sizzling, and shiny…
Fiesta Mexicana, a South-of-the-Border restaurant in Moab since 2004, creates
a Mexican party for every customer. From the brightly colored décor that
is more-Mexican-than-Mexico to the dizzying array of menu choices, the restaurant
evokes familiar memories of similar-themed family dining. The distinguishing
feature about this place is its claim of authenticity, supported by an all Latin
American staff who assured me that the food is truly what they would eat in their
The spacious restaurant is segmented into rows of booths that recreate the impression
of eating in a small cantina. The front displays fountains, lanterns, wooden
parrots and bronze bells. A replica of a Spanish-tiled veranda runs the length
of the restaurant, completing the image of a Mexican courtyard. Although the
set-up of the restaurant creates a cozy feel, both the interior and the enclosed
patio are roomy, making Fiesta Mexicana an ideal place for hosting large parties.
It is also well suited to family dining with children because of the booths’ semi-privacy.
Upbeat Mexican music plays throughout the evening, allowing kids to make a little
noise without disrupting nearby diners.
If the description of this festive restaurant sounds familiar, it could be because
you’ve already eaten in one, located somewhere else. Fiesta Mexicana is
the latest of ten to open up. The others are located throughout the west, in
New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.
Although the owner is a Durango resident
named Martin Rangel, the current manager of the restaurant
is Tony Ramirez, who is originally from Guadalajara and
speaks English with a Hispanic accent.
His explanation of why Rangel chose to open his tenth restaurant
here is simple and compelling, “We wanted to open
this unique, authentic restaurant in a unique place, which
Moab is with its arches and red rocks.”
of the Month
1 pat of butter
1 square chocolate
(preferably the brand “Chocolate Abuelita”)
3 tsp. Chiles Huajillo
(that have been rehydrated with a bay leaf)
1 tsp. Paprika
10 crushed Animal Crackers
(I was assured that the “elephantes” work
3 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Peanut butter
1 tsp. Sesame seed paste (like Tahini)
Blend the chocolate, chiles, paprika
and animal crackers to form a mole paste. Heat a
pat of butter in a frying pan. Add sugar and sautee
for about 5 minutes, until sugar melts. Add the peanut
butter, sesame seed paste and mole. Sautee until
well blended together. Pour Mole Poblano over chicken
or chicken enchiladas and sprinkle sesame seeds on
Edgar, the corporate chef, is originally from Guadelajara, Mexico. Although he
has spent the last ten years in the States, he speaks little English and has
kept very close to his Mexican roots. He asserts that the food he prepares for
Fiesta Mexicana is truly authentic and his background would indicate as much.
He acquired his culinary talents as much from classes as from watching his mother
and grandmother, whose recipes he uses.
The menu seems never-ending in its options of seafood dishes,
chicken entrees, enchiladas, burritos and salads. There
is also a plentiful selection on the kid’s
menu and many vegetarian options and side orders. The portions
are as plentiful as the choices.
Fiesta Mexicana offers several house specialties, such
as Mojarra Rellena (a whole Tilapia fish filled with octopus
and shrimp) and Tacos de Pescado (two fish tacos, marinated
and sautéed in butter, Pico de Gallo and spices).
For the month of July, Chef Edgar has planned some particularly
tantalizing specialties, particularly for seafood lovers.
He plans on offering Camarones Borrachos, a savory dish
of shrimp sautéed in brandy and red Burgandy (justifying the
name of “Drunk Shrimp”). Edgar is making sure
that the summer season is a great time to be dining at
Although Tony sounds like he’s quoting a familiar pop song when he describes
the restaurant as a “shiny, happy place,” he
hits the nail on the head. Fiesta Mexicana succeeds in
creating a festive atmosphere fit to celebrate any occasion,
evidenced by the bulletin board of birthday photos located
in its entrance.
The staff at Fiesta Mexicana makes birthdays fun and special
by giving the celebrant flan for desert (watch out for
whip cream on your nose - it’s part of the
photo op) and singing “Happy Birthday” in English and “Las
Mananitas” in Spanish.
Of course, you don’t have to wait ‘til your
birthday to celebrate Latin-style. Eating at Fiesta Mexicana
is a festive occasion every day, a fiesta in every forkful.