Cheap eats for amigos

Welcome to Cheap Eats 2022 with a Mexican twist. Our team visited local eateries in Perth and surrounds to review some popular Mexican eateries that won’t have you shelling out too much.

Nachos and tacos from Mexican Kitchen, reviewed by Guanhao Cheng

Mexican Kitchen, in South Terrace Fremantle, was busy at 6.45pm on a Saturday. I was seated in a downstairs dining area which was dimly lit by low ceiling lights and a candle at each table. There was a nice lively energy at the restaurant and the staff were very friendly and helped offer service right away. Smiles all round and happy-to-be-of-service. It was slightly short staffed on the night though, so the food was ordered off a QR code which directed me to their interactive online menu.

I ordered the Macho Nachos for two with slow cooked beef ($25.50), with a side of guacamole ($4.50) and two chorizo tacos ($13). The food came 15 minutes after the order was placed. The restaurant was well patronised that night, so it was impressive that the food came so quickly.

The tacos had a kick with the chorizo sauce but were slightly dry. The sauce was spicy and yummy and definitely added to my enjoyment, as someone who likes spice. The onion provided a nice crunch and contrasted well with the softness of the minced meat and diced potato. However, the tacos came in small portions that I would consider entrée sized.

The nachos definitely delivered on the portion, were thoroughly cheesy, and had nice crunchy corn chips. I was personally a fan of the contrast of crunchy outer corn chips and the softer chips near the centre, where all the slow-cooked beef was layered, that had absorbed some of the beef’s rich sauce but not so much as to break when picked up. My only complaint would be the bigger pieces of beef being a bit dry. Near the centre of that hill of nachos, the smaller pieces of tender beef fell apart, as slow-cooked beef should, but the bigger chunks that were not in the meaty centre seemed to have dried out and weren’t nice to eat.

Neither food had any particularly strong smell but they both tasted good and looked nice in the dim ambient lighting of the restaurant.

This was a slightly disappointing visit. I have been to Mexican Kitchen before, and their food was bang on. Whether the short staffing on the night played a factor on the food quality or not, I’m not sure. The nachos were worth the price, despite the dry bits of beef, because the size was generous. (I had so much, I had to take away what I couldn’t finish). The tacos were a bit overpriced for their size and quality this time.  But overall, I’d still recommend the place.

Mexican Kitchen tacos and nachos. Photos: Guanhao Cheng.

Burrito Bowl and chips from Guzman y Gomez, reviewed by Elliahn Blenkinsop

I arrived through the back door of Guzman y Gomez in Leederville. A hallway led to the main dining area. I walked through the group of uber eats drivers and noticed it was not too busy, not to my surprise, as it was a Wednesday night. Immediately the atmosphere was set as the strong ceiling lights left nothing to the imagination in the open plan room with booths lining each wall. 

Every second booth was either filled with distracted working people, with AirPods-in, eating their solo meals, or couples cuddled in the corner of one seat. I’d describe the restaurant as more of a fast food chain, however, as I stood in line my qualms about the set up faded as the amazing Mexican aromas filled my nose. 

The Guzman menu is set out to ‘build your own’, meaning diners choose the structure and content of their meals, resulting in the people in front of me in the line taking slightly longer than I had expected. Although, when eating Mexican food I love an array of toppings and choices, so I wasn’t fussed.

I ordered a spicy vegetarian burrito bowl with sautéed vegetables and added shredded lettuce and smoky chipotle salsa. I also added a side of chips and queso. Both were vegetarian and gluten free, which impressed me as I am coeliac. Another thing I was pleased with happened before I arrived when reading their dietary menu. I found out they have separate fryers for their churros, meaning the fries are coeliac-safe. 

The staff were all very friendly and the man that took my order was happy to answer any questions I had about allergens or chip sizes. He made small talk and seemed to genuinely care. 

Altogether my meal cost $15. My food came out about 10 minutes later and the portion size was beyond worth the price. The dishes were colourful with guacamole, tomatos and lettuce. The presentation was good with the layering building a mountain-shaped meal. My only point is that they could have improved by not covering all the veggies with the cheese. 

I first tried the chips. They were perfectly cooked and crunchy and had a delicious seasoning which was probably paprika salt. The mild queso dip was the star of the show, it was topped with fresh diced tomato and coriander which cut through the saltiness of the cheese and the chips. I could only have a few chips to save room for my bowl. I mixed all the ingredients together to ensure no spoonful missed anything.

