Where: 9429 S 142nd St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week
Hit: Arroz con Pollo, the house specialty, was spicy and satisfying
Miss: A gratis dessert of a tortilla chip topped with canned whipped cream and strawberry glaze was more weird than tasty.
Reservations: None necessary
Drinks: Beer, house wine and margaritas
Price: Most entrťes hover around $11; the first round of chips, salsa and bean dip is on the house.
Service: Quick and friendly
* * *
Between Interstate 80 and a McDonald's on the outskirts of Omaha sits a surprisingly satisfying Mexican restaurant.
Azteca would be in line with many of the Mexican restaurants on south 24th Street — it serves the same homemade food that seems to be made from family recipes. The only difference is its west Omaha location.
Don't go to Azteca expecting much atmosphere because there's not a lot. But the place was crowded on a recent week night, so it seems people in the neighborhood already know about it.
The interior is dim and dated, filled with booths and lots of large tables. But the smell of corn tortillas and the friendly staff make it comfortable in spite of its looks.
The restaurant serves one round of gratis tortilla chips that come with the requisite thin smoky red salsa and tart green. But they also come with a bowl of tangy, spicy Mexican coleslaw and another of warm bean dip. Another round of chips and dip will run you $3, but we didn't need more as entrťes are generous.
Prices are more than reasonable. Most of the entrťes clocked in at around $10.
One dish stood out: arroz con pollo. Marked on the menu as the house specialty, I don't think I would have ordered it without the designation. But boy was I glad I did.
A huge portion — basically a platter — of cheesy rice, chunks of tender chicken, onions, fresh mushrooms and peppers came swathed in a red tomato sauce that was mostly spicy with just a hint of sweet. I wrapped spoonfuls of it in the hot, homemade corn and flour tortillas that came with the meal, and it was great. I appreciated that the vegetables weren't cooked within an inch of their lives, instead remaining firm.
The chile Colorado was less flavorful than the arroz con pollo but still had tender meat — beef in this case — and nicely cooked vegetables.
Both dishes went great with the house margaritas, which were nothing special but were nicely made and refreshing.
West Omaha has amassed an impressive slate of ethnic joints: there's great Chinese and Dim sum, creative Japanese, and now, at least two great Mexican places (the other being Rivera's). Azteca certainly deserves to be on the list of notable hole-in-the-wall places in Omaha.