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At the table

Mexican Radio’s cuisine doesn’t quite live up to decor

Sunday, August 24, 2014
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Radio Roll Ups are an appetizer consisting of two small flour tortilla towers filled with black beans, melted cheese and pico de gallo, served on top of a tomato-jalapeño sauce and drizzled with house-made crema. (Beverly Elander photo)
Radio Roll Ups are an appetizer consisting of two small flour tortilla towers filled with black beans, melted cheese and pico de gallo, served on top of a tomato-jalapeño sauce and drizzled with house-made crema. (Beverly Elander photo)

Like Paul Revere’s message about the British, “Mexican Radio is coming,” rang out across the land.

After the hype settled, friend Trish and I ventured to downtown Schenectady.

We assumed the venue would have few rough spots, since it has predecessors in New York City and Hudson.

Yellow and lime green dominate the exterior of the large building. Interior walls are splashed with happy colors: turquoise, accented with orange and purple. Pink plastic vases of cabbage-like bright artificial blooms hang in spaces between paintings in neon bright hues.

I requested the table in the front corner overlooking Broadway and State Street — a first-rate view of downtown Schenectady. I noted approximately a dozen tables in the downstairs area, another dozen on the patio, about six in the rear bar area, and two dozen on the open second level.

A long, curved stairway with ornate iron railings and blue-and-white tiled risings leads upstairs (an elevator is also available).

Mexican Radio

WHERE: 325 State St., Schenectady. 621-3700, www.mexrad.com

WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily

HOW MUCH: $80.70 for two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts, with tax and tip

MORE INFO: City parking lots nearby, all major credit cards accepted, accessible

Megan handed us turquoise menus and took our drink order. The seven-part menu included Aperitivos in two sizes — a nice accommodation.

Ordering appetizers

Trish opted for the small portion of Mexican Mac ’n’ Cheese ($5), while I ordered the small Radio Roll Ups ($5).

Our “Bogaditos” (small portions) arrived quickly. Served in a small casserole, the mac ’n’ cheese was slightly spicy and barely warm.

My roll ups were a bit more interesting — two small flour tortilla towers filled with black beans, melted cheese and pico de gallo, deep fried, served atop a tepid puddle of tomato-jalapeño sauce, and drizzled with house-made crema. None of the ingredients provided a kick.

Our entrées arrived as we were just starting our appetizers. Realizing his bad timing, the server offered to return them to the kitchen. We suggested he leave them at the table.

Trish’s Mexican Paella ($20) was presented en casserole and consisted of six medium shrimp, and an equal number of pieces of “Mexican” chorizo combined with rice, tomatoes, onions and unspecified spices. It was accompanied by a colorful covered basket of warm tortillas and a plain salad of lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette. The dish could have used a little brightening in appearance and flavor. Trish judged the portion small for the price.

Choice of fillings

I ordered the Triple Enchiladas Mole ($19), which came with a choice of fillings. I opted for grilled steak, caramelized plantains, and sautéed wild mushrooms with the house mole (cocoa, raisins and almonds). Mole Verde and Raspberry-chipolte Mole are also available.

Lukewarm, the dish appeared to have been microwaved to the point where the edges of the sauce had dried and glued to the plate. Enchiladas and accompanying rice and beans (I could have chosen a house salad) — were dry, as if left under a warming lamp too long.

Long after we finished our entrees, Megan inquired about dessert. Trish ordered Fried Ice Cream ($8), a large scoop of vanilla ice cream rolled in corn flakes, fried, ringed with whipped cream and drizzled with sweet caramel sauce. I chose the traditional Flan ($8), which, according to the menu, is the winner of “Best Flan in America” by Latina Magazine.

Sweet endings

Other desserts included Banana Chocolate Chimichanga, Pastel de Tres Leches “Three Milk Cake,” and Plantain Fritters. We found our choices to be a sweet ending to the meal.

While the menu is not large (11 Aperitivos, two Sopas, four Ensaladas, five Cazuelas, six Platos Gigantes, plus 12 items like tacos and enchiladas listed in an unnamed category, as well as five Postres), the choices of size, fillings, sauces and sides (salad or rice and beans) added choices.

Many of the dishes can be prepared gluten-free or vegan. According to the menu, the cocina (kitchen) maintains separate vegetarian and gluten-free deep fryers.

After dinner we strolled around the first floor. An outdoor patio with brightly colored umbrellas occupied the left side of the property, and despite its proximity to State Street and railroad tracks, it was much quieter than indoors. Besides the bar in the front, a smaller bar with a half dozen tables was tucked into the rear and there is one on the second floor.

Sadly, Mexican Radio’s food does not measure up to it glorious decor. I’m hoping the kitchen eventually catches up with the decorator.

NAPKIN NOTES

Mole, Mexico’s national sauce, was “invented” by two nuns in the Convent of Santa Rose in Puebla. The archbishop was coming to dinner, and with nothing to feed him they scoured their cupboards and those of their equally poor neighbors — a taco here, a chili pepper there, a little piece of chocolate. The result: mole.

 
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comments

August 24, 2014
12:28 a.m.
Will1960 says...

Nor do the astronomical prices match up with the shrimpy portion sizes and tepid food. This reviewer was quite generous with her review. I too, was impressed by the decorum, but that aspect couldn't overcome the overall negative experience of dining there. After all the disastrous reviews on yelp, one might think that the owners of Mexican Radio would consider doing a major overhaul to address the numerous complaints. No such luck!

August 24, 2014
8:30 a.m.
Hamelot says...

I hope the taxpayers don't end up losing on this Metroplex investment. The Yelp reviews are terrible and this has been open for months now. Time for management to address the problems and the pricing. High pricing and skimpy portions do not survive in Schenectady.

August 24, 2014
8:37 a.m.
joycemadre says...

Taxpayers will lose its a ten year plan ! However, the numerous complaints and very poor food , service as well what a disappointment !! For anyone who has had Mexican food in the south or even Mexico its rating is very poor and over priced! The decor sorry does not fix Schenectady and other places were not allowed in the past such colors!! There are better ways the decor could have more complementing to the area.

August 24, 2014
10:35 a.m.
ChuckD says...

Took 3 tries to get in. The first two, we three were walk-ins arriving on a Friday evening and Sunday evening. Both times we were told there was an hour to an hour and a half wait, despite the place appearing pretty quiet. 3rd time we phoned in a reservation for one hour later and were seated upstairs in a corner.

Had to pay for a basket of tortilla chips and salsa (!). Very heavily perfumed waitress, very clumsy service and less than memorable food. We're willing to give it another try, but so far underwhelmed.

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