The storefront space at number 312 on Royal Oak’s South Main Street seems destined to be a Mexican restaurant.
After more than 20 years as Monterrey Cantina, it has emerged from a complete remake as Mesa Tacos and Tequila. And, as might be expected of a place with a name like that, it is every bit as much a bar as it is a restaurant.
In fact, the bar atmosphere dominates, along with the almost overpowering number of TV screens around the room. Yes, we love our sports on TV, but give us a break. Not every surface has to be covered by a flat screen.
The space was gutted to the bare walls by the new group of proprietors, making room for balcony seating approached by a graceful staircase. It overlooks the street through big windows. On the main floor, the room is completely open to the street, with tables clustered there. Smaller high-top tables and a few booths fill out the seating arrangements along with a dozen or so seats at the bar, where the house beverages — Margaritas, mojitos and sangria — are prepared to order from fresh ingredients. It’s reassuring to watch the bartender slicing fresh pineapple, oranges and strawberries and crushing mint.
Sangria, mojitos and Margaritas are available by the glass or the pitcher ($35 regardless of which beverage is your choice).
There’s really no reason to deviate from the menu of Mexican dishes that people like and expect, and the new regime hasn’t. Reinventing the wheel is seldom successful. The menu will be familiar to anyone who has ever dipped into guacamole, nachos, enchiladas and flautas in local Mexican restaurants.
They are crowd-pleasers, as is the obligatory basket of tortilla chips and salsa