A MEXICAN wave has swept across Newcastle, with a host of eateries now offering food from south of the border.
From Charlestown to Cooks Hill, Warners Bay to Hamilton, tempt your tastebuds at just a few of the Mexican eateries around town.
MEANING ‘‘little house’’, La Casita on Hamilton’s Beaumont Street was opened two weeks ago by husband and wife team Rene Pichardo Orozco and Linda Pichardo and chef Alberto ‘‘Beto’’ Pineda Selgado (Rene’s brother).
La Casita, at the former Banyan Tree site, seats about 50 people and has been packed since it opened. The restaurant gives Aussies a taste of modern Mexican food, drawing on brothers Rene and Beto’s family history, which can be traced back to Aztec village Tierra Caliente, near Acapulco.
Rene explained he had been wanting to open the restaurant for the past decade: ‘‘I have been here in Newcastle 10 years and I have been waiting for my brother and finally he said he was coming to Australia ... I said we have to do it, open our restaurant.’’
The brothers, who grew up in Acapulco but have also lived on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, wanted to bring ‘‘more authentic and modern’’ Mexican flavours to an Australian palate more accustomed to Tex Mex-style food.
The menu focuses on healthy, fresh food bursting with flavour – just as the Mexicans eat, according to Rene.
Dishes on offer include flautas (crispy rolled corn tortillas filled with marinated chicken covered with bandera salsa) and Pollo Pacifico, a traditional dish from the Pacific coast (a quarter grilled chicken marinated with barbacoa guajillo chilli salsa). Many of the dishes on offer are gluten-free.
Rene’s pick of the menu are the fajitas served hot to your table on a steel platter. Choose from pollo (chicken), carne (steak) or Rene’s favourite, the Camarones Cancun (tequila prawns).
A liquor licence is in the works – to serve Mexican beers, tequilas, margaritas and sangria – but in the meantime you can BYO or wash your meal down with Jarrito’s (Mexican fruit flavoured sodas).
THERE are two Macho Nacho outlets to choose from: Darby Street, Cooks Hill, which opened in March, and Beaumont Street, Hamilton, which opened in October.
Owned by local boys Brent Sinclair and Mark Chegwidden, the outlets bustle day and night with takeaway customers and those who take a seat to tuck into dishes of nachos overflowing with sour cream, guacamole and delectable melted cheese. You can also order ahead if you’re pressed for time or keen to do a quick pick-up.
Sinclair told GT the ‘‘boutique’’ fast food outlet used high-quality and fresh ingredients made in-house daily, with a full-time chef creating Macho Nacho’s own Mexican spice mix.
Macho Nacho won’t break your budget either – quesadillas start from just $9.90 and burritos from $8.90. There is also the $10 burrito and drink deal, as well as taco deals including two chicken or beef tacos for $7.50 or three tacos for $10.
It’s also vegetarian and vegan friendly – vegetarian options use pinto or black beans instead of chicken or beef, vegan options include free guacamole instead of sour cream and cheese. Sinclair told GT the vegan options had been added in response to demand from vegan customers keen to tuck into Macho Nacho’s food.
David Clarke and Lisa Johnson (Macho Nacho). Picture: Dean Osland
A NEWCOMER to the Mexican food scene, Little Mex in Charlestown, opened just two weeks ago and is already doing a busy trade at dinner and with a working lunch crowd.
Owners James Backhouse and Sam Fleming had the idea to open a fast, casual Mexican joint after seeing the popularity of such eateries in Sydney.
Little Mex offers burritos, tacos, enchiladas and nachos with fillings including grilled beef, grilled chicken and a vegetarian option at lunch, plus a slow-cooked pork at dinner.
Backhouse said the word of mouth business had been great in the weeks since opening, but was planning a grand opening next month with plans to possibly add more seating inside the eatery and expand into office catering.
James Backhouse and Sam Fleming (Little Mex, Charlestown). Picture: Darren Pateman
Cantina at Wests
IF you’ve got a hungry family to feed, Cantina Mexican Restaurant at Wests New Lambton provides huge servings for healthy appetites.
If you’re watching your bottom line then also check out freebies, such as buy one, get one free margaritas on Mondays and buy one, get one free delicioso desserts on Tuesdays.
For those keen to prove just how much they can stomach, there are the challenges of finishing a Big Ass Burrito and the Big Ass Chocolate Nachos to claim a place on the Big Ass Pillar of Fame.
For those with less of an appetite, Cantina also offers a range of dishes to share, including salt and pepper dusted calamari rings with jalapeno sour cream dip, a cold sharing plate which includes jalapeno marinated olives, chipotle chilli marinated feta, semidried tomatoes, salsa and corn chips, a hot sharing plate with seasoned wedges, salt and pepper dusted calamari rings, jalapeno poppers, salsa and corn chips. Chilli fans can also try the jalapeno poppers – deep fried jalapeno chilli, cheese and polenta bites served with a spicy tomato sauce.
ESTABLISHED in 1983, Mucho’s Mex, The Junction, is perhaps Newcastle’s longest-running and most-loved Mexican eatery. Many of us might have childhood memories of tucking into tacos and more at the Glebe Road restaurant, while some might be relative newcomers to the eatery, which boasts it has served more than 1million meals in its time.
Kick off your meal with a choice of their tasty dips – a favourite is the chilli con queso – a blend of cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and spices, served with a generous dose of corn chips.
Then choose from a range of tacos, nachos, salads and specials such as pollo deluxe, albondigas or meatballs and a carne deshabrada, a chunky beef dish served with Aztec salad and saffron rice.
MAMA Mex Restaurant & Takeaway, Warners Bay, offers Mexican food with a fun and friendly atmosphere.
The kid-friendly eatery is just a short walk from Warners Bay foreshore and offers Mexican and Italian menus.
Mama’s offers the Tex Mex-style with a twist. Look out for dishes such as Mexican chilli fries topped with cheese and jalapenos; spicy chicken enchilada; Mexican chicken schnitzel and the Tostada Tower (two flat taco rounds with your choice of filling).