An ‘Americanized take on Mexican cuisine’: Mesa challenges tradition, offers a ‘satisfying experience’

Mesa Modern Mexican’s quesadilla dish is one of ‘indulgence and strong flavors.’ (Photo by Brian Craven ’20)

If you are looking for authentic Mexican cuisine, you may not find it at Mesa. Instead, you can expect a blend of American and Mexican tastes that create a great dining experience.

When waiters bring the guacamole out and mix it tableside in a fancy mortar and pestle, you might feel that you stumbled into a small chain restaurant. The beauty of this restaurant is that Mesa could care less because they know as long as the experience and food are good, they will have you coming back.

The space evokes the feeling of a classic Mexican restaurant but follows a modernized and minimized approach to that ambiance. The waiters are friendly and attentive, and when they are not too busy, some can be outgoing. 

The menu is not bashful in its Americanized take on Mexican cuisine. The menu is primarily composed of Americanized Mexican classics such as enchiladas, carne asada tacos and quesadillas.  There are also numerous Mexican-American dishes such as the Mexican wings and Mac’ n’ Queso.

While I care very deeply for proper cultural representation, and I greatly value the importance of classic tradition and technique, I have a lot of respect for chefs that say, “Screw it! I am going to serve what I am going to serve.” 

I imagine that this chef relishes the ability to meld these two cultures into tasty dishes.  While there are some that say that this Americanization is harmful to food, I think when done properly, you can create a space that allow chefs to express themselves through innovation and creation.

There is certainly a place for perfected tradition and more purist approaches. Just look at ramen in Japan, pasta in Italy, or tacos in Mexico. We certainly can’t let these die out, but I believe that if you don’t challenge tradition, then you will be stuck in the past.  

While Mesa is not a perfect example of this, it certainly does show how American and Mexican influences can result in a successful restaurant that offers a satisfying experience.  At the end of the day, chefs are trying to create good food, and if they accomplish this by melding cultures, does it matter that they are not rooted in tradition?

Whether I go here with four friends or by myself, I always order (and finish) a bowl of guacamole.  It may be mixed table side, but this fancy presentation does not have to compensate for quality of flavor. There is a great balance of the basic ingredients, and the texture is perfectly executed. Honesty, there have been some times that I have gone to Mesa just for the guacamole.

Another standout dish is the steak-filled carne asada quesadilla.  This quesadilla is filled with cheddar, mozzarella and steak and topped with diced bell peppers and a rich yet mild chipotle aioli. The dish is all about indulgence and strong flavors.

This is a great restaurant for dates, friends or parents.  The prices are not crazy, which makes it somewhat student-friendly.  They take reservations through OpenTable, which is recommended on the weekends, but not as necessary for weeknights.  They also take Easton Gift Cards which is a plus.

While this restaurant may not be serving authentic Mexican cuisine, it is still serving some good food, so it is certainly worth your time.

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