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Mexican Restaurant Showdown

With the opening of La Pinata on Church St., Oxford now features three Mexican restaurants for our dining enjoyment. Three. Do we need three? The question is, aren’t they all the same? With this question in mind, we begin our adventure…

La Pinata: *Best Prices in Oxford

La Pinata is the newest to join the fray. Over on Church St, this deceptively large eatery is making a play for some of Fiesta Charra’s uptown customers, whereas El Burrito Loco has its own niche over on Locust. 

What they’re doing right: They have a number of drink specials for the different nights. In a college town, drink specials get you customers. Having the “Broken Pinata” on Wednesday nights doesn’t hurt either. If you don’t know what that is, make the trip and order it, it won’t easily be forgotten. The drinks themselves taste like the others. After all, how many different ways can you serve a pre-made margarita? Therefore, it comes down to prices and Pinata’s got the specials. One senior called Pinata, “A fresh break from Charra and Loco, the drinks are cheaper and you don’t wait nearly as long on a weekend for a seat, it just makes sense.”

Fiesta Charra: *Best Service in Oxford

Charra improved by leaps and bounds a couple years ago when they vacated the building now housing TGD and got their liquor license. They revamped the menu, hired more staff, gave the entire restaurant a makeover and voila, magic was made. Sitting on High St. they’ve got a terrific location and although Pinata is also uptown now, I still think they’ve got the edge.

What they’re doing right: Charra has the atmosphere and service. Beyond the hostess and the delightful register worker, all of the servers and cooks and even bussing people are native Spanish speakers. While this is common in a Mexican restaurant, not all of them can make this claim. Just as well, the move to its current location allowed Charra to invest in a tasteful decorating job that far outdoes the gaudy color scheme of its cross-town rivals. It doesn’t have to be bright to be fun, it just has to have a little charisma. In terms of service, you’re basically going to get your food within minutes of ordering because I think they have an onsite psychic, it’s that fast. A graduate student and avid Charra supporter boasts, “Charra seems like they care, the food is great and fast and still looks great. AND if I liked telanovelas, I could watch them here, they’re dedicated to the cultural aesthetic.”

El Burrito Loco: *Best Taste in Oxford

Loco is just that, Loco. “Loco is an experience. If I want to take a big group and have a good time, I pick this place over the others because the servers get into it too and the drinks are cold and the food is great.” Over by Locust, you may have to drive to get there, which could be a problem for some students, but it doesn’t seem to hurt their loyal customers.

What they’re doing right: By most of those asked, Loco does food the best. It’s not about presentation, it’s not about how fast it comes out, it’s about taste. When you’re full of chips and salsa, sometimes the food is the least of your worries. But for the rest of us who know better and get a side of guac and queso (also fantastic at Loco), and savor the chips, taste is where my money goes.

Some think they’re all the same. The menus are pretty similar, the chips are identical, the sides and margs may differ on different days, but it’s the intangibles that make a person pick one over the other. Do you want prices? Do you want the strangely pleasant sound of the Spanish language lingering between bites? Do you want food that looks like its been tossed on your plate but tastes oh so good? The choice is yours!

(PhotoSource: Al_HikesAZ)

Josh is a graduate student pursuing his Master's degree in History. He has Bachelors degrees in both History and Creative Writing.
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