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TMCNet:  Los Toltecos

[December 27, 2012]

Los Toltecos

Dec 27, 2012 (The Frederick News-Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- When I stopped in Los Toltecos with my mom the other night, the first thing we noticed was an elaborate drink menu.

Drinks aren't the first thing that come to mind when I'm going out for Mexican food, but in this case their offerings were so overwhelming, we had to look them over.

It's the drinks that make this restaurant stand out as not-your-average Mexican dinner.

They have 45 tequilas, most Mexican beers, plus several popular American beers, and they carry margaritas in several flavors (like "blue" and "orange"), plus sangrias, plus something that crosses a margarita with a sangria -- a Cadillac. (My mom couldn't help herself and ordered one of these Cadillacs, which was huge, for $6.50. She said it was like a sangria with a kick.) I also noticed rather quickly that they have numerous drink and meal specials that really can't be beat. It would be worth checking out these daily specials, which run for a couple months at a time, before ordering -- or even planning a trip based on the specials of the day.

The restaurant, which opened in August, is bright and pleasing, and the host and wait staff were friendly and accommodating, from their "hellos" as we walked in, to their "have a good nights" as we left, and answering questions in between.

I usually judge a Mexican restaurant by its chips and salsa -- first impressions, you know (don't even get me started on how I feel about Mexican establishments that don't provide this complementary to each table). These were above par. The chips arrived warm, which is always great, and the salsa was fresh with a bit of spice, mild enough for those who veer away from hot flavors.

I talked with the general manager, Alejandro Lopez, a few days later, and he told me some people order the salsa in pints and take it home. And some people eat it with a spoon, he said. And one woman insists on adding it to her Bloody Marys.

My mom ordered the Fajita Salad ($8.75), a large portion that came with lots of onions and peppers and chicken.

I got the Chalupa Texana ($10.99) and had no complaints with the meal but noticed the menu didn't list cheese, and the dish came with melted shredded cheese over the black beans and in the corn tortilla. So for those with food restrictions, I suggest running them by your waiter or waitress.

Some other interesting menu items worth noting are the Molcajete, new this week, which features a big bowl, made of volcanic rock, in the shape of a pig and full of all sorts of steaming goodies, including shrimp, bell peppers, tomatoes and green sauce.

They also have vegetarian options, like the Garden Burrito Deluxe, and a children's menu that has tacos and Fajitas, as well as a hamburger and fries.

You could say Lopez knows his way around the kitchen. And the restaurant, for that matter. A certified chef, he's worked in French, Italian, Chinese and Latino restaurants. He's flipped burgers. And he bakes. The focus of Los Toltecos was to be traditional Mexican fare, the kind that is typically prepared in Mexico City, where Lopez was born and raised.

It's not fine Mexican, he said. It's traditional, homemade recipes, many of which are from his family, who owns the restaurant chain, with a handful of locations in Virginia.

We didn't have room for dessert but worth noting is some of the options: fried ice cream, flan and churros.

If I order dessert next time I stop in, I might also have to try their Mexican Coffee with Kahlua and Tequila -- instead of grabbing a cup of coffee before hitting the road.

-- Lauren LaRocca llarocca@newspost.com The Dish reports on unannounced dining experiences. Suggestions welcome at 72Hours@newspost.com.

___ (c)2012 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) Visit The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) at www.fredericknewspost.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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