Mexican food was on the menu this week with a visit to the Guadalajara restaurant, located in the former Prices Café building on south Overland in Burley. Guadalajara was in its previous location across the street from Young Automotive for at least 20 of the 24 years I have lived in Mini-Cassia. In all that time I can only recall having dinner there on one occasion. I recall the food being good but it seemed the place was a madhouse. Thankfully, that has changed.
Ambiance: Guadalajara has inherited an old, tired building. From the looks of the dining room I don’t think it has even been painted in a number of years. It has the old popcorn style ceiling that would have been applied in the 1970’s but the restaurant was clean, and the food was terrific. Just don’t be too critical about the imperfections and you will enjoy your meal.
Seating: There is a mix of booths and tables. Our booth was roomy and would have seated four comfortably. While walking around the buffet to make sure we wanted to eat our meal off the buffet table I ran into a friend who was wedged into one of the smaller booths near the buffet line. He is a big guy and it looked as though he was being cut in half by how tight the table was to his belly. If you and your group don’t need a lot of space you won’t mind those booths but if want more space be sure to ask for one of their bigger booths or tables.
Noise: We didn’t hear any kitchen noise and because we were dining later in the afternoon. There weren’t more than three or four other tables being occupied. We had a pleasant conversation without the irritation of a noisy kitchen or dining room. Even being on Overland Ave. didn’t spoil the pleasant environment.
Bathrooms: There are separate men’s and women’s bathrooms, but like the restaurant, they are very dated. I think most people would cut the Guadalajara restaurant some slack for this, but they still remain tired and in need of some improvement. They were clean on the day we visited.
Service: We had excellent service even though we elected to go through the buffet line. Our soft drinks were brought to us immediately and the server kept them full. Service on a buffet line takes on a new dimension in that the staff made sure everything on the buffet was topped off and had sufficient food that you actually wanted to put on your plate. There is nothing worse than going through a buffet and seeing numerous items down to the last serving. Nobody wants food that has been kept warm hours after it was brought out from the kitchen, something Guadalajara knows well and follows every day.
Food: I was so surprised at the delicious nature of the food on the four Guadalajara buffet lines. The presentation really seemed overwhelming at first because there are so many individual items that you actually want to eat. I would say that the only negative was that nothing was labeled. Maybe this doesn’t matter when the item in the steam table is a flour tortilla or chips and salsa, but for much of the rest of the buffet it was hit or miss as to what you were actually putting on your plate.
Over in the corner was a woman making tortillas from scratch. Let me say that they were excellent. I made several trips back to the tortilla lady for more because they were just out of this world. Depending on your mood, you can fill nearly any desire with the wide selection of food. I also loved the cilantro, which was fresh, mild, and tasted so good when lathered across everything on my plate.
Value: I felt the cost of two buffet meals to be a little high, coming in at just under $25. There was certainly plenty of food to overwhelm a big appetite, but for a guy that doesn’t heap his plate with stacks of every item on the buffet, I felt it was priced a little high. I think there is lots of value to be sure, but if you order off the buffet line you should expect to spend around $12 per plate with soft drinks.
I always worry about a business that follows a business that just went broke ahead of me. The Prices Café building has been a diner, a Chinese buffet, a Cantonese buffet and now a Mexican restaurant, but if anybody can make it work I know it will be Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is open seven days per week, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.