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Real Deal Mexican

Jan 16, 2015 01:55PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Mi Pueblo II
554A Ritchie Hwy., Severna Park

By Rita Calvert // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

During a blustery cold evening, my friend and I were excited to try a relaxing, delicious, inexpensive, friendly night out at Mi Pueblo II in the Lochmanns Plaza in Severna Park. (Directly across Route 2 from the Giant Marketplace.)

The decor inside is brightly colored, cheery, open, and inviting. Tables are far enough apart to get through without bumping anyone or hearing their conversations. Booths have high backs so you feel you are in a private dining spot. If you want to really be submerged in the Mexican world, try the booths under the roof overhang where large paintings on the walls complement the atmosphere while Mexican music plays in the background.

As soon as you are seated, a guacamole cart comes rolling along and the guac chef offers to make you fresh guacamole, tableside. You choose the fresh ingredients that he displays—chopped jalapeños, onions, cilantro, fresh, diced tomatoes. Using a traditional Mexican molcajete (a stone tool, the South American version of the mortar and pestle) he mashes two avocados and mixes the ingredients. He then served us a vibrant, textured mélange of delicious fresh guacamole by placing the molacjete right on our table along with chips and salsa. The showmanship ($9) can cost more than the regular menu guacamole ($3.25) but is very entertaining and presents a load of food to happily consume. (I had asked the different guacamole prices from the menu beforehand, even though we went for cart experience).The warm chips are homemade, salsa has a great kick and is house made. One almost must have a Margarita to round out the experience.

We perused the extensive menu and asked for referrals on favorites. We were hot to try the shredded beef burrito (a la carte, $3.75), as it’s more unique than the ubiquitous ground beef, although both are offered. So we decided to split it as a sampling to go along with our mountain of guacamole. The sauce was intensely tomato, but not too thick that it drowned out the juicy shredded beef filling and the cheese was added with a skilled hand—meaning not too much.
Pollo Fiesta ($13.25) was one entree we tried since it was loaded with vegetables. Marinated grilled chicken turned out to be wafer thin and was blanketed with zucchini, crookneck squash, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. A light melted cheese sauce covered everything. Usually served with Spanish rice and a salad, I opted for the recommended refried beans and was so happy I did. They were creamy and comforting. Seafood Vallarta ($14.99) is one of the restaurant’s favorites and included grilled, marinated shrimp, chicken, and bay scallops cooked in a light sauce with onions, tomatoes, pineapple, mushrooms, red, yellow, and green peppers. We wanted to try the Spanish rice, which was traded in place of white rice without any problem. The blended entree’s flavors melded together beautifully.

Chicken dishes are especially favored and I have to agree that the pounded thin, white meat chicken was tender and flavorful. Fajitas are another choice dish as well as burritos. The portions are substantial, so you are forewarned.

Dessert had to be the famous Flan and we were glad to have ordered just one of the generously-sized sweets to share. The creamy concoction was dense and satisfying with the caramelized sugar crowning the top.

As a family restaurant, not a chain, Sergio Meva plus his three brothers brought the concept to our neck of the woods. From working their way up in many restaurants, the brothers knew that a traditional Mexican dining experience was a popular trend in the Chesapeake region.

The extensive menu leans towards the Mexican original cuisine with some of their own touches. Speaking of touches...for the first location in a former deserted building near La Fontaine Bleu, Glen Burnie, the four brothers obtained the building at an excellent price and then went to work creating a Mexican haven by handling the renovation construction themselves and even building their own furniture. The carved and brightly painted accents within the booths are absolutely charming. The specialty tiles, sinks in the restrooms, and even artwork on the walls are directly from Mexico where Servio travels three to four times per year.

The Glen Burnie location had a tough go of it for six months and then word of mouth gradually spread so the restaurant has a waiting line out the door on most weekends. Learning that Severna Park is a great area for business, the Meva brothers had targeted the Severna Park shopping center four years ago but were informed that a Mexican restaurant would be competing with Taco Bell. Years later, they received a call that the space where the China Buffet had been was available to them. They had to completely revamp from the former Chinese decor and again the brothers worked their Mexican magic by doing the work themselves—raising the ceiling and building their furniture. The decor mirrors Mi Pueblo Glen Burnie and definitely feels like a sister in the Mi Pueblo family. The food was so popular, it made sense to keep the same menu.

I asked how the guacamole cart came about and Sergio told me he had witnessed the popularity of freshly made guacamole, but the brothers wanted a tableside concept so the customer can see the interesting process.

The Severna Park location was much anticipated as word of the dining experience at Mi Pueblo continued to spread and was packed from day one. Many young families fill the restaurant in their Severna Park location along with a mix of other folks. On weekends the line can be out the door, but it’s worth the wait.

Rita Calvert has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration, art and nourishment of food. She is Homestead Gardens’ Culinary and Design blogger, photographer and advisor. After owning a successful restaurant in California, she has now been an Annapolis resident for 25 years where she is a strong advocate for local, sustainable and nourishing food. Her work has always embodied the naturally wholesome, colorful, and satisfying.