Fuego Coastal Mexican Eatery has obviously found a casa on Old Shell Road in Mobile. The place has been open for over a year now, yet I am just getting around to checking them out. And now that I have, I’m kicking myself for not getting here sooner. It’s not very close to my West Mobile office and it’s not anywhere near my home on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore. But that is no excuse. No, sir. I’m in the car quite a bit and I buzz by Fuego at least a couple times a week. Maybe I was a tad irritated that they never responded to my phone calls and emails. But all that mess is forgiven after today.
The lunch specials at Fuego offer real value — quite comparable to a sub and a drink at Subway. $7.49 for lunch is a pretty good deal these days … especially when you consider the generous portions and food quality I enjoyed at Fuego today.
The homemade fire-roasted salsa (pictured above) is served up before each meal — tart, refreshing and not lip-scorching hot. To be honest, I was expecting a mega-spicy brew (they are named FUEGO!). But it really wasn’t hot at all and that was perfectly OK with me. The salsa was nicely crafted, so my expectation level for my pending lunch entree quickly shot up several degrees.
A heaping basket of Fuego’s crunchy house tortilla chips was served up alongside my 2 favorite Mexican hot sauces. I was careful to not eat too many chips, yet I couldn’t resist polishing off about half the basket by myself. My server was quite efficient and helpful (I can ask a lot of questions). I ruled over a corner high-table in Fuego’s bar area, offering yours truly an ideal vantage point to watch the outside world go by on this glorious sunny March day.
The sunsplashed dining room at Fuego (the pic viewed above was snapped from my table) — a bright, comfortable place to chill and munch. Cheerful colors and tasteful Mexican-inspired decor abound. I was dining early (it was about 11:30 am), so the lunch rush didn’t hit until I was finishing up my meal. Please don’t let the picture fool you. This is a very popular destination for local residents and Midtown business professionals. It is almost always jumping at lunch, while post-work happy hours are never boring. All told, it appears to be a pretty happening place.
Reclaimed wood (above) adorns the rustic ceiling at Fuego. I really love that look. We had a hardwood ceiling in the house I grew up in and that was considered pretty radical back in the day. Ceiling fans keep the air circulating — that certainly comes in handy during Mobile’s steamy summer “dog days.” I’m guessing one of Fuego’s signature margaritas or margatinis would help cool the brow as well.
The menu at Fuego is extremely impressive. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say it is one of the best conceived, most appealing menues I have encountered in my two years in the Mobile area. My “choose two” combo lunch platter of a pork tamale (topped with verde sauce) and a chicken enchilada (red sauce) turned out to be an excellent choice indeed. The tamale was the perfect ratio of seasoned pig and masa.
The enchilada’s secret weapon was the dark, mysterious sauce that blanketed it. I was pretty sure it was some variation of a rich mole. My waitress informed me otherwise. Three different pepper varieties are incorporated in the red sauce at Fuego. The final result is stellar and highly recommended. Other loving touches were noticed at each turn of the fork. These touches ranged from the crumbled queso fresco (mui authentico!) to the side of pinto beans jazzed up with red onion, fresh tomato and nuggets of smoked pork. The sweet and soft corn cake (laced with bright yellow corn kernals and apparently dished out with an ice cream scoop) was a delicate addition to my lunchtime fiesta, while the chile verde sauce proved to be a tangy triumph.
Even the Mexican rice was warm and cooked to just the texture I prefer. If these guys were trying to impress me, they were doing a mighty fine job. While devouring my final few bites, I again reached for the menu and plotted my return visit. With choices like those offered here, it could take me some time to eat my way along the coast of Mexico. Tacos Al Carbon, Baja Fish Tacos (fashioned here with Tilapia), a spicy grilled Chile Relleno. I even spied the Los Cabos seared Ahi Tuna and a Shrimp & Crab Ceviche. It all sounded amazing and, perhaps better yet, extremely healthy.
So why not escape your all-too-predictable lunch routine with a mid-day getaway to Fuego Coastal Mexican Eatery? It’s far cheaper than a Gulf cruise and you won’t have to worry the least bit about all those pesky drug lords and their blood thirsty minions. Fuego is pretty doggone HOT, so float on by one day soon and bask in their sizzle. Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner!