Some restaurants in town are so good that it makes it difficult to try new places. La Hacienda Real on South Commercial is first on my list when I think of a family style Mexican restaurant. In every category that I look, they seem to excel, providing a memorable experience from the moment you walk in the door. At that moment you walk in, you'll see that this place is highly ornate, a feast for your eyes. It's a refreshing feeling from the sometimes drab weather of the Northwest to be in a place that's tiled with tropical themes and bright paint. A game of Eye Spy is how what we do while waiting for our food. You might spot a cactus or a blue agave plant within the artwork all over the walls. La Hacienda is a Jalisco style Mexican restaurant. Jalisco is a state in Mexico where tequila and mariachi music were born. Puerto Vallarta is in the northwest corner of the state that borders the pacific ocean. I ordered the Burrito Asada for $11.95. It's a basic burrito filled with skirt steak, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese and a sweet sauce. Like many meals that I've eaten here, this was very tasteful. I found myself scraping the plate with the side of my fork hoping the meal would not end. But it's not just the food and atmosphere that's great, so is the service. They are always properly staffed with friendly servers who bring your food with a smile and make sure you have enough chips and salsa before the meal. There is sometimes a wait to be seated because this place is popular with locals.
La Hacienda Real
3690 Commercial St Se (several other locations)
Reviewed by JCB 2/6/08
Eat Salem has previously reviewed the West Salem branch of Hacienda Real, but I’d never been, and since there are now several in Salem, I figured it’d be worthy of another review.
Having driven past the South Salem Hacienda Real and noticing that the parking lot was consistently packed, I figured it’d be a good place to try out. Since our first idea for Mexican food, Los Arcos, had a 20 minute wait (I’ve never been there, it’s next on my list), we headed up the street to La Hacienda Real, and were pleased to be seated immediately.
The menu is huge, and seems to weigh at least five pounds. There are so many items on the menu, pictures, sub-sections and specials, it’s quite overwhelming. It’s actually hard to decide what to eat, not because everything sounds so good, but because it’s hard to remember what you liked from page to page.
I decided on the chilaquiles with carne asada. He got, I think, carnitas tacos. Both dishes came on some of the largest plates I’ve seen in ages, loaded with refried beans, rice, guacamole, and our entrees. We also got a warmer full of fresh, homemade flour tortillas. They were really tasty. My carne asada was great. The skirt steak had been cooked and charred nicely, with a very tasty flavor. It wasn’t chopped, but served in large strips of meat. I preferred this to the chopped carne asada you find sometimes, especially in tacos, where it loses a good deal of moisture and texture. My chilaquiles, which generally are pieces of tortillas, sautéed with red sauce, sometimes mixed with scrambled eggs and cheese. These were tasteless. My first bite made me think of tomato sauce, the Italian kind. The tortillas hadn’t been sautéed, which would have given them a crisper texture. The dish tasted mealy and flat. The refried beans were tasty though runny, and the tortilla chips before we ordered came with both salsa and beans.
Overall, I was pleased to find somewhere that made tasty carne asada. I’m going to keep them in mind when I’m craving grilled skirt steak, but won’t be ordering the chilaquiles any time soon. I’ll also go there with more of an idea of what I want, so it doesn’t take 15 minutes of staring at the menu to decide what to eat.