Thursday, October 22, 2015

26 Miles Across the Sea for This?

Mi Casita
111 Claressa Ave. 
Avalon, CA 90704

Sometimes you have everything mapped out, and then there's a big wrench thrown in the machinery. The wrench in this scenario is Katie's family. Yes, I love them with all of my heart, but they are very loyal to some pretty mediocre restaurants. When I first met them, they had a rotating restaurant routine of Cedar Creek, Mimi's Cafe, King's Fish House, and El Ranchito. Don't get me wrong, there are some okay restaurants on this list, but when you eat at them almost anytime that you go out, it kind of gets a little monotonous. So when we were headed to Catalina Island for a weekend getaway, they asked me to come up with some new places for them to try.

One problem, they have their favorites on Catalina also. Sadly, my list of restaurants to try would be discarded, until Katie and I snuck off for a lunch on our own. One of their favorite spots is Mi Casita, which is about a block away from the harbor, and located on the same street as our beach house rental was situated. I had read about this place, while doing research, and had an idea as to how it was going to be. I did go in with an open mind, and because I was pretty hungry, I did not put up much of a fight that they wanted to eat here.

Mi Casita has been around forever it seems. I do not have an exact date on how long they have been in business, but there first Yelp review was 10 years ago, and I know they were around a long time before that. The decor here is bright and happy, with every color of the rainbow represented inside the restaurant. Our party of nine was seated in the back of the restaurant, right near the bar. The menu here is rather large, and mostly what you would expect a Mexican restaurant in a touristy area to serve. We made our selections rather quickly, or as quickly as 9 people can, and waited for our food to come out. Let's see if I had made a mistake by not adding this restaurant to my list of must try places in Catalina.

As is customary when we eat in a Mexican restaurant, we have to show you the Chips and Salsa. The chips here were pretty good. nice and crisp, with a slight amount of grease on them, (not a bad thing in my book). The salsa was another story. Kind of bland, and really watery. Not a lot of chunk to it. which is the way I prefer my salsa.

I usually do not partake in alcohol when dining out, preferring to save money and space in my stomach for food, but we were on vacation this weekend, and I didn't want Katie's mom to be the only one drinking. I tried the House Margarita ($9.00) to help ease the pain of being with Katie's family for over 48 hours straight, (just kidding, kind of). This 18 ounce margarita was actually pretty good. Made with Cuervo 1800, it had a nice base of sweet and sour, and the tequila went down real smooth. Their signature drink might be the wine based cazuela, but it would be hard to beat this margarita.

After six years of knowing this family, I know that guacamole is always ordered when the Doyle's sit down for Mexican food. That was the case on this night for sure, This was a different Guacamole Appetizer ($6.95). It came with three small scoops of mashed up avocado, and had onion, tomato, and chopped up Serrano chili's on the side. This kind of do it yourself guacamole was kind of flat. First, it was kind of awkward mixing the stuff into the guacamole on the plate provided. The guacamole itself was under seasoned, and basically just mashed up avocados with no seasoning added. Not a big fan of this.

With a group this big, we needed to try the Mi Casita Sampler ($19.95). This appetizer sampler featured a bunch of the appetizers from the Mi Casita menu. There was a cheese quesadilla, buffalo wings, beef taquitos, and calamari included here, along with jalapenos escabeche, sour cream, and another scoop of the lackluster guacamole. The menu says that this feeds four people, but it fed all nine of us, because it was very mediocre. The wings, like the calamari was overly breaded, the taquitos were average, and the best thing included here was the quesadilla, which was your basic version. After eating this, it's easy to imagine them just opening up a big bag of frozen appetizers and dumping them in the fryer.

Entrees made their way out next, and first up is Katie's selection, the Panela Chicken ($15.95). This used a boneless chicken breast as a base, and is then topped with panela cheese, a tomatillo sauce and corn niblets. It also comes served with rice and beans. Katie really enjoyed this dish. She felt the chicken was tender, the panela cheese was lighter than expected, and the tomatillo sauce tied everything up neatly. She would definitely get this again, and is looking for a similar version in OC.

My brother in law Kevin is not really a picky eater. He once told me that a burger from Wendy's is the same to him as one from let's say G Burger. Crazy to a food guy like myself, but I can kind of understand this. He's more of a car guy, and knows the ins and outs of cars, and loves everything about them. I just want a car that's dependable enough to get me to work everyday. Kevin did not really give me much as to whether he liked this Beef Burrito ($11.95) or not. I know it had shredded beef, red sauce, beans, rice, and cheese in it, but he kept pretty tight lipped about his impression of this good sized burrito. We did think it was odd that the burritos at Mi Casita come with fruit, which kind of seemed out of place on the plate. He left the fruit behind when he hurried home to his wife with food to go.

Everyone else, besides myself had tacos at Mi Casita. I don't recall who had this Two Item Combination ($13.95), but it looked real average from across the table. You have your choice of beef or shredded chicken, and this was definitely shredded chicken. No rave reviews for his plate though. The taco shell looked and tasted like something from the grocery shelf. The chicken was okay, with nice crispy tips to it. The best part of this plate for me was the refried beans, which were a little overcooked, but made better with plenty of melty cheese on top of them.

It's probably no surprise to long time readers of this blog what I got on my first visit to Mi Casita. It's my custom to try Carnitas ($15.95) at a Mexican restaurant that I'm trying for the first time. This version was a little all over the map. Some pieces were tender and moist, while others were a little on the dry side. Kind of lackluster in the flavor department also. Not the worst version I have had, but definitely not above average.

Needless to say I was a little disappointed with our visit to Mi Casita. This was very plain, boring and uninspired Mexican food. Not anything that was awful, but it's easy to see why this was not on my list from the start. Katie's mom claims that they wanted to eat here to cut down on costs from other restaurants on my list, but I'd argue that this was way overpriced for mediocre food. An ala carte taco goes for five dollars here, and the eleven dollar burrito are just two of the prices that jumped out at me as being a little out of whack. I know this is a tourist area, and prices are always higher, but I don't mind higher prices if the food is better. We had no issues with the service on this evening. Our server Martin had everything under control during our stay. After eating here, I decided Katie and I would stick to my list for the rest of our visit to beautiful Catalina Island.

Out of five pieces of chewing gum, (because Catalina Island was developed as a tourist destination in the 1920's by chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley), five being best to zero being worst, Mi Casita gets 2 pieces of chewing gum.

To check out Mi Casita for yourself, head to their website here:

Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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