On Nov. 11, Mad Mex opened on Moreland Road near the corner of Fitzwatertown Road. The suburban building was revamped, making it more than just a new restaurant in in a shopping strip. With exposed beams jutting out around the roof and a patio in the front, Mad Mex makes one yearn for warm weather and cold margaritas.
Without call-ahead seating or reservations available, be prepared to wait a bit for your table at this already popular eatery.
They will text you when your table is ready, so instead of cramming into the small foyer where bench seats are limited, feel free to sit at the bar or walk around outside.
After traversing through a bright, disturbingly cartoonish foyer chamber between the front and interior doors, the wild décor became a little less aggressive, but not much. Mad Mex’s main dining room also had wall paintings reminiscent of urban graffiti, depicting alien creatures, oxen-headed women, and horses in business suits.
Despite the masks, , and many eyed monsters (or maybe because of them), this place was pretty hip. Mounted over the bar was one of the largest televisions I have ever seen, and the hostess staff was young, friendly, and fashionable.
In an oxymoron of sorts, it was also, surprisingly, kid friendly. It isn’t often that a restaurant feels young and fresh while remaining hospitable to families.
At Mad Mex, the kid outreach was above and beyond, with an extensive kids menu listing not only the available meal choices (all $5.50, with drink and brownie sundae), but also knock-knock jokes and puzzles.
Upon sitting at our table, the kids were brought mini Etch-a-Sketches, and moments later tiny plates of carrots and celery sticks with ranch dip arrived. The kids were happy, but even if they weren’t the boisterous atmosphere would have more than covered their squalls.
The adults were happy too, especially after ordering margaritas ($7.50.) The cloudy neon yellow liquid in a tall pint glass was tart with citrus and bold with tequila. Like all mixed drinks, the first sip was the harshest, but the more of it that I drank, the smoother it became, helped along by the blue salt lining the rim.
Adults happily sipping, and kids happily chopping, we ordered the Picca-Dippa ($7.75.) This gets you a basket of tortilla chips and the choice of three condiments in which to dip them.
We chose the Pineapple Habanero salsa, whose thin, cool, and sweet initial impression eventually creshendoed into intense heat; Pepita Hummus, whose smooth thickness was enhanced by cilantro and garlic; and Original Salsa, which disappointed in its similarity to chunky Italian tomato sauce. We may have also gotten the bottom of the chip bag, as most of our chips were tiny and broken.
But we nevertheless dipped happily, our mouths watering at the passing sizzling skillets. Eventually our meals arrived and we dug in.
The Spicy Steak Burrito ($9.50) sat wrapped tightly into a square on the plate, with the cactus symbol of Mad Mex drawn in spicy sauce on top. The flavorful, if chewy, steak inside melded with black beans and yellow rice, creating a mediumly spicy pocket.
The Mole Burrito ($9.75), drizzled in an exemplary smooth and chocolately mole sauce rich with smoky spice instead of sweetness, came filled with tiny chunks of chicken, black beans and yellow rice. The side of sour cream and original salsa (again, just like thick Italian tomato sauce) sat unused on the side, as the mole flavored the burrito and brought a heat level somewhere between the Spicy Steak Burrito and the Pineapple Habanero salsa.
The kids ordered quesadillas and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, and each came with corn and rice. Basic stuff, but the thick brownie cube topped with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream for dessert was the real winner.
We also ordered the Sopasillas ($5): doughy triangles fried crispy and drizzled with honey and cinnamon. The soft chewy interior enveloped in a slightly sweet crunch was the perfect ending to our night out.
With affordable prices, tasty food, acceptance of kids, and a hip urban feel, Mad Mex has a certainly enhanced the reputation of suburban restaurants, and made me feel a little cooler myself just by being there.
Mad Mex receives 4 1/2 out of 5 Whisks for tasty food and margaritas in a hip yet kid-friendly environment.
Second Helping of Information:
Location – 2862 W Moreland Road, Willow Grove, PA 19090
Hours – 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Phone – 267-495-5000
Website – http://www.madmex.com/willowgrove/
Reservations – Not available
On the Kids Menu – $5.50 kids menu, highchairs and boosters available, changing table in the ladies room