Hacienda Mexican Restaurant

| Stepping Out Columnist
Courtesy of Hacienda

The outdoor patio at Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant about 10 minutes from campus.

9748 Manchester Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63119
(314) 962-7100
$10-15

There are few things that I like more than frequenting Mexican restaurants and consuming too many of their complimentary chips. About two weeks ago, I was standing in line to get a cinnamon roll at Cici’s all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. After the little boy in front of me took the last four, I turned in despair and saw out the window another restaurant called “Hacienda.” Judging by the restaurant’s Macaroni Grill-esque exterior, Hacienda seemed like a fairly Americanized institution. But because of the large volume of patrons entering its doors, I decided to check it out.

Entering Hacienda, you immediately get the feeling that you are at the T.G.I. Friday’s version of Mexican food. The restaurant assures customers that they are in a nice, family-owned Mexican establishment, when in reality I get the sense that Hacienda is actually owned by some evil corporate conglomerate in Manhattan. If you care about authenticity, you may not care to go here. If you care about chips, read on.

My waitress was very welcoming and nice. I would have liked our chip basket to be replenished more frequently, but in general the food came out speedily, and it appeared that she was trying hard.

As for the food, the chips were, as expected, the most redeeming quality of this restaurant, and therefore a focal point for my review. They were fresh and flaky, with a different density than I am accustomed to. As opposed to the firmness of a Tostitos chip, Hacienda’s version was doughier and airy. I especially enjoyed the little bit of salt sprinkled on them, making the chips especially addictive. As for the salsa—well, go buy some generic medium salsa from a store and you’ll replicate the Hacienda variety: not very special.

For an appetizer I ordered the nachos. These consisted of more chips (yes!), refried beans, jalapeno peppers and cheddar cheese. I am truly a horrible cook. Making Hot Pockets pushes my limits. Let’s just say if I had access to refried beans, even I could have made these mediocre nachos. The chips were good, as expected, but the cheddar cheese lacked any sharp taste, the peppers were pretty dull and the smooth taste of the beans didn’t bring any liveliness to the plate. At $5, I was disappointed with this small and lackluster appetizer.

The first main course was the chicken enchilada verde: chicken wrapped with corn tortillas and topped with sour cream, lettuce and what was supposed to be a spicy green tomatillo sauce. The chicken was stringy and didn’t really offer any succulent flavor. Unfortunately, the tomatillo sauce did not make things much better. Rather than being spicy, I found it much more comparable to the shockingly mild “mild” sauce at Taco Bell, and it failed to activate many taste receptors. The Spanish rice was fairly tame as well, besides its orange color. I didn’t mind eating this entree. I’d like to stress, however, that this is not because the enchiladas were particularly good, but because eating chicken wrapped in carbs and lathered in sour cream isn’t something I could ever see myself opposing.

The steak fajitas were far more interesting than the enchiladas. Fairly tender, spiced steak was served sizzling on the plate, accompanied by bell peppers and onions. There was definitely a kick to this plate that the others lacked. I also really enjoyed the subtle lime flavor drizzled on it, a nice contrast to the meat’s spiciness. Interestingly, the peppers and onions almost showed up the steak. Each had a wonderful crunchiness that made biting into them a joy. In particular, the seared taste of the steak in conjunction with the juicy onions was delicious.

One complaint: I wish they’d have given me some guacamole instead of asking an extra $1.65 for it. Oh well—if you come to Hacienda, you have to get the fajitas. The guacamole is up to you.

Overall, Hacienda was an interesting experience. It’s about 10 minutes away from campus, is relatively cheap and offers deals everyday until seven o’clock. I doubt you’ll be upset if you eat here. Having said that, my trip wasn’t particularly memorable, and I’d advise driving an extra five minutes to Pueblo Solis if you’re looking for higher quality, low-cost Mexican food.