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Dining out: Midway's Tarahumara is a different type of Mexican restaurant

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 4:30 p.m. MDT

Something happened last weekend that has rarely happened before. Call it an Easter near-miracle.

I visited a Mexican restaurant with my parents, who recently bought a house in Midway. Such a restaurant visit has happened many times before.

The nearly-a-miracle happened when THEY LOVED IT.

I'm talking about two people who have spent the past 20 years in Houston, enjoying the excellent Mexican food to be had in that border state. They've become Mexican food connoisseurs, and they don't usually care much for most of the Mex and Tex-Mex in Utah.

Tarahumara was different. The excellence of this Midway Mexican restaurant extends from the warm welcome you get coming through the door to the last spoonful of creamy-sweet housemade dulce de leche cake.

As a former Sizzler employee, I recognized immediately Tarahumara's practice of having diners order up front, take a number and then seat themselves in the dining room, where staff members deliver the food. Tons of crispy tortilla chips — not the best I've ever had, but not bad — were brought to our table, but no salsa.

That's because of Tarahumara's amazing salsa bar, at which I sort of went wild. I could happily have spent the evening scarfing down chips dunked in the more than a dozen concoctions on offer.

Actually, I did try 10: mild and basic "kids' salsa," earthy and dressing-like cilantro cream, fabulous pink spicy pickled onions, fresh pico de gallo and pineapple-mango salsa, wonderfully blended and perfectly chunky salsa reyada, simple guacamole with jalapeño, invigorating tomatillo-manzano with green onions.

I also tried two of the most fiery things I've ever put in my mouth: dark red salsa cascabel asado, which tastes like fire banked in oil, and salsa zandrovia habañero, to all appearences an innocent blend of crunchy carrots, onions and sliced jalapeño that is delicious, and eye-watering, throat-closing hot.

But eventually, we did get around to eating something else. The fish tacos, made with big chunks of fresh mahi mahi, were plainly seasoned but perked right up with some pineapple-mango salsa.

The chicken tortilla soup was great, with a piquant but smooth broth full of the flavors of onions, garlic and chiles, with fresh avocado and crisp tortilla strips on top.

The kids enjoyed well-made, nicely browned quesadillas and simple but high-quality tacos; and my mom and my oldest daughter had absolutely wonderful tamales, with firm silky-textured masa surrounding several wonderful fillings. My favorite was the chile-cheese, but both the beef- and pork-filled varieties were lovely.

My husband had the pork carnitas burritos, while my brother went the gringo route with a surprisingly good cheeseburger and fries. And I had the mole poblano, not quite as intense as some moles I've had, but none the worse for that, with complex flavor and perfectly lean shredded chicken.

The enthusiastic server who came to ask us about dessert started reeling off options, complete with succulent details, like tres leches cake, Mexican chocolate cake, churros and "cheesecake chimichanga" — at which point I just stopped her and said to bring those four, because if I heard about anything else I'd probably order it, as well, so good did everything sound.

They tasted that good, too: dense and barely sweet chocolate cake, tender but firm dulce de leche with lots of berries; soft, almost gooey cheesecake in a crisp-crusted chimi with cinnamon ice cream; and fat little football-shaped churros that, when bitten, dissolved into creamy pastry and cinnamon sugar on the lips.

Appetizers $6.95-$8.95, soup and salad $5.95-$13.95, entree items $9.95-$14.95, kids' meals $5.50, desserts $1.95-$3.95.

Tarahumara

Rating: ★★★1/2

Where: 350 E. Main, Midway

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Sunday

Phone: 435-654-3465

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Wheelchair access: Accessible

Web: www.tarahumara.biz

Also: Catering available; patio seating in summer

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.

email: skratz@desnews.com