Oh, the irony: Don Juan’s flaming sign right next door to Winchester Volunteer Fire Company.
Drivers of Harlem Road in West Seneca (between Mineral Springs and Seneca Street) may have noticed Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill occupying the once-sad building that has been a few restaurants in the past. Still a work in progress, the place has been spiffed up.
“Welcome, amigos,” said Marco, who turned out to be our waiter and owner.
The place was packed, so we hit the small bar. After a short wait and mundane margarita later, we were seated on the patio. (Note: Marco is working on better bar and margarita experience.)
Lovely thin chips and a mini carafe of great salsa immediately hit the table. And here is our downfall. Filling up on freebies. Yet, we still ordered guacamole ($5) and chicken and rice soup ($5.50).
The dip was creamy with chunks of tomatoes, however we wanted a more garlic zip and lime zing. The soup was outstanding (despite missing avocado, pico de gallo and tortillas garnish). Enough for a meal, it had rice, hunks of chicken, zucchini and carrots in an excellent chicken tomato broth.
Combo Platters are a deal. Two items and two sides for $8.99; three and one for $9.99. Choices include tacos (hard or soft), burrito, chimichanga, tostada, enchilada, quesadilla or chalupa, or single tamale (pork) filled with beef, shredded beef, chicken, cheese or beans (black or refried).
The huge colorful combo (an all-beef affair) with a hard taco, burrito and enchilada was actually pretty. Queso fresco, the mild Mexican cheese in the taco, was a nice touch.
From the Don Juan Specialties, Enchilada Verdes ($11.49) also arrived on a beautiful plate. Three big chicken enchiladas were topped with a piquant verde (green) sauce. The chicken was tender; the tomatillo sauce bright and tart.
Mexican rice, refried beans and a guacamole salad (nice greens with guacamole on the side) rounded out the meal. The tomato-rice had peas as well as a few potatoes. Not sure if they were supposed to be there, but it was really good.
We wanted spicier and hotter meat fillings, but when serving the masses, we better to err on the side of bland. Hot sauces on the table perked things up.
Quesadillas come Tipica for $8.99, Jumbo 10-inch ($11.25), La Mexicana 12-inch ($12.99) and Fajita style ($13.50). Burritos are $12.49 to $13.99. Don Juan Specialties run $11.49 to $16.99. Most hit around $12-$13 for chicken, beef and pork items. A little higher than the Cheap Eats threshold, but all come with beans (refried or black), rice and guacamole salad. Leftovers came home for lunch.
One could cobble together a dinner from the “sides,” like enchilada, tostado, chalupa, tamale, chile poblano, burrito and taco (soft or hard) that come single $1.99-$3.75 to double or triple ($5-$7.25). Add an appetizer (like $4.99 cheese dip to $9.99 nachos grande) and call it a meal.
Lunch combo specials are $6.99-$9.99, add $1.50 after 3 p.m. Little Amigos (12 and under) have six choices for $4.25. Vegetarians also have fajitas, burrito or buesadillas to choose from.
The food is solid and service excellent. Once Don Juan gets the kitchen hiccups ironed out (and the bar in order), it will be just fine. The table behind us noted how good their meals were, too. And in the end, that’s all folks really want.
Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill
Where: 484 Harlem Road, West Seneca (551-0764, Facebook)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.