Like Paul Revere’s message about the British, “Mexican Radio is coming,” rang out across the land.
After the hype settled, friend Trish and I ventured to downtown Schenectady.
We assumed the venue would have few rough spots, since it has predecessors in New York City and Hudson.
Yellow and lime green dominate the exterior of the large building. Interior walls are splashed with happy colors: turquoise, accented with orange and purple. Pink plastic vases of cabbage-like bright artificial blooms hang in spaces between paintings in neon bright hues.
I requested the table in the front corner overlooking Broadway and State Street — a first-rate view of downtown Schenectady. I noted approximately a dozen tables in the downstairs area, another dozen on the patio, about six in the rear bar area, and two dozen on the open second level.
A long, curved stairway with ornate iron railings and blue-and-white tiled risings leads upstairs (an elevator is also available).
WHERE: 325 State St., Schenectady. 621-3700, www.mexrad.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $80.70 for two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: City parking lots nearby, all major credit cards accepted, accessible
Megan handed us turquoise menus and took our drink order. The seven-part menu included Aperitivos in two sizes — a nice accommodation.
Trish opted for the small portion of Mexican Mac ’n’ Cheese ($5), while I ordered the small Radio Roll Ups ($5).
Our “Bogaditos” (small portions) arrived quickly. Served in a small casserole, the mac ’n’ cheese was slightly spicy and barely warm.
My roll ups were a bit more interesting — two small flour tortilla towers filled with black beans, melted cheese and pico de gallo, deep fried, served atop a tepid puddle of tomato-jalapeño sauce, and drizzled with house-made crema. None of the ingredients provided a kick.
Our entrées arrived as we were just starting our appetizers. Realizing his bad timing, the server offered to return them to the kitchen. We suggested he leave them at the table.
Trish’s Mexican Paella ($20) was presented en casserole and consisted of six medium shrimp, and an equal number of pieces of “Mexican” chorizo combined with rice, tomatoes, onions and unspecified spices. It was accompanied by a colorful covered basket of warm tortillas and a plain salad of lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette. The dish could have used a little brightening in appearance and flavor. Trish judged the portion small for the price.
Choice of fillings
I ordered the Triple Enchiladas Mole ($19), which came with a choice of fillings. I opted for grilled steak, caramelized plantains, and sautéed wild mushrooms with the house mole (cocoa, raisins and almonds). Mole Verde and Raspberry-chipolte Mole are also available.
Lukewarm, the dish appeared to have been microwaved to the point where the edges of the sauce had dried and glued to the plate. Enchiladas and accompanying rice and beans (I could have chosen a house salad) — were dry, as if left under a warming lamp too long.
Long after we finished our entrees, Megan inquired about dessert. Trish ordered Fried Ice Cream ($8), a large scoop of vanilla ice cream rolled in corn flakes, fried, ringed with whipped cream and drizzled with sweet caramel sauce. I chose the traditional Flan ($8), which, according to the menu, is the winner of “Best Flan in America” by Latina Magazine.
Other desserts included Banana Chocolate Chimichanga, Pastel de Tres Leches “Three Milk Cake,” and Plantain Fritters. We found our choices to be a sweet ending to the meal.
While the menu is not large (11 Aperitivos, two Sopas, four Ensaladas, five Cazuelas, six Platos Gigantes, plus 12 items like tacos and enchiladas listed in an unnamed category, as well as five Postres), the choices of size, fillings, sauces and sides (salad or rice and beans) added choices.
Many of the dishes can be prepared gluten-free or vegan. According to the menu, the cocina (kitchen) maintains separate vegetarian and gluten-free deep fryers.
After dinner we strolled around the first floor. An outdoor patio with brightly colored umbrellas occupied the left side of the property, and despite its proximity to State Street and railroad tracks, it was much quieter than indoors. Besides the bar in the front, a smaller bar with a half dozen tables was tucked into the rear and there is one on the second floor.
Sadly, Mexican Radio’s food does not measure up to it glorious decor. I’m hoping the kitchen eventually catches up with the decorator.
Mole, Mexico’s national sauce, was “invented” by two nuns in the Convent of Santa Rose in Puebla. The archbishop was coming to dinner, and with nothing to feed him they scoured their cupboards and those of their equally poor neighbors — a taco here, a chili pepper there, a little piece of chocolate. The result: mole.