For those who don’t speak Spanish, molcajete means “mortar and pestle,” as in the kitchen implement used to grind fresh spices. The implication of the name of the new Los Molcajetes restaurant in Mansfield is that the food is handmade and more authentically Mexican than Tex-Mex.
We found Los Molcajetes, on the U.S. 287 frontage road near Walnut Lane, to be surprisingly busy for a Sunday night. It’s a large space, a former Johnny Carino’s that has been transformed with the aid of half-a-dozen colors of paint, and although we didn’t have a wait, there were not many empty tables.
The chips brought to our table seemed like they were poured out of a plastic bag, but the two salsas that were served with them spoke of the promised on-premises freshness. A large bowl of mild salsa boasted chunks of cut peppers and herbs, and a small dish of a more finely pureed salsa was hot in both senses of the word. The small bowl was steaming when it landed on our table.
The menu is large, with a couple of surprises, including quail. We went more traditional, though.
Beef and shrimp fajitas for one ($17.75) was a massive quantity of food, though it doesn’t come with cheese and sour cream. You order those separately for 99 cents. The strips of steak were well-seasoned and reasonably tender but be warned about the shrimp: They’re served tails on, so you’ll need to remove the shell part.
The fajitas were served with three tortillas, grilled onions and bell peppers; a separate good-sized plate filled with Mexican rice, guacamole and lettuce; and a small bowl of charro beans. We liked the soupy charro beans, and we could see making a light meal of just the beans.
My dining partner has a thing for mole, so he selected the pollo con mole ($13.25). The pollo was advertised as a “grilled chicken breast” but turned out, disappointingly, to be cubes of chicken, making this a less elegant dish than we had expected.
The mole sauce met expectations, a deep reddish brown sauce with earthy flavors and a hint of sweetness. It was accompanied by rice and refried beans. We are particular about refried beans, finding them too bland in many restaurants. These refrieds had a richness to them that met our flavor criteria.
This is the third location of Los Molcajetes, a long-standing far north Fort Worth staple that also has a Roanoke location. The new south Tarrant outpost, opened in early July, is expanding its menu as it gets more experience under its belt, and it just added weekend brunch. Breakfast is our favorite time for Mexican food, so we’ll try the brunch on our next visit.
960 U.S. 287 N.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday