarian Plate: My favorite combo. As at most American Mexican restaurants, my platter looked exactly like my husband’s — a sea of melted cheese covering refried beans, and Spanish rice — but as I’ve made clear, a sea of melted cheese is just fine by me. The crisp tortilla in my entree, a guacamole tostada, stood up to the melty cheese, though the same cannot be said of the tortillas enrobing my cheese enchilada and bean burrito.
Chile Rellenos: This is the dish that first made my husband enjoy Mexican food, and he still likes it here better than anywhere else. Poblano peppers are stuffed with a mixture of meat and cheese and lightly battered, allowing the peppers to be the focal point; other places use no breading, or too much, but we like the balance here. The peppers are firm and only slightly spicy. (That’s one of the problems some people have with this place — not enough heat — though it’s perfect for our palates).
Drinks and dessert
We’ve tried most of their flavored margaritas; this time we had mango at the waiter’s recommendation, and were not disappointed. For dessert we went with our old standby, the buñuelo. That mound of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream sitting atop a crispy fried tortilla bedecked with cinnamon and honey was just too good to pass up.
Couples, families, everyone. A lot of local regulars.
On weekend evenings, guests are serenaded by roaming guitarists Rogelio and Frankie. They make it to every table and they take requests. Tips are appreciated.
What we will order next
My sister, who spent over a decade amid the authentic Mexican cuisine of San Diego, still has a soft spot for Fiesta Mexico’s fajitas, so there must be something to them — one of these days I’ll branch out and try them.
Not much. The charming small towns of Piermont and Sparkill are quickly accessible by turning onto Route 340 at the next light. The Palisades Center Mall and all it has to offer is about 10 minutes north on Route 303.
The 411 on Fiesta Mexico
Entree price range: $11-$30.
Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Live Music, Take Out, Girls’ Night Out, Kid Friendly, Meeting for a Drink, Outdoor Dining (Patio, Porch, Deck, Sidewalk), Going Out on Mondays, People Watching, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Vegetarians
Noise level: Moderate.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1-10 p.m. Sunday.
Go: 380 Route 303, Orangeburg. 845-359-8309.
By Christine Gritmon