Nacho Mama's adds silliness to the menu

April 15, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

Probably the best hint I could give you about Nacho Mama's is not to ask what "Mexican cowsay" is on the menu. Order the guacamole or the nachos, but don't ask about the Mexican cowsay. Because when you do, the waitress has to say, "Moo." And that's embarrassing for both of you. Believe me, after the thousandth time she does not find this joke the most amusing part of her job.

From the beginning, then, you know Nacho Mama's is going to be a fun, wacky kind of place. Luckily, though, not all the cutesiness makes you want to gag. You may puzzle over the words on the menu under the chips and salsa -- "the first hubcap is free" -- but then you notice the good tortilla chips and mildly hot salsa on the table are served, yes, in a hubcap.

The best thing about Nacho Mama's is that it's exactly what it bills itself: a hangout. You have to like the looks of the place, with its shrine to Elvis surrounded by a string of red chili pepper lights, the floor painted with more chili peppers, the little shelf in your booth built to hold a variety of hot pepper sauces. You VTC begin to get the drift here. Still, the decor isn't all Tex-Mex; there are sports memorabilia and some local artifacts, such as signs from Ocean City.

Order a beer or a glass of sangria (no harder liquor is served, so forget the margarita), enjoy the music, and have some Mexican food. Have a lot of Mexican food. Get an appetizer, a salad and a main course and the table won't hold it all. And everything costs under $10.

Quantity and low price are the big draws here, but some dishes are worthy of note. The excellent chili is made with shredded beef and beer and no beans; it's packed with flavor and tongue-searing spices. The black bean soup -- a soup of some sophistication, and not too heavy -- is equally good.

A special that night was shrimp ranchero, with nice fat shrimp that weren't overcooked. True, the ranchero sauce tasted remarkably like the salsa we were dipping our chips in; but it tasted even better on shrimp than chips. The rice with the shrimp, subtly seasoned with cilantro, was a high point of the meal.

The rest of dinner was hit-or-miss. The supposed caesar salad was identical to the ensalada del casa -- I can't believe the kitchen deliberately puts broccoli in caesar salad and just happens to leave off the croutons. (These salads, by the way, are big enough for two.)

The guacamole was so smooth and so far removed from the original avocado I had to believe it wasn't made fresh. Chicken and beef fajitas were OK, but if you want guacamole or sour cream with them, you have to order them specially (and pay extra for the guacamole).

For dessert, you can have that fine Mexican specialty, cannoli with Hershey's chocolate sauce squirted on it. Or a strawberry quesadilla, which may be more authentic but would have been better without the tortilla. (You'd be left then with strawberries, whipped cream and Hershey's syrup. On second thought, hold the chocolate syrup as well.)

Nacho Mama's

Where: 2907 O'Donnell St.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V.

Features: Mexican food

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 675-0898

Prices: $2.95-$8.95

** 1/2

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