The sister restaurant of Mexico Lindo, a popular spot on Main Street in Melrose, Guadalajara Grill has been bringing tasty, if somewhat Americanized, Mexican cuisine to Malden since it opened in May. Owner Felipe Moreno, a native of Guadalajara, works with chef Marco Torros to turn out a wide array of food in this cheery spot. The restaurant is sparkling new, though it feels a bit sparse and quiet on our visits. Service is friendly, attentive, and eager to up-sell you a pitcher of house margaritas ($20), a good choice, and guacamole ($3.75), a rich and creamy accompaniment to chips and spicy salsa.
The extensive menu features a lot of seafood, a nod to Guadalajara, Moreno tells us later. We start with ceviche mixto ($12.99) a generous portion of fresh shrimp and white fish, spiked with cilantro, lime, and chilies, and served with crispy corn tortillas. It’s fresh and satisfying on a hot summer day. We also try the tortilla soup ($5.59) and it’s as homey and comforting as we could hope for, a big bowl of rich chicken broth with slices of bright avocado, crispy-fried tortilla strips, and a sprinkle of melting Jack cheese.
Deluxe burrito ($10.95) is surprisingly one of the few pork offerings. No carnitas here, but tender chunks of roasted pork make a tasty and filling burrito, with the usual rice, beans, and cheese; it also comes smothered in guacamole, tomatoes, and onion.
Enchiladas camaron ($13.95) contain a generous helping of perfectly cooked shrimp with scallions, cheese, and a creamy, flavorful pink sauce. They arrive with toppings like the burrito, with a side of yellow rice and refried beans. One slight disappointment: Flour tortillas stand in for corn in these enchiladas, which in our opinion, don’t work as well.
The highlight may be carne asada ($13.99), marinated, butterflied skirt steak — cooked medium rare, just like we order it — on a massive platter with rice and beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and tortillas. This impressive plate could easily serve two. Arroz con pollo ($12.99) is billed as a signature dish. In it, slightly sweet and mild red sauce coats strips of white meat chicken with sauteed onions, peppers, and mushrooms on a bed of yellow rice. It’s enormous, and tasty enough, though it doesn’t particularly stand out from anything else we try.
Combination plates offer a sampling of a la carte items. We try the large combination No. 22 ($12.99) which includes a deep-fried relleno (we prefer them not breaded and fried) with flavorful meat. In the tamale, the masa to meat ratio is a little heavy on the corn coating, and the enchilada is made with a corn tortilla this time. With rice and beans and a squirt of the fiery house-made hot sauce, it makes a satisfying meal that is almost certainly more than you’ll finish in one sitting.
We barely scratch the surface of the extensive menu. Most dishes seem tailored to less adventurous palates, but the service can’t be beat, the margaritas pack a punch, and every plate arrives in a timely fashion, exactly how it is ordered. If Guadalajara Grill had just moved to our neighborhood, we’d welcome it with open arms, and celebrate with a pitcher of margaritas.