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Category Archives: Mexican

Kira’s number 11 1/2: Bajio Mexican Grill

Kira, with a happy mouthful at Bajio.(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

The Place: Bajio Mexican Grill

One of the things that I knew I would miss the most when moving to Indiana was good Mexican food. I even had my going away party at Manuel’s, my favorite Mexican food restaurant back in Arizona. We have not been to every Mexican restaurant in town yet, but thus far I have not been impressed, that is until we got to Bajio. Bajio is not in our phonebook since it opened within the last 9 months. I’m always fairly skeptical with Mexican restaurants, especially chains, but we went to Bajio the first time on the recommendation of our friend Neeraj, and found discovered that it was pretty good, not great, but good. So even though this trip doesn’t stay with our alphabetical rule, it’s not in the phonebook, so we figured we’d review anyways. Besides, we needed a break from 5 sandwich shops in a row.

Interior at Bajio. The Time:
Saturday, June 17, 2006 around 7:30pm

The Atmosphere:
They really are trying to get the Mexican feel, although no place that I’ve been to in Mexico looks like this. There are the typical Adobe walls and desert plants scattered around that remind me of home, as well as some hanging iron lanterns and paintings of cartoonish Mexicans eating burritos. The place is very clean and welcoming. There are a few small patio tables if you wish to eat at outside like we did the first time we ate there since we had the dog with us. But this time we sat inside at a table.

Bajio's Burrito Clasico, with refried beans, sweet rice, and a side of guacamole.The Food:
The food is surprisingly better than at most fast food Mexican restaurants chains, and the portions are big, too. I ordered the Burrito Clasico with beef, and you get your choice of 2 types different types of rice and beans for both the inside and outside of the burrito. For me this was a little too much rice and beans, but I guess there is a reason that those are the staple foods of many cultures. Erik got the chimichanga, which is basically the burrito, but deep fried and covered in sour cream and sauce. Both were pretty good, but I think I would rather have had the tacos or taquitos that we had last time.

We also ordered a side of guacamole and some tortilla chips to dip into my refried beans. The beans were a little bland, but what can you do (except write about it in your blog)? And I say you can’t go too wrong with Guacamole.

The food was not very spicy at all, which was good for me since I am definitely a gringa and cannot handle spicy.

The Service:
The burrito making is done assembly-line style, much like when you eat at a sub shop. I was pleased to see that most, if not all of the staff was Hispanic, even the people working the front line. At other places I often see Hispanics back in the kitchen and white people working the front, which has always bothered me. At Bajio, I have at least a little faith that even though they are a chain, that they are somewhat authentic.

The two men making our burritos were a little shy when we asked if we could take pictures, but they finally let us take some of them.

The Price:
Most meals are $5-7, but you get a LOT of food. If you are a student they have a deal where you get your choice of most of the meals and a soda for only $5.50, which seems like a good deal to me. Maybe I should go back to school just so I can get a discount… (Kira did go back to school to get her teaching certificate. She now teaches high school math. -Erik, May 2014)

One of my favorite parts of Mexican food is eating the refried beans with tortilla chips. Here, tortilla chips do not come with your meal unless you order chips and salsa for $2. I figured that since I just wanted some chips to dip with and we had already paid extra for a side of guacamole that they would just throw some chips on the side of my plate for free. But when I asked for just a little bit of chips, no salsa, they gave me a big plate of chips and still ended up charging me the entire $2 for chips and salsa. Since this wasn’t a sit down restaurant, I know that I shouldn’t have expected to get free chips, but I definitely did not get $2 worth. Next time I’ll bring my own bag of Tostitos.

The Rest:
Considering we don’t have much else to go on in this town, Bajio will fill my Mexican food craving until/unless we find someplace better.

How Often Would I Go Back?
Every 2 months. (What’s this?)

 

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Erik Eats Bajio

Erik, looking smug and satisfied at Bajio.(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

Another entry out of alphabetical order. I can only take so many sandwiches before I start craving a chimichanga. Before I discovered Bajio (thanks, Neeraj), this provided some difficulty. Now I never expected to find high-quality Mexican food in the Midwest, but I figured that we could at least find someplace that makes a decent burrito. I’ve eaten some acceptable tacos at a couple super-fast-food Mexican grease pits (back home, these places always seemed to have names that ended in “-berto’s,” but that may be a regional thing,) but so far, none of the full-service Mexican restaurants have been worth repeat business. (Sadly, all of those decent fast-food places have since closed. Good Mexican fast food is harder than ever to find in Bloomington. -Erik, May 2014) We have yet to visit all the Mexican establishments in the area, so I still hold out hope for a hidden gem. But in the meantime, when I want Mexican food, I’ll probably go to Bajio.