Immediately, I was hit with the spice, which although did not ruin the meal made me aware to get “mild” sauce and salsa next time. The meal was perfectly balanced with a great amount of veggies and not too much rice or beans, however, I would’ve liked some more shredded lettuce, especially considering it cost extra. The vegetables were all cooked perfectly and the shredded lettuce provided a nice crunch to break through all the soft ingredients. 

The overall meal was very good, however, there was a bit too much salsa, which in some mouthfuls overpowered the flavours of the veggies, rice and beans. 

I would recommend Guzman y Gomez to any friend whether they have dietary requirements or not, they have a vast selection of different Mexican dishes from burritos, to nacho fries to burrito salads. They are a great cheap eats option and have many locations around Perth. They are walk-in only, but due to only serving in takeaway containers they usually have lots of dine-in availability. My advice is to explore their topping selection, as that is where your meal can be taken to the next level. 

Burrito bowl and sides from Guzman y Gomez. Photo: Elliahn Blenkinsop.

Zambrero’s Beechboro, reviewed by Jesmine Cheong

I went to the Zambrero’s in Beechboro at lunchtime on a Saturday. The store had a nice ambience, lo-fi music playing softly and a spicy aroma filling the air. The staff were friendly, helpful and efficient. As I approached the ordering station, I was welcomed by a staff member who asked me about my day. I ordered two regular two lamb tacos with extras: jalapenos, guacamole, sour cream and chipotle for $10.40. I also ordered the small pulled pork nachos with guacamole, sour cream and chipotle for $6.40.

What I found interesting was the wide array of options for vegans, coeliacs and dairy-free dietary requirements. Not only providing substitutes, but replica sauces and cheeses. The staff member advised what sauces went particularly well with the tacos and the nachos, explaining that the chipotle has a smoky aftertaste which complemented the meat. She assembled my meal in less than 5 minutes, while maintaining the conversation, which made the wait time feel non-existent. 

I first tried the soft tacos. The lamb was tender and juicy and the ratio between the vegetables was almost perfect, crunching down onto crispy lettuce and juicy tomatoes. However, the serving of lettuce was slightly excessive and dominated the the tacos. The sauces really complemented these tacos, the smokey chipotle matched well with the peppery lamb and the guacamole added a kick of freshness.

The nachos were equally delicious, however the presentation was lacking. The toppings were well balanced, the corn chips were crispy with an even amount of pulled pork throughout the corn chips. The serving of guacamole was generous. The chipotle sauce in this meal was slightly over powering, as the meal was already paired with generous amounts of toppings. Although the flavours were very complementary, I think there should of been less sauce in comparison to the size of the nachos.

Nachos and tacos from Zambrero Beechboro. Photo: Jesmine Cheong.

Mad Mex Joondalup, reviewed by Lauren Cherry

Embracing my love for Mexican food, I headed to Mad Mex in Joondalup, hoping for a taco or two. I went around lunchtime on a Friday afternoon and found it fairly quiet, which left me with plenty of seating to choose from.

The customer service was quick and efficient. Each customer was greeted with a smile and moved quickly down the line. When I asked for a taco, they politely let me know that they had run out, a bit surprised, I chose a quesadilla.

Quesadilla from Mad Mex. Photo: Lauren Cherry.

For the fillings I chose chicken and cheese with salsa, sour cream and guacamole to dip them into. Although the guacamole was extra, I felt as though it was a necessary part of the meal. This came to a total of $14.50.

The dip sizes were very generous, as I didn’t come close to finishing the salsa or guacamole. In the end I was only able to eat half of the quesadilla and felt like I had wasted a fair bit of my money. The portion sizes were large which is hard to come by nowadays, but also meant that there would be more food wastage occurring which is concerning.

The quesadilla, overall, tasted fairly average. The chicken was slightly burnt and the wrap was more crunchy than soft, giving a jarring taste when mixed with the dips. The salsa had a zest to it that burnt my throat going down, the guacamole was overly salty and the sour cream was heavily watered down. This meant it was gone within three dips of the quesadilla.

The atmosphere was dull and quiet despite having colourful decorations in each corner. It may be due to the fact that I was eating alone but apart from myself, there were only three others dining in. There was no music, only chatter from surrounding restaurants which made me want to eat and leave quicker.

For those who are able to eat larger portions or who enjoy quieter spaces then this is the place for you. I would like to give Mad Mex the benefit of the doubt as I have visited before, had different food and enjoyed it with family, but the quesadilla is not something I can personally recommend.

Unfortunately, you can have the kindest staff who are trying their best to give you a memorable experience, but it won’t make you remember the food to be any better.

Mad Mex Joondalup. Photo: Lauren Cherry.

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