Café Mexicho: You Can Eat There After All

Nearly two years ago, soon after I moved to South Africa, I ate at a restaurant in Melville called Café Mexicho. I wasn’t impressed, and I actually got sick the next day. I named the ailment “Mexicho’s Revenge”.

I wrote a blog post about the experience, called Where Not to Eat in Melville.

Café Mexicho, August 2010. From back in the day when I didn’t care what my photos looked like.

My blog wasn’t widely read back then, and my unfavorable review of Café Mexicho went unnoticed. But I’ve gained a lot of readership over the last two years, which means my posts are more likely to show up in Google searches. If you live in South Africa and google Café Mexicho, my post about it will probably pop up in the first few results.

Recently, I’ve received a couple of comments from people who read my Mexicho post and got angry about it. Here’s an example:

I am from Texas, grew up on Tex-Mex food and LOVE Cafe Mexicho. The margaritas are great, on-the-rocks, not frozen, and although you pay more than in Texas I think it is worth the cost to have a taste of ‘home’. Maybe my stomach is used to the spice but I have eaten there a dozen times and have never been sick and neither have any of the friends I take there. I hope all your negative blogging doesn’t hurt their business because this is the closest to real mexican food I have found in Jhb.

Someone from Texas who LOVES Café Mexicho? Wow. Perhaps it was unfair of me to pass judgement after only one meal. (I’m amused by the suggestion that my old blog post might be poisoning the community against Café Mexicho. Not sure 2Summers is that powerful, but it’s cool that someone thinks so.)

I decided to give Mexicho another chance, and to take my review seriously. I went there twice during the last two weeks, with several friends, and sampled a variety of dishes. Herewith is my new assessment.

Café Mexicho on a quiet Tuesday evening.

The first thing I’ll say is that Mexicho has a pleasant, quirky ambiance, perfect for Melville. I love the saloon-style doors and beaded chili pepper lights. The candlelight is nice. The elongated shape of the restaurant makes the seating a bit tricky — the tall wooden tables along the side are difficult to squeeze into when the restaurant is full. But there is space in the back for large parties, as well as an outdoor area that is great for summer.

Mexicho is a popular drinking hole for university students. It can get loud but the atmosphere is cheerful, at least on weeknights.

I give the atmosphere 3.5 out of 5 chili peppers.

Next up: Drinks. If you like Mexican beer, you can get it at Mexicho. Only Corona though — no Tecate, Sol, or Dos Equis. This is to be expected, as Melville is a long way from Mexico. At the urging of my Texan commenter, I also sampled a margarita on the rocks. (Okay, I had two.) I concur with the Texan — Mexicho’s on-the-rocks ‘ritas are good. Just the right level of tartness. I wish I’d received a lime with it though.

Mexicho-rita.

I’m not a tequila-drinker, except in margaritas. But I observed many other Mexicho patrons enjoying shots of tequila and I assume there are several brands available.

I’ll score the drinks with 4 chilis.

Now, the important part: Food. During my two recent meals, I sampled both starters (“appetizers” to the Americans) and mains (“entrees” to the Americans). Everything I tried was tasty, and I’m pleased to report that none of it made me sick. I particularly enjoyed the beef nachos and the huge stuffed jalapenos. The chicken enchiladas were also pleasing, especially when enhanced by a selection of hot sauces (available upon request).

Cheese-stuffed jalapeno with sour cream sauce. 

Beef nachos. Not the same as nachos back home but yummy nonetheless.

Chicken enchiladas. I was so hungry that I forgot to turn the plate around so you can’t really see the actual enchiladas. Sorry.

This is a sincronizada, described on the Mexicho menu as “two wheat tortillas with a filling in between of cheese, chicken, bacon, ham, T&O and corn served with guacamole and sour cream”. I had never heard of this before, but I googled it and it is a legitimate Mexican dish. I actually didn’t try it, but my friend said it was good.

My only real complaint about the food, which I also lodged in my August 2010 post, is that you have to pay for chips and salsa. Chips and salsa are always free at Mexican restaurants in the U.S., and while I can’t have a Mexican meal without them, I really hate paying. Not only do you have to pay for chips and salsa, but you have to pay for them separately. The chips are R20 (up from R12 in 2010), and the salsa — which comes in a microscopic ramekin, enough for about four chips — is R10 (up from R7 in 2010). This is just wrong. However, both the chips and salsa taste very good. Mexicho has the only decent tortilla chips I’ve found in South Africa.

Also, there is a difference between “sour cream” and “sour cream sauce”. The stuff Mexicho serves is sour cream sauce. Not the end of the world but I prefer the real thing.

I rate the food 3.5 chilis, giving Mexicho an overall score of 3.66 chilis. I have no idea what this means, as this is the first time I’ve used such a rating system. I guess I need to start rating more restaurants to provide a frame of reference.

Knock-off Frida Kahlo painting at the back of Mexicho. I think it works.

My final pronouncement: Café Mexicho is a decent restaurant. I won’t wait another two years before going back. Having been away from America for some time, I now appreciate how fortunate I am to have a Mexican restaurant — any Mexican restaurant — in my neighborhood. I just can’t expect Mexicho to be the same as my favorite Mexican places in Washington D.C. And I have to get used to paying for chips and salsa.

Olé.

Café Mexicho is at 78A 4th Avenue, Melville.