Bajio chimichanga, with both kinds of rice.It surprised me to discover that the food at a national Mexican fast food chain tasted as good as the food at quite a few of the family restaurants in the Southwest that I frequented. The chimichangas and taquitos at Bajio go a long way towards satisfying my cravings. Unfortunately, while they do have a large number of items on the menu, they all seemed like variations upon the same theme to me. They take a tortilla of some sort (or several if you want tacos or taquitos), put your choice of filler in it (chicken, beef, rice, beans, etc.), cover it in your choice of sauce (with optional frying if you order a chimichanga, and I recommend that you do), and plop it on a plate with your choice of rice and beans. You read me correctly: “your choice of rice and beans.” This means that you get to choose whether you want refried or black beans (a not uncommon choice at Mexican restaurants) and whether you want Mexican rice or sweet rice (a somewhat unusual choice for Mexican restaurants.) The tasty meats, sauces, and rices make for an extremely wide variety of taquitos, chimichangas, and (I suspect) enchiladas, but they also make for burritos that taste suspiciously like chimichangas that someone forgot to fry. I know that the original chimichanga supposedly arose from dropping an ordinary burrito into a deep fryer, but the flavors have evolved separately since then, and what makes for a good chimichanga does not make for a great burrito. So I’d stick to food items that taste better when you drench them in sauce than those the more portable varieties of Mexican cuisine. Kira really wanted a good burrito, so I think her food may have disappointed her somewhat.

Painting at Bajio of a man eating a burrito while simultaneously cooking something over a campfire.

I dig this painting for some reason.

Bajio has other advantages over other Mexican restaurants (fast food or otherwise) in the area as well. Firstly, they serve very large meals. Although a very large portion of the meals consist of rice and beans, the entrées have a good heft to them as well. (While the founders of the chain probably didn’t care about authenticity, a meal that consists mostly of rice and beans would actually make a fairly authentic Mexican dinner.) Secondly, they don’t charge a whole lot of money. You can pay eight dollars for a meal, but you have to try. If you have a student ID, the “Student’s Special” ($5.50 for almost any meal plus a soda) will save you a lot of money. Lastly, and most importantly, they know how to make pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo has turned into a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so either forgive me for ranting, or skip to the next paragraph. For those of you don’t know, your basic pico de gallo consists of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Of course you can make it in any of a thousand different varieties, but you have to use those three ingredients, you have to give it a chunky consistency, and above all, you do not use jalapeño peppers. I have nothing against spicy salsas (though I tend not to eat food that makes my mouth hurt), but I find it difficult to think of many less pleasant dining experiences than loading up a burrito with a whole bunch of cool, fresh pico de gallo (people sometimes call it salsa fresca for a reason), taking a big bite, and burning the roof of my mouth off. For some bizarre reason, every other Mexican restaurant in this Dios-forsaken town seems to think that all salsas taste better when spicy. Needless to say, it made me very happy to discover that somebody knows how to make rooster’s beak. (I am now mature enough to admit that the variation of pico de gallo that has jalapeño peppers has a well-established history and can still be called pico de gallo. But I don’t have to be happy about it. -Erik, May 2014)

Apple Beer dispenser at BajioOther than the fact that it serves large quantities of cheap and tasty Mexican food in the Midwest, I don’t have much to say about Bajio. I do get a kick out of the paintings of stereotypical hombres in sombreros and ponchos cooking tortillas over campfires with their burros. Oh, and their soda fountain has apple beer, which has the flavor I’d expect from carbonated apple juice and doesn’t taste nearly as good as it sounds.

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 4, Ooh – 3, Ah – 4, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)

 

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Bajio Mexican Grill

Bajio exterior(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

A Mexican fast food grill

3350 W 3rd St (map)
Bloomington, IN 47404

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 4, Ooh – 3, Ah – 4, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)
How often would Kira eat there? Every two months (what’s this?)
Reviews: Erik, Kira

 

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