What distinguishes Don Tequila from the vast majority of Mexican-themed restaurants in Western New York?
Geography, certainly. It’s in Orchard Park, which makes it the only Mexican place in town.
When it comes to the menu, though, there’s not many unusual offerings in its collection of best-hits Mexican. Don Tequila offers the usual mix-and-match combinations of burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, tamales, enchiladas, taquitos and chalupas, and dinner plates built around pork chops, braised pork, shrimp, steak and chicken breast.
If a restaurant’s food is satisfying, predictability isn’t a grievous flaw, though. Don Tequila succeeds at delivering most of Western New York American-Mexican cuisine’s basics with dispatch.
The place has a barroom facing the street, so you walk into a tavern setting. You can find your way through to the large dining room, or enter through an alley on the side of the building.
Our server brought us warm, salty tortilla chips and a carafe of thin salsa, which had a bit of crunch and only a tickle of heat. It was juicy enough to lightly coat chips, not a scoopable salsa.
The jumbo $3 margaritas were tangy, sweet and refreshing, but not too heavy on the tequila. That might be a good thing if you have to drive, but not if you’re hell-bent on a budget buzz.
The guacamole ($3.75) featured chunky avocado, onion, tomato, green bell pepper and fresh cilantro, much to Cat’s approval. “I hate guacamole that has nothing to it,” she said. When we used up our tortilla chips, the server quickly brought more. Throughout the meal, service was prompt and attentive.
We ordered a cocktail de camarones, or shrimp cocktail ($11.95), looking for a walk on the wild side. What arrived was a large goblet holding about 15 thumb-sized poached shrimp, in spicy tomato juice with onion, cilantro and chunks of avocado, that were a bit stiff, unlike the guacamole. The shrimp were crisp and soaked up the Mexican flavors well, making it a welcome appetizer for shrimp cocktail lovers tired of the usual horseradish.
Chicken enchiladas with mole sauce ($7.25) was three tortillas rolled around moist, shredded chicken. The sweet, sticky brown mole sauce left an impression of cinnamon and chili, almost like Mexican hot chocolate. It wasn’t the most deeply flavored mole I’ve had, but it still satisfied.
An order of three carne asada tacos ($10.99) arrived with the tacos individually wrapped in foil. The tortillas held plenty of beefsteak, onions and cilantro. A little dish of pico de gallo was fresh and crunchy, supplying brightness. Unfortunately, the beef was chewier than I prefer.
A choripollo plate ($11.25), with thinly cut chicken filet topped with queso cheese sauce and crumbled chorizo (or Mexican sausage), was a guilty pleasure. The savory duo of spiced pork and cheese melted together to turn the lean chicken breast into a thrill ride, albeit a salty one.
Like most of Don Tequila’s dinner plates, it came with beans and rice. The smooth refried beans were decently creamy and earthy. The Mexican rice mixture, dotted with peas and corn, featured rice that was firm and moist.
I asked for the carnitas dinner ($12.99), and got a pile of pork chunks with sauteed onions, with more beans and rice on the side. The pork was tender enough – you could shred it with a fork – but I prefer carnitas cooked with more spices. I wished I had more of that pico de gallo.
The cooking is mostly satisfactory, and the prices are reasonable. Don’t expect it to rival your favorite place in San Antonio, but Don Tequila should hit the spot for diners craving Mexican in the Southtowns.
Rating: 7 of 10 plates
Competent cooking, moderate prices give Southtowns Mexican fans another choice.
WHERE: 4226 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park (508-8257)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Quesadillas, nachos, burritos $2.75-$8.99; dinners $8.50-$21.95.
PARKING: On the street.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.