My apologies to Etta James … but I finally got the chance to try Maria Bonita, the “Mexican” restaurant that had been recommended to me near Safa Park. I’m happy to report that the quotation marks are unnecessary.
Maria Bonita is located in a small strip mall on Umm Al Sheif Road, down from a gents “saloon,” a Lebanese restaurant and a “Central Perk” coffee house. The owners designed and decorated it to look like the outside of an old cantina with faux orangey-pink Adobe walls. There’s a great patio space and the interior is covered with maps of Mexico, the odd sombrero and black-and-white pictures of Mexican revolutionaries. It’s a little kitschy, but in a comforting way.
The menu is fairly straightforward: guacamole and taquitos for botanas, and plates of tacos, enchiladas and burritos. I had a plate of the tacos al pastor, three corn tortillas filled with chargrilled achiote-marinated chicken and roasted pineapple. I added a little fresh sour cream and queso fresco on top. J ordered an enchilada combo plate: one each of roja, verde and mole.
And both plates were good! The tortillas are made in house at their own tortilleria. The pineapple on my tacos was a very pleasant surprise and, while the enchiladas were overall a bit dry, I was impressed with their mole: rich and thick, with a hint of the chocolate.
The menu says both chefs are from Mexico, and I meant to hunt them down and ask them how they got here and where they find their ingredients. But a food coma prevented me from moving. A reason to go back!
The only drawback? No bar. It’s not in a hotel so they don’t have a license to serve alcohol. J asked if he could bring in his own beer but the waitress didn’t think that would be a good idea.
On the way out, though, we did pick up a bag of tortillas, a half dozen each of flour and corn. I see some huevos rancheros in my future.