Well, here it is time again for Cinco de Mayo, which almost always occurs during the first week of May for some reason.
We’ve already discussed in the past how this holiday has, like St. Patrick’s Day, been co-opted by Americans as an excuse to eat and drink too much. If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Cinco de Mayo and how in Mexico it’s mostly a non-event, check out my previous rant.
But if that doesn’t dissuade you, I have a new Mexican restaurant where you can go and celebrate, though perhaps quietly.
Things were disturbingly quiet when I drove up to Riviera Maya on a recent Saturday evening, around 7:30. In fact, when I walked through the door, I discovered that I was the only person there besides the owner, who greeted me with apropos bonhomie, or whatever the Spanish translation of that French term would be.
Usually, my instincts tell me to turn and run from a place as empty as that, but I sort of felt sorry for the guy, so I took a seat (my choice) and ordered.
I figured I’d go all out for the Mexican Riviera Grande combination, a feast of three items of the diner’s choice. I went with the pork tamale, chicken enchilada and shredded beef taco. I asked — really as a means to verify what I was pretty sure would be the case — if the taco was a soft shell. The fellow seemed a bit surprised and said, “Oh, you prefer a soft shell?” But I think there might have been a misunderstanding. The taco was served in a flour shell instead of corn. I wanted a soft corn shell, but there you go. For a taco made with a doughy flour tortilla, it was fine.
The tamale was better, though, meaty bits of pork inside a densely packed corn-masa shell. And the enchilada was filled with plenty of moist shredded chicken.
The plate came with refried beans and rice, though to be honest neither one was very special. And as long as we’re being honest, the food here is more Tex-Mex than Mex, but I wasn’t complaining — it filled a void, and I was quite satisfied.
The owner was friendly to the end — by which time a few more tables were occupied — and I found the space to be pleasant and comfortable despite the in-your-face placement of the flat-screen tvs.
Riviera Maya Mexican Grill is in the Royal Oak Village Shopping Plaza, 168 S. Semoran Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. It has no website. Entrees range from $8.99 to $16.99. My combo platter was $10.99. The phone number is 407-737-2810.