La Hacienda Real South

Reviewed by Salem Man 5/22/08
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)
(503) 540-5537

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.


jeff said...

The guy who had the Food of Salem... blog (before moving to Arkansas) claimed they had the best fresh tortillas around.

But he wasn't all that hot on their food.

Anonymous said...

Their homemade tortillas are the best. The food is pretty standard Jalisco style, not much heat. La Hacienda was my favorite until La Perla opened.

Anonymous said...

Much better than Los Arcos IMO. Plus, every time I've been to Los Arcos the service has been horrible.

Anonymous said...

They have awesome tortillas. We always get an order to go after our dinner. Some things are better than others on their menu. Definitely a good quality place to eat. This is one of my favorite mexican resturants in Salem.

Anonymous said...

South Salem has a number of these "Jalisco-style" places that cater to gringos with bland food that all runs together on the plate and is loaded with calories. Ever wonder why you feel so bloated when you leave? The flour tortillas at La Hacienda are a good try, but anyone who has had freshly made flour tortillas in Texas will realize that these are 2nd rate. They tend to be undercooked and greasy. To get really good Mexican food you have to be willing to venture to the north side of Salem where most of the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans live. Jr's Taqueria is my favorite, with fresh corn tortillas that are authentic and delicious. Salvadore's Bakery is another great place with wonderful tamales only $10 a dozen that you can get to go. Why go to a gringo-style Mexican place when you can get the real thing in north Salem?

Anonymous said...

In response to Amecameca; Finally, someone I can relate to about Mexican Food in Salem! I think that the typical "Gringo" in this town responds more to over the top faux-exotic decorations more than actual authenticity and quality of food. Gut bomb!

Jr's and Salvadore's are excellent. Have you tried La Mixteca?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, If you go to a Mexican restaraunt in a town like Salem and there's never any Mexican people in it, that really says something.

Anonymous said...

The Haciendas are overrated. The fresh tortillas are a nice touch but the food is what it is. If you like large and rather bland portions with a bunch of yellow cheese, yellow rice, and beans, this is the place to go. I haven't tried Jr's, but the best Mexican restaurants are:

El Fogon
La Perla
La Margarita (not the Express one)
La Mixteca

Anonymous said...

I went to La Mixteca once shortly after it opened and was not impressed. Maybe it has gotten better. What's good there? Do they have homemade corn tortillas like Jr.'s does? I'm willing to give it another try but I need a clue what to order.

Anonymous said...

Mixteca's strength is their Sauces, although they're pretty consistent all round. My favorites are The Mole, Enchiladas Verde, The Chili Relleno and pretty much anything on their breakfast menu. And yes, the tortillas are fresh and homemade

On the subject of La Margarita Express, has anyone had their Salvadoran menu there? Went once- had pupusas and fried plantains and they were pretty delicious

Anonymous said...

Does La Mixteca have breakfast? When do they open? As an "escaped Texan" (10 years in San Antonio) I really miss a good Mexican breakfast. In San Antonio that can be the best meal at a Tex-Mex restaurant (e.g. huevos rancheros con carne guisada y frijoles and homemade flour tortillas). Most Mexican restaurants in Salem - even the good ones like Jr's - are not open for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

La Hacienda is about as mexican as Taco Bell. The tortillas are terrible and the food was beyond bland. I lived in San Diego for most of my life and eating mexican food from Southern Cali your whole life and then coming up here....well all I can say is blah!! BUT after reading some of the suggestions located in north salem, you've brought me some hope. I will definitely check them out. Now where can I get a good pink and white or piggy shaped cookie?

Anonymous said...

You can probably get a piggy shaped cookie at Salvador's Bakery on Silverton Road (just W. of Lancaster on your left if you are heading E.). Very authentico -- made with lots of lard, I'm sure. Pick up a dozen delicious pork tamales to go for $10 while you are there. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I've noticed the same thing time after time with La Hacienda: I want to get sick after eating there. Oce apon a time I remember the food being really good, and I ate there often. Now, I avoid it altogether and just make my own mexican food at home. It's really very easy to recreate cheese and fat laden food. ;p I'm going to have to try the north Salem places. I could go for some spice right now!

Chuck Bradley said...

I tried their Keizer location today at the recommendation of one of my darling Granddaughters. I’m happy for her, in that her experiences there have been better than mine. I was seated and presented with Corn Chips, Pinto Bean Dip, Pico de Gallo and Salsa. All good, but the chips were a little over-toasted. I ordered their Taquitos Rancheros lunch (Rolled Corn Tortillas filled with shredded Beef and deep fried and served with Lettuce, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole and Sour Cream.) The Taquitos were very over done to the point that ends of the shredded Beef were charred. On the strength of Whitney’s suggestion, I’ll give them a try on another day as it is likely today was an anomaly.