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Taqueria Mexico offers a menu of almost mind-boggling variety

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“Choriqueso” is an appetizer of melted cheese accented with chorizo at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Mahi mahi is citrus-cured for ceviche at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Margaritas come in 16 flavors at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Caesar is one of five salads at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon
“Choriqueso” is an appetizer of melted cheese accented with chorizo at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Fish is battered and fried for tacos at Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass. Photos by Sarah Lemon

The newly reopened Taqueria Mexico in Grants Pass promises much more than south-of-the-border cuisine.

Steaks, burgers, pasta and even sushi compose a menu of almost mind-boggling variety. While plenty of tacos, enchiladas and Latin specialties can be had, this isn’t the place to mix and match items for combination plates with rice and beans. The restaurateurs behind longtime local favorite Si Casa Flores deserve credit for updating both their menu and decor to heighten appeal for a new generation of diners.

My younger son homed in on Caesar salad ($12) and would not entertain any other option, including salads with seared ahi tuna and breaded chicken. Although I don’t always confine my 7- and 9-year-old boys’ tastes to kids’ menus, Taqueria Mexico doesn’t have one.

My older son voiced his steak craving, but I demurred for want of someone to split an adult-sized portion of beef with him. Beyond the typical skirt and flank steaks, Taqueria Mexico boasts a ribeye, “premium tomahawk” and filet mignon as surf and turf, ranging from $39 to $88.

Also under the steak heading are fajitas ($23), which can be prepared with chicken or shrimp, and the more offbeat stewed beef tongue ($25). As I teasingly vouched for offal, my older son eagerly accepted my suggestion of “tacos de asada” ($14).

Palates primed for tacos, my partner and I both favored the “de pescado” ($14) with crispy fried fish fillets and guacamole. Assembled on soft corn tortillas, three tacos come with each order. Diners who want rice and beans pay an extra $1 per side.

Because he also yearned for raw seafood, my partner and I agreed to split the fish tacos and ceviche trio ($22) from the menu’s appetizer heading. I’d already made up my mind that another appetizer, chorizo-laced queso ($18), was a must for dipping our complimentary chips.

The diverse array of appetizers affords a dozen other items, from nachos and quesadillas to mushrooms and sweet peppers stuffed with shrimp to beef empanadas and freshly prepared guacamole larded with grilled flank steak.

I did not misjudge my family’s enthusiasm for a vat of melted cheese puddled with meaty grease. When the hot cast-iron skillet hit the table, a free-for-all ensued for access to the chips and ample space at the pan’s rim to avoid being burned. The spice was just right — not too much for my kids, who plumbed the vat for sausage and bacon. When our chips started running low, we spooned the cheese, stretching across the table, into accompanying corn tortillas.

If our wait for the appetizer had been shorter, we likely could have polished off more “choriqueso.” But we somewhat reluctantly moved it aside to allow room for main dishes. Taqueria Mexico’s practice of serving items — from tacos to salads — on large, wooden boards plays up presentation but also tends to crowd the table. It also makes swapping plates, as my partner and I frequently do, somewhat cumbersome.

Positioned atop the boards, metal troughs keep tacos upright and toppings from spilling out. My son’s tacos kept pico de gallo and guacamole on the side while my fish tacos boasted both under lush garnishes of shredded cabbage, pickled onion and microgreens. His single-minded preference for meat left generous portions of guacamole and salsa for others at the table.

A heap of chopped lettuce, mingled with microgreens, bulked up with croutons, sprinkled with cheese and artfully drizzled with dressing delighted my younger son. The dish surpassed our expectations of a straightforward Caesar, owing to halved cherry tomatoes and shaved watermelon radish — both particular favorites of my veggie-loving kid. Tucking right in, he readily acknowledged there was plenty to share and even accepted a bite of his brother’s taco.

Shaved watermelon radish also adorned the ceviche’s melange of lemon-marinated seafood, cucumber, onions and peppers. Separate portions of fish, shrimp and octopus ceviche reposed in the tray’s three compartments.

The shrimp, just barely cured in citrus and spices, were still slightly gelatinous while the octopus was so tender that I mistook it for fish. The fish ceviche constituted mild but firm mahi mahi that, although falling slightly short of flavorful, at least didn’t have the muddy undertone of tilapia widely served in the region’s Mexican restaurants.

Indeed, the seafood quality at Taqueria Mexico is a cut above, which should encourage more diners toward four shrimp entrees, including scampi and bacon-wrapped, as well as mahi mahi prepared with garlic, cilantro, rosemary or guajillo chile, each $22. There’s even grilled octopus served with grilled potatoes for $25.

Compared with the ceviche’s impeccable texture and spot-on seasoning, my taco’s battered and fried fish was slightly dry and short on flavor. A glass of Kriselle Cellars sauvignon blanc ($11) refreshed my palate. I was pleased and somewhat surprised to spy “a beautiful selection of local wines” on Taqueria Mexico’s beverage list. Del Rio, Quady North, Wooldridge Creek and Cliff Creek Cellars also are represented.

Berry flavor was my partner’s pick from the list of 16 margaritas, augmented with headings for mojitos, “mules,” micheladas, mimosas and signature cocktails. Most don’t designate a price, but the average falls between $10 and $14.

Located at 137 S.E. H St., Taqueria Mexico is open from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, until 8 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-471-1255 or see facebook.com/taqueriamexicoVF

Features editor Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. An avid home cook, she writes The Whole Dish column that publishes biweekly in A la Carte. Read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.