Mexico Viejo serves tasty food and drinks, popular with college crowd

Posted: January 6, 2017 at 6 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2016 at 10:08 p.m.

The carne asada combines steak with grilled onions and is served with tortillas, rice, beans and guacamole.

This is the best time of the year for Gonzalo Leon and his crew at Mexico Viejo Mexican Restaurant in Fayetteville. As the Holiday spirit is in the air and students are returning t0 the nearby University of Arkansas campus, business is certain to boom.

"We are always happy to see the students," said Leon, the general manager for Mexico Viejo and its sister restaurant, El Matador. "It not only helps our business, but it also makes it more enjoyable with the students coming in to eat and have a good time."

Since opening in 2002, the family-owned and operated eatery, located at 2131 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., behind Starbucks, has been a favorite location for students and all other members of the community. It gets even more popular during football and basketball seasons.

If the Razorbacks have a home game, the restaurant gets crowded before and after the games, for food and drinks alike. During away games, it's a popular spot for fans to come in and watch the game together on one of the restaurant's many TVs.

"Of course, we are all big Razorback fans, and it is fun for people to come in and watch the games, or come in after the games to celebrate," Leon said. "We are in a great location, not far from the university."

A new outdoor patio opened in July, but the weather has recently been nice enough at times for its enjoyment. The tables are equipped with umbrellas.

"Customers had been requesting outside seating, so we decided to do it," said Leon, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, who has lived in this area for over 20 years. "We try to make it a special place with our service.

"We want our customers to know that we care about them. If a customer does have a problem, I will personally contact them to see what we can do to make it better. I want to make sure to take care of our customers."

The majority of the restaurant's staff has been in place since it opened, which Leon calls the No. 1 benefit in its success, because the regular customers have gotten to know many of the employees personally.

"We have so many regular customers here, that I think they feel like they are at home," he said.

The restaurant is part of the group of eateries throughout Northwest Arkansas, owned primarily by the Montes family, including Matador, La Huerta, Los Margaritas and Los Fajitas.

Like all of them, Mexico Viejo offers an extensive menu prepared with fresh ingredients. The service aims to be exceptionally fast, "like Speedy Gonzales," Leon added with a chuckle.

Upon arrival, customers are greeted with a basket of freshly fried corn tortilla chips and house-made salsa.

The restaurant is divided into several intimate dining rooms with a centralized bar and a large room at the back of the building that doubles as a party room for large groups. The party room can be reserved for catered parties with no additional room fee. The parties can be booked for banquet-style or table-side service.

The bar is fully stocked and offers an assortment of bottled and imported beers, draft beer by the mug or pitcher, mixed drinks and glasses of wine. Margaritas and daiquiris are served in a 16-ounce glass, as a 44-ounce "Monster" drink or by the pitcher with 60 ounces to share.

Specials run 5-10 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

The menu has more than 100 selections, including vegetarian dishes, appetizers, salads, fajitas, entrees, house specialties and desserts.

"We make everything in-house -- the salsa, queso, beans, desserts -- it is all prepared fresh daily," Leon said.

In addition to fresh salsa and white queso, they also offer bean dip, guacamole or queso fundido -- queso with chorizo and beef.

Lunch plates priced from $3.49 to $5.75 come with a side of rice and beans. The customer has a choice of seasoned ground beef, chicken, shredded pork or cheese for a filling. The selection of dishes includes a crispy taco, chimichanga, tamale and enchilada.

Lunch specialties priced from $3.99 to $6.49 offer nearly 20 additional dishes, including taco salad, fajitas, huevos con chorizo and about a dozen combination plates.

Lunch is served 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily.

A popular dish that has popped up on the menus of other Mexican restaurants in the area originated at Mexico Viejo. Steven's Special serves a plate of sliced, grilled chicken on a bed of rice that is ladled with queso blanco and served with flour tortillas. As the best selling dish at Mexico Viejo, it is also offered in a smaller portion on the children's menu.

In addition to several other Mexican dishes, the children's menu includes chicken nuggets, grilled cheese or a cheeseburger served with French fries, and a cheese pizza.

For dinner, 29 combination plates are offered for $6.50, or customers can create their own combination plate with a choice of three popular items for $7.99.

The house specialty, Especial Dinner, depicts classic Mexican dishes with a sampler platter that includes one taco, one enchilada, one chile rellano, one tamale and one chalupa with rice and beans ($9.75).

The Burrito Mexicano stuffs a flour tortilla with pork simmered in tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. The burrito is topped with queso and is served with lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole ($5.25).

The fajitas can be ordered with beef, chicken, shrimp or a combination of all three with chorizo sausage. Served for an individual ($9.25-$11.50) or for two ($16.99-$18.99), the meat is accompanied by sauteed onions, bell peppers and tomatoes; rice; beans; lettuce; pico de gallo; sour cream; guacamole; and a choice of flour or corn tortillas.

The menu also offers ceviche; pork chops; steak and shrimp; and chicken and rice.

Desserts include a traditional Mexican custard; a fried flour tortilla topped with honey, butter and cinnamon; or ice cream topped with cocoa, corn flakes and whipped cream.

Mexico Viejo opens daily at 11 a.m. and stays open until 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

More information is available by calling (479) 587-8181 or at mexicoviejofayetteville.com.

NAN Dining Guide Cover on 01/06/2017

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