Restaurant Reviews

Frida's Mexican Grill brings some south of the border to north Wichita

Review: Frida's Mexican Grill

Rating: 31/2 forks

Where: 1580 W. 21St. St.

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday

Type of food: Northen Mexican

Alcohol: Mexican and American beer, margaritas

Smoking: No

It seems almost unfair: North Wichita has another really good Mexican restaurant.

Frida's Mexican Grill opened in the Thai Binh plaza on West 21st Street in April, specializing in the style of food popular in the owners' native Monterey, in northern Mexico.

Unique offerings, reasonable prices and convenient hours leave little to complain about. And Spanish-challenged diners shouldn't worry: The food is authentic but the owners have been in the restaurant business in this country for 14 years (they also own La Mesa).

ON THE MENU: Tacos (corn or flour), piratas (large flour tacos), burritos and tortas come with a choice of chicken, beef or pork fillings. In addition to the usual sides of rice and beans, Frida's offers elote (corn kernels smothered in cheese, lime juice and chile powder), lime-and-salt chips and stuffed baked potatoes.

DON'T-MISS DISHES: Frida's features at least three addictive items we haven't seen anywhere else in Wichita, which is pretty good for any restaura nt.

Piratas ($5.99 for two) are large flour tortillas filled with your choice of grilled meat, guacamole, shredded cheese, cilantro and onion. After they're stuffed, they're toasted on a panini grill. It's hard to say why this step makes them so delicious, but it does.

You won't want refried beans again after trying Frida's charro beans ($1.09), pinto beans that are slow-cooked with bacon, sausage and other seasonings until they've achieved a smoky flavor and buttery texture.

Then there's Frida's fresh salsa bar, which holds nine salsas made on the premises. They range in heat from fiery (habanero-red onion) to medium (toasted tomatillos-dried red chiles) to mild (standard tomato-jalapeno), and are conveniently labeled as such. You'll want to try them all.

Also good was the trio of flour tacos with pork filling ($5.99) we tried. Both the roasted meat and the grilled sausage on the Frida's special ($9.99) struck me as a little bland. They are served with rice, beans, tortillas, lettuce, tomato, etc. I guess we could have assembled our own tacos out of all this, but I think I prefer the way Frida's kitchen makes them.

AMBIENCE: Frida's owners have cleaned up this space, which has been home to numerous restaurants, by knocking out walls to put in an open kitchen and hanging reproductions of Frida Kahlo's artwork.

Our only complaint: On two lunch visits, TVs were set to Mexican soap operas and Jerry Springer knockoffs at ear-splitting volumes (although employees cheerfully turned them down). Late-night, it's a festive stop for the club crowd, with music thumping from Frida's party room next door. PRICE RANGE: A bargain, with entrees ranging from $5.99 to $9.99. Most are big enough to share, but who'd want to? SERVICE: Friendly and relatively quick. Diners order at the counter, get their own plasticware and then take a seat.