It did not take long for me to reach my comfort zone soon after I stepped into El Mirador restaurant located at 105 W. Tyler in Harlingen.
The service both started and ended with a smile and the food just made the smile grow larger, along with my satisfied stomach.
I started with some chips and salsa, but the difference here was that there were five salsas to choose from, all ranges of heat, but none so hot that you could not distinguish the flavors.
After mixing and matching salsas with chips and some queso flameado, melted cheese with crumbled chorizo on top, my wonderful server Marcela brought out my main dish, one she recommended – the molcajete dish with fajita and shrimp. Molcajete is usually a stone bowl used with a tejolote to grind up a variety of food products. My order was delivered to me in the traditional stone bowl, angrily sizzling up a storm and smelling amazingly delicious – and fiery hot, if something can actually smell that way.
When I talk about hot in this case, I mean in terms of temperature. The bowl, which also had a nice amount of grilled onions at the bottom, also had three pieces of cheese that started inside the bowl and stretched out to the top edges. Sitting on top was a beautiful green half avocado.
Marcela brought me some flour and corn tortillas and I never got to the flour, the homemade corn ones just hypnotizing me as I scooped out the mixture inside the molcajete and, for the first taco at least, decided to not add any of the wonderful salsas.
The first bite sent me back to my married days to a woman from Monterrey, Mexico. We would go visit my in-laws and much of the time was celebrating, playing golf, and tantalizing my taste buds with so many different flavors. This was me back during those wonderful days in Monterrey.
After I was full – like full full – Marcela bagged up the remaining food, added some chips and salsas and sent me on my way. I stopped to pay and tell the owner, Jose Elias Alvarez Mata, how much I enjoyed this visit and I thought for sure I would be able to finish all my food.
He looked, chuckled, and said matter of factly “Yeah, you couldn't.”
It was not a question, but a statement that said, “you're not the only one.” We then talked about the amazing variety of flavors and, while the molcajete was bubbling like the top of a volcano, it's spicy heat was more than manageable, leaving your taste buds working to be tantalized with the mega-flavors.
He responded that they try to make everything as authentic as possible while not making their food too spicy for customers. However, he said, “If they want something spicy or hotter, we'll certainly accommodate them.”
Living in McAllen, rarely would I go to Harlingen just for a meal. El Mirador changed my perspective, however, and I will definitely return to try different items from a menu loaded with a wide spectrum of choices, from breakfast to lunch and dinner.
In fact, I see myself going back there before the end of the year. It was that good.