Rafael's has made its move just fine.

The Sandy restaurant, which has been serving Mexican food since 1979, recently moved from a nearby location to the Quarry Bend shopping center.

The move was fraught with complications — the restaurant's owners held several benefits to raise the funds to complete the new restaurant — but the result is a clean and comfortable dining room broken nicely into several smaller sections. A sense of space and light prevails, thanks to the windows on three sides of the restaurant.

I usually don't get appetizers at a Mexican restaurant, thanks to the chips and salsa that most provide free. The chips at Rafael's are the bagged kind, but they go nicely with the soupy, flavorful housemade salsa that comes with them. In this case, I couldn't resist a little addition to our chips: the subtle, creamy and rich bean dip topped with melted cheese.

There's no kids' menu at Rafael's, but there are a la carte items with big kid appeal, plus reasonably priced sides and kids' drinks in lidded cups. Two of my daughters had the beef taquitos, rolled tight and fried nice and crispy, with salsa on the side. I thought the seasoned beef was a little bland, possibly because it was sparse inside the taquito, but the girls loved it.

Our other daughter shared a ham and cheese quesadilla with our son. The quesadilla was seared brown and just a little crisp on each side and generously filled with cheese and meat. The kids also shared a couple of side orders of refried beans and fluffy, mild Mexican rice.

My husband had the shredded beef chimichanga, an excellent example of its kind that achieved a great balance between its thin and crisp, just-out-of-the-oil outside and a warm, chewy layer of tortilla underneath. It was generously filled with mild, savory beef with sour cream and chunky guacamole on top.

I had the tres carnes alambre, a different version of fajitas than most of us know (you can get the regular kind, too). On a steaming griddle plate was a fragrant blend of thick pieces of steak, ham, bacon, mushrooms, onions and green pepper, all of it topped with melted cheese. The ham and bacon gave smoky flavor to everything, and the griddle caramelized and powered up the flavors of all the ingredients. The only thing I missed was the frijoles charros (bacon and beans) that the menu said is served alongside.

I scooped the delicious mess up in the accompanying warm tortillas, though I wished for some sour cream, guacamole or pico de gallo. Luckily, this meal comes with unlimited trips to the salad bar, so I took advantage of the many sauces and fixings there to bring back some sweet-fiery green chile sauce for my alambre.

For dessert, the kids shared a tasty strawberry-banana "liquado" (smoothie) served in a huge stemmed glass while my husband and I downed a plate of crisp, pillow-shaped sopaipillas with honey and a serving of rich flan.

Nachos (half and full-size portions) $3.29-$10.99; soup $3.50-$5.25; salad $3.99-$8.40; a la carte tacos and the like $2.85-$9.60; enchiladas, burritos and chimichangas $5.85-$10.35; specialties and combination plates $6.95-$12.30; specialty drinks and desserts $2.49-$3.79.

Rafael's

Rating: ***

Where: 9108 Village Shop Drive (off 9400 South in Quarry Bend), Sandy

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards, checks accepted

Phone: 561-4545

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: On the Web at www.rafaelsmex.com


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

E-mail: skratz@desnews.com