This week I ventured down State Street and was surprised to see Spices bearing a new name. The new moniker, Frida Mexican Grill, is not owned or managed by the same team as Spices, despite the restaurant’s similar structure. The large seating area, grand staircase, and upper balcony will give you flashbacks of the old Spices days. Opened on August 18th, the Frida personnel commented that business has been very successful. I was very impressed by the ambiance and appearance the new restaurant created; however, I found my meal quite unmemorable and very overpriced.
The interior has been revamped to emulate a Mexican style grill and cantina, adorned with many hand-painted portraits of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter and wife of famous muralist Diego Rivera. The paintings took between 97 and 120 hours to paint, and were created by the new restaurant owner himself. A large mural covering most of the back wall was still being painted when we visited. After its completion, it will have taken over 300 hours to create. The textured walls are painted in southwestern colors, and red string lights outline the bar. The spicy atmosphere and Mexican music made me want to grab a partner and salsa dance.
Frida’s does have a very large menu and we began our meal with the Pollo Xcaret ($7.95), chicken on skewers with a sweet mango chutney sauce. Arriving on top of a bed of shredded lettuce and cabbage were three small skewers with one small piece of chicken on each one. This appetizer did not feed my party of four, and I was extremely disappointed to spend $8 on one bite of chicken.
Within minutes of finishing our appetizer, our entrees arrived. First, we sampled the Burrito De Picadillo ($7.95); a large flour tortilla filled with ground beef, diced onions, rice and mixed cheeses. Served with shredded lettuce and topped with sour cream and pico de gallo, I found the flavor and dish to be just average.
Next we tasted the Nachos Rancheros ($5.95 for one, $7.95 for two), which consisted of tortilla chips topped with melted cheeses, diced tomatoes, olives, chopped green onions, jalapeno peppers, sour cream, refried beans and guacamole. The mountain of nacho chips was enough for a dinner, but the garnishes made the chips soggy and undesirable.
Frida’s has an extensive selection of salads to which chicken and shrimp can be added for an extra charge. The Ensalada Fiesta Tostados ($7.95) is typical of your average taco salad. A crispy flour tortilla shell is filled with black beans, romaine lettuce, red cabbage, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, avocado and jalapenos, which are tossed in an avocado cilantro dressing. The dressing was tasty, but I needed more to accommodate the large salad. For $2.50 extra, we added five nice-sized shrimp. The salad was very tasty, but once again, I was not thinking, “Wow.”
The menu also includes two selections of soup, sizzling fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, etc. Frida’s charges extra for homemade guacamole ($2.95), Pico De Gallo ($1.50) and extra flour or corn tortillas ($1.50). Overall, my meal was enjoyable, but nothing extremely impressive that would leave me asking, “When can I come back?”
However, I would come back for their drink specials. Monday through Friday you will find very good prices on specific drinks and appetizers. For example, on Margarita Mondays, margaritas are half-price all day. On Taco Tuesdays, tacos are $1 from 3-7 p.m., and domestic beers are $2 all day long. Wednesday, appetizers are half priced from 3-7 p.m. and Sangria is $3 all day. These specials made a greater impression than the food.
I found the service to be excellent and fast. Our free chips and salsa were refilled shortly after we had emptied the bowl, and our food arrived very quickly. Our meal took only 40 to 45 minutes. I was glad that I visited the Frida Mexican Grill because I like to try new things, but I would rather go to Q’doba or Chipotlé and pay less for the same quality food.
Until next week, happy dining!
Next Monday, Badger Bistro will visit the Cold Stone Creamery.