Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Roja Mexican Grill

Recently we went to the newer downtown Omaha Roja site for a Smith family birthday celebration.  Even my Grandma Smith joined us!  I’m sure this was not her kind of dinner joint.  She had trouble choosing an item off the menu to suit, though she did settle on a chicken salad with some kind of cilantro ranch dressing.  It probably wasn’t her favorite meal, but she managed.  For the record, my dad doesn’t love Mexican either, but I don’t think he had quite as bad a time with the menu as Grandma did.  He just indicated that his favorite Mexican dish is fried ice cream.  I hear that!  (Though I love much more than just that in the way of Mexican food.)

Overall, I find Roja to be a decent Americanized Mexican restaurant.  A bit over-priced but for what I order, pretty delicious.  I’ve only ever ordered one thing, though.  The shrimp & crab enchiladas.  I’ve been 3 times to Roja (twice at the west location on 168th & Center and now once downtown at 12th & Harney).  The first two times were relatively close together but it’d been quite awhile since I’d been.  So the menu had changed quite a bit.  But I still found the shrimp & crab enchiladas to be what drew my eye.  This time I had a choice of sauce toppings, which I didn’t remember being the case prior (though I could just be suffering from mid-old age memory loss too).  I selected the green chile deluxe sauce.  The descriptions of the sauces on the inside of the menu suggested this sauce to be creamy, which was what I remembered from the times I’d ordered this dish before, so that’s what my gut told me to go with.  And once again, my gut was right.

The food took quite awhile to arrive, though I will concede that our party was on the large side.  But our waitress was something else.  Clearly she was peeved at something when we arrived and decided to take it out on us.  She sniped at us a couple times and when she received blank stares and short responses in return, I think she must have understood that her future financial reward was severely dwindling and she turned on the charm a bit more thereafter.  It was a noticeable difference, almost laughable.

Other than our waitress, the service was great.  The manager and hostess were helpful and pleasant.  The manager refilled our water glasses a couple different times himself.  And our waitress improved, though she was mostly scarce after we got our food. 

I must say that the chips & salsa at Roja are good.  I’m not sure I’d “rave” but they’re some of the best around Omaha probably.  The chips are greasy good & salty.  I ate some of them plain, which is not something I normally do at Mexican restaurants.  And the salsa, though it clearly has cilantro minced into it, doesn’t have that overwhelming bitter cilantro flavor that haunts me.  It was fresh and just the right consistency.

The enchiladas were exactly what I recalled.  Creamy, delicious, with just a hint of spice in the seafood mixture.  I love that they use corn tortillas for their enchiladas, of course.  And it worked well for Jake too (corn tortillas are gluten-free).  I ordered mine without the side of beans, so I received an extra portion of rice, which was perfect for me.  The two enchiladas, along with the rice, and the amount of chips & salsa I consumed waiting for my food to arrive, filled me up. 

The enchiladas were about mid-range in price for their menu items, coming in at $11.99.  Not extravagant, but not a steal by any means.

I do like the atmosphere at Roja.  I enjoy the shrimp & crab enchiladas and chips & salsa.  I probably won’t be going out of my way to go there, but I also won’t make you twist my arm too hard either.

One nice note about the downtown location: the parking in the nearby garage is free for 3 hours with a paid receipt.  No more driving around the Old Market searching for an open parking space!

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