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27 Comments

  • Reply buckwheatsrisk July 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    i love the journey your blog took me on and now i am hungry! 😉

  • Reply Sine July 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Love this Heather. You know it’s funny. It always seemed to me that someone had recommended a Mexican restaurant to me in 2010 when I first moved here and complained that there were no Mexican restaurants in South Joburg. It might have been Mexicho. And then it seemed to me that someone told me don’t bother, it’s terrible. So I never went to check it out, even though the kids bitterly complained that there was no Mexican food (we finally scored some real chili powder when a newly arrived expat brought me a huge containerful) and my husband and I were sometimes drooling just at the thought of the margaritas at our favorite place in Overland Park. Who knows, it might have been your first review:-)

    • Reply 2summers July 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Haha. Maybe my blog really is that powerful. Well, you should check it out now! Let me know and I’ll join you 🙂

      • Reply Sine July 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

        What’s actually nice is that reader comments are also quite powerful. Otherwise you might never have gone back. That’s why blogging is such a great forum.

        • Reply 2summers July 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm

          That’s very true! I owe the Texan a thank-you.

  • Reply amelie88 July 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Well it’s the same thing with water. They give you water for free in the US–it is expected to be served water at any restaurant you go to. However, in Europe they usually give you bottled water and charge you for it. If you ask for tap water, it depends on the restaurant–sometimes they will give you free tap water but rather grudgingly.

    Is water free also in Johannesburg?

    • Reply 2summers July 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Yes, water is free here, and the tap water is actually quite good. It’s all I ever drink. Are there places in Europe where you actually have to PAY for tap water? That seems like it should be illegal!

      • Reply amelie88 July 15, 2012 at 12:16 am

        In a country I recently visited–I think it was Austria–my guidebook warned tourists of expecting free tap water. It’s just one of those cultural things. 🙂 In Spain, where I currently live (but am leaving soon) bars will usually give you a free snack if you order a beer/alcoholic beverage. Usually something like olives, a small tortilla de patata, or some chips. I guess to have something go down with the alcohol, I don’t know. They would never do that in the US!

        • Reply 2summers July 15, 2012 at 8:58 am

          Interesting…I try to respect all cultural norms, but I think charging for tap water is kind of like charging for air 🙂

  • Reply Debra Kolkka July 14, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Mexican is not my favourite food, but I would give it a try.

    • Reply 2summers July 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Good Mexican food is hard to come by in most parts of the world.

  • Reply mzansigirl July 14, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Nice review Heather! I’ve eaten there once before liked it. The Margaritas were fab and I loved the chilli poppers! I also liked the ambience, very social atmosphere especially for big groups. About the chips, I don’t know of any SA Mexican restaurant that offers them free though I think some do have free salsa. Would be great to catch up with you in Melville sometime. I miss my old neighborhood, definitely don’t get out there as much as I’d like to.

    • Reply mzansigirl July 14, 2012 at 6:32 am

      PS. My American friends have a lady that they order tortilla chips from. They’re great chips! Can get you the contacts if you’re interested.

      • Reply 2summers July 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

        Yes, I’d love to know about the tortilla chip lady!

  • Reply shannon niebuhr (@JoziKaroo) July 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I’m also following up on the tortilla chips part of your review — “Mexicho has the only decent tortilla chips I’ve found in South Africa.” Wow, that’s saying a lot! We buy the Woolworth’s ones, and they’re just ok, so I’d be keen to go to Mexicho *and* to find out via @mzansigirl about the Tortilla Dealer. Please!

    There’s a place I haven’t been to yet called Mexican Fresh in Craighall Park. Have you tried it? From the reviews it seems like fast food but healthy, perhaps like a really good Taco Bell? Please keep posting about these things, I need to know!!

    • Reply 2summers July 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm

      Yes, I don’t remember liking the chips as much when I went two years ago. But as I said, my standards have changed. I get the woolies ones to sometimes, but for some reason I just don’t think that round tortilla chips are the same. And there’s nothing like getting them all warm and salty from a restaurant. Anyway, check it out – I’m curious to know what you think. I haven’t been to Mexican Fresh either but I want to try. I’m hoping it’s like Baja Fresh, which my favorite fast-food type place in the US.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough July 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Good for you for going back. And congrats on your blog’s growth! I give you a full 5+! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica July 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Great that you made the effort of going back again – and then updating your post. I have had the same thing happen – somebody commenting on an older post, and then I find I’ve re-assessed my original opinion.

    • Reply 2summers July 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Yes. I really didn’t give them much of a chance the first time. I’m glad my Texan commenter motivated me to go back.

  • Reply Cheslyn November 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Hey, do you think that taking a girl on a date to Mexicho would be a good idea, she’s been telling me she wants nachos for a while now, so I just basically want to know is it cool sit down not everyone in your face atmosphere kind of thing?

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Sure. But the food is much better at Mama Mexicana in Maboneng. Do a search on my blog and you’ll find it. Just opened two months ago.

  • Reply Cheslyn November 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I noticed I’m a bit out of date on this blog but I would be greatful for your response:-)

  • Reply Mariaan Jacklin May 3, 2015 at 10:29 am

    We regularly visit Cafe Mexicho and have always enjoyed our experience. Unfortunately, on the 1st of May 2015 we had a horrible experience. The owners and their friends were loud, unruly and rude, and the waiters were left to contain the situation and the customers. It was evident that the management was extremely drunk, and when we informed them of our concerns (including no cash flow on the premises to enable us to tip the waiter), we were insulted and handled by a rude drunk. Our poor waiter and barman (who were excellent) were left with no tip and we left after it was evident that interaction with the uncontained managerial staff was futile. Rather visit some of the other wonderful bars and restaurants in Melville, this one is managed by incompetent and extremely unprofessional individuals.

    • Reply 2summers May 3, 2015 at 11:14 am

      Thanks for the comment, Mariaan. Do you know if the restaurant’s ownership change recently? Just curious.

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