There’s more to life than just beer. Yep, I said it, and it’s true. Sometimes, even someone who loves craft beer as much as I do needs a change of pace. Also, since I love Mexican food – both traditional and Tex-Mex, a good Margarita and perhaps a shot of tequila or two is something I always enjoy.
This past Saturday, my wife Lynn and I were in the mood to go out for dinner and a few drinks, so we headed to Moctezuma’s Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar at the Southcenter Mall, who had learned about my interest when I emailed them with a Margarita question, and graciously offered to buy us dinner and drinks. Moctezuma’s also has locations in Tacoma, Gig Harbor and a new location coming soon in Silverdale. The Tacoma location was their first, having been opened back in 1978 by Arturo and Magdelena Garcia. Their son, Bernie, took the reigns from Mom & Dad and is the one responsible for their continued success and expansion.
I’ve read a few other reviews of Moctezuma’s that were favorable, but also called them ‘traditional’ Mexican. That’s not entirely accurate. While there are indeed a few authentic Mexican selections, much of the menu seemed more Tex-Mex inspired to me (Nachos, Quesadillas, Fajitas, Burritos, etc.). I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that the overall menu at Moctezuma’s is ‘traditional’ Mexican. It’s a mix of both. That hasn’t bothered the critics though, as Moctezuma’s has been voted the best Mexican Restaurant by South Sound Magazine for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Choice is not a problem at Moctezuma’s. They have an expansive food menu with beef, chicken, seafood and even vegetarian choices, a long list of Margaritas and other cocktails and also carry well over 100 different tequilas. Hey, you can’t call yourself a Tequila Bar without a wide selection of tequilas, right? Their craft beer selection is a bit lacking, but I find that’s the case at most Mexican restaurants. They did, however, offer Elysian Space Dust IPA and Mac & Jack’s African Amber on tap, as well as Lagunitas IPA, Odin‘s Gift Amber Ale and a few other choices in bottles.
I suggested to Moctezuma’s that they might consider teaming up with one of our local craft breweries, many of which put out Mexican style lagers, in order to expand their local craft beer offerings. I’d love to see Lima Loca from Two Beers Brewing Company (CBM Sponsor) or El Niño from Georgetown Brewing Company on the menu. I’ll have to see if I can help facilitate that.
We started off with the obligatory chips and salsa. The chips were good and the salsa was done well; not too chunky or too thin. For drinks, I started with their Primo Caddy Margarita, which included a sidecar self-dispenser filled with a locally made liqueur available in several flavors – I selected blackberry. My wife ordered a traditional Margarita, which was pretty tasty.
I’ve seen the videos before of Moctezuma’s famous Fiesta Queso Dip, which is prepared flaming at your table, but we decided to forego the flair and start off with the shrimp taquitos, which were quite good. The shrimp was fresh and firm and the flavors were excellent. Other appetizer choices included: Guacamole, Nachos, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers, Mexican Pizza, Quesadillas and more. Good choices but, again, not exactly what I’d call ‘traditional’ Mexican.
Despite the expansive menu, my wife and I both wound up deciding on fajitas. She got the fresh vegetable fajitas and I went with the chicken and beef combination. Shrimp was also an option, but it would be nice if you could order a beef and shrimp or chicken and shrimp combination. The only way to get all three is to order the Tequila Flaming Fajitas, which is Moctezuma’s signature fajitas with marinated steak, chicken and tiger shrimp flamed right at your table with gold tequila (pictured above, as someone at the table next to ours ordered one).
The fajitas were well prepared, tender and very tasty, but the method in which they serve them made our table feel a bit awkward and overcrowded. Moctezuma’s serves their fajita platters on raised trays like the ones in the above and below photos. The raised tray makes some sense when flaming dishes are being prepared, but these tall, awkward ‘stands’ our fajitas sat on made our table feel quite crowded and it was also a bit awkward having to reach up to dish our the fillings for each fajita. This might have been less of an issue at their larger tables, but it makes a table for 2 very full.
I had to perform a bit of a juggling act with our server as our second round of Margaritas arrived (this time I selected the Margarita Perfecta (top shelf) and my wife ordered the Cactus Juice Margarita (a bit on the sweet side, but quite tasty)), and as our fajitas arrived, since we were just finishing up our shrimp taquitos.
Despite the somewhat crowded feel of the table, the food and service were both top notch and the overall feel of the restaurant was comfortable if a bit on the dark side. Our server was friendly, prompt and did what he could to help us with the game of Tetris made up of the plates and drinks on our table.
The portions at Moctezuma’s are generous. After our chips and salsa and shrimp taquitos, my wife and I were getting a bit full on our fajitas. We wanted to save some room for dessert though, so we had the rest wrapped up to go. For dessert we decided to share the Mexican Brownie, served with vanilla ice cream & Kahlua cream sauce, and I ordered a shot of Casamigos Añejo Tequila.
All of our food and drink at Moctezuma’s was excellent. You can tell from the flavors that everything is prepared fresh (you can even watch the tortillas being made) and, as far as drinks and tequilas go, we’ve barely even scratched the surface. I’ve been to Moctezuma’s once before this review (on that visit, I ordered the Camarones al Tequila, which was so good I almost ordered it again on this visit) and I’m sure I’ll be back again.
If you’re looking for a Mexican restaurant with great food, both traditional and Tex-Mex, excellent service, a wide selection of Margaritas and a ridiculously large selection of tequilas, then I suggest you plan a visit to Moctezuma’s soon.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.