Baja Miguel’s – Las Vegas, NV


Baja Miguel’s
@ South Point Hotel and Casino
9777 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 796 7111

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Earlier in some other posts, I alluded to the fact that I was not in an overly hungry mood during my recent trip to Las Vegas, often sticking with just one big meal and a snack to carry me through the entire day. On one of those days, my main was a shocking one, especially when it came to volume. I often have to remind myself when going to the States, how large portions can be and to remember to downsize any order whenever possible (e.g. large to a medium for instance in the case of a soft drink).

Baja Miguel’s is located on the second floor inside the South Point Hotel and Casino. As I knew nothing about the building, I thought I’d take a chance and do a walk through to see if there was anything special about it, as I kind of felt sorry for it being located so far south of the main action on The Strip. As a result, I can confidently report there was nothing significant about the casino floor, and clearly no special attractions that would interest those non-gambling visitors either.

The customers that were inside the restaurant seemed to be a different group from what you’d find in the core of the city’s gambling area. A lot more roughly dressed, older (eg. over 40’s), and clearly tourists from mainly other American states, and with looks on their faces that they were here to grab a quick bite before heading back to the main floor gaming areas. At this point, as we were getting shown to our booth seats, I figured it was too late and frankly I was not that overly energetic to do a 180 degree turn and go find something else in the city. Decor-wise, it reminded me of a late ’80s chain restaurant that could use a serious renovation, though it was quite spacious and well lit.

I suppose one nice immediate touch was the delivery of a big basket of tortilla chips that were accompanied by a trio of dips (guacamole, another liquid-y bean sauce, and salsa). I think for the Latino man who brought it out to our table, this was his primary task, as I saw him make the same drop off at other tables when customers arrived, but never any of their food orders. Our server was a pleasant middle-aged woman with a rich Southern accent, I’m guessing she was from nearby Texas. Our glasses of water (with lemon wedges) and other drinks were asked for and brought out promptly by her as we started into the menu.

Scanning the large lunch menu booklet, it was divided up into sections labeled Botanas (Appetizers), Sopas Y Ensaladas (Soups and Salads), Platos Combinados (Combination Platters), Burritos, and what they called Traditional Favorites. Nothing really stood out for me, so I went with what they dubbed a Burrito El Patron, which included the choice of either chicken or charbroiled steak, added with jack and cheddar cheeses, rice, beans and sour cream and rolled in a flour tortilla.

When it came to the table, I was in awe at how big it was, covering the width of the entire plate and as thick as a generously stuffed sub sandwich. As I selected the steak, I was pleased to find they were generous with it, and the nice smoky, charcoal scent coming from them was nice as I was fearful of something just seared on a hot plate in the kitchen. The cheese that smothered the burrito was also not light handed, and I was happy that the tortilla was plenty soft and not stale nor brittle from being heated up too long. The overall flavor though I felt was weak, just not bold enough in the seasoning of the meat and the sauce was just as bland.

My dining companion went with a much more simpler plate in the Chicken Quesadillas, grilled with cheddar cheese, and served with sides of sour cream, guacamole and salsa. I had a few bites of it, and while the tortilla was again very nice, the chicken was quite stringy and when eaten alone, you could tell it was not really seasoned. Now to me, there is nothing worse than flavorless chicken meat, even if it is wrapped in a good tortilla and they expect you to eat it with the supplied sides to give the added flavor. Lastly, I did appreciate they did not overly compress it in a hot press as you find in a lot of bad North American chain Tex-Mex places, and it becomes the thickness of a centimeter.

It was not until we started eating, that we noticed a small card inside one of those clear plastic table stands, that showed there was a daily lunch special for just under $9. In hindsight, I had wished our server had mentioned this, as quantity-wise (soup plus choice of two entrees among an enchilada, flauta, taco or chili relleno), I think this would have been a much more palatable option.

To conclude my thoughts on Baja Miguel’s, I would say that it was not horrible, but just an average place in the true sense of the world. Clean, decent service and attitude, and plentiful servings but not overwhelming tasty. A step back from the down-home, but more glamorous restaurants in the more well known casino hotels. Basically, a first visit will be your last, unless you are actively seeking mediocre…

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Andale’s Mexican and Spanish Cuisine – Vancouver, BC


The now controversial animated cartoon figure, Speedy Gonzales, is a memory from my childhood of watching Looney Tunes television shows on Saturday mornings in my pajamas and clutching a box of cereal. His famous phrase “andale, andale, ariba, ariba!” remains in my head to this very day. The flashback came to me as I stepped inside Andale’s Mexican and Spanish Cuisine on West Broadway for a quick take out lunch recently. With not much time to spare, I was indeed hoping it would live up to its name and be fast, though I certainly had some trepidations about the authenticity and quality.

Deciding to play it safe just to be sure, and to get something filling and easy to take away, my first choice was a beef burrito with what they called a “colorado sauce”. It was a good sized, soft flour tortilla stuffed with a thick combination of beef and shredded sauteed onions. The entire package was dredged in a slightly thick but mainly watery consistency brown sauce, almost gravy like. It was totally missing any heat or depth of flavor, which threw me as I expected something I’ve had elsewhere with a sauce named similar to this one, which had red chilies in it.

As a result, the flavors were dependent on the bland burrito contents, and to make things worse, the whole thing was getting quite soggy from the sauce as I got about halfway through. The accompanying black beans were also really dull and tasteless.

The chicken quesadilla was not much better, in fact, I think I preferred the beef burrito. The fillings of cheese and chicken breast meat were again not really seasoned well, missing a strong semblance of heat as well. The slices were also draped in what was supposed to be an ancho sauce minus the heat, as all I could really taste was some onions and garlic, along with some herbs like cumin and oregano. Again, your run-of-the-mill quesadilla that could have been made in any of the city’s chain restaurants, or even at home by a half-decent home cook. The same forgettable black beans that came with the buritto were here again.

Both items came with a small mixed salad, but the take-out packs did not have any side portions of rice, or the free chips and salsa that were available through dine-in.

I’m not sure what the city’s best options are for true Mexican food, but this clearly was not it – just generalized, simplified, and taste-reduced Tex-Mex to me.  It made me long for the great meals I had at the home of an old college classmate from Mexico, who first introduced me to the cuisine of his country a decade ago.

As a positive, I’ll say it was fast, coming out of the kitchen ten to fifteen minutes after the order was placed. The sunny day brought out the patio lovers (mostly business lunches it seemed), but the inside was completely dead. I am curious what its like at night, both in terms of the clientele, the atmosphere (maybe the darkness hides some of the dreary and tacky symbolic plastic beer bottles handing from the ceiling, or the wall of sombreros tacked to it), and of course the food. If none of it seems any better, I’ll be outta there faster than my old pal, “the fastest mouse in all of Mexico”!

Andale’s Mexican and Spanish Cuisine
3211 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 738-9782

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