Habaneros Mexican Restaurant
Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 3.5 stars (out of five)
- Service: 4
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 3.5
I had been looking forward to checking out Habaneros Mexican Restaurant, which opened for business on Asheville Highway about two months ago. I had heard good reports, both online and directly from customers who had dined there. So The Grub Spouse and I set out for East Knoxville, looking forward to a weeknight mealtime fiesta.
The interior was certainly presentable but didn't strike me as being above the norm. The cinder-block construction has benefitted from a bright paint job and the liberal placement of beer-company promo items like flags, signs and small inflatables. Otherwise, the main dining area looked like business as usual.
We were greeted and seated by a friendly server and taken to a booth, which suited us just fine. Drinks ordered and menus in hand, we set about wading through an extensive listing of traditional Mexican appetizers and entrees.
With the requisite chips and salsa giving us instant gratification, we didn't feel the need to dilly-dally around with the nachos, chicken wings or queso fundido starters, so we set about sorting through menu categories to see what struck our respective fancies.
I ruled out the familiar listings of combination dinners that mix and match the likes of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tamales, etc. Other entrees include grilled and fried chicken salads, Enchiladas Popeye (with spinach), Bistec Ranchero, Poco Loco (diced chicken in red chile sauce) and several shrimp-based creations. Seven different vegetarian options are available, including a meatless version of burritos, chalupas, burritos and chimichangas.
I gave some serious thought to a hefty meat-filled chimi, and I spent a good bit of time debating over the Burrito California as well. But based on our server's recommendation, I ordered the Burritos Supremos, two tortillas stuffed with steak or chicken (I got one of each), topped in melted cheese and served with beans and rice. The Spouse went for the fajita quesadilla, essentially a traditional quesadilla tortilla stuffed with fajita-style innards — in this case, chicken with grilled veggies.
As I predicted, our genial and engaging server had our food out to us, piping hot, within just a few short minutes. Overall, both our meals were fine and enjoyable although, like the decor, not at a level that made them stand out in my mind. The two burritos were both drenched in molten queso, which, in my opinion, would make shoe leather palatable, but the steak- and chicken-stuffed tortillas would have stood well on their own. The beans and rice sides were fairly run of the mill.
The Spouse's quesadilla was quite large, resembling a giant semicircular omelet upon first glance. I actually liked this selection more than my own. The blend of vegetables, grilled chicken and cheese played on my palate a little more nicely than the cheese-heavy burritos.
Craving something sweet at meal's end, I ruled out the usual Mexican dessert suspects like flan, sopapillas and fried ice cream. They did, however, have a choice of apple or banana chimichangas on special for $2.99. The Spouse and I ordered the latter and agreed that the banana — encased in a tortilla before deep-frying, then topped with sugar, cinnamon, whipped cream and a dab of fruit topping — was the highlight of the meal.
By the way, we had found a coupon on their website, which knocked $4 off our tab, bringing us in right at $20 before tax and tip. So if Habaneros is in your locale, you may find that the fare, service and prices all add up to a friendly south-of-the-border welcome.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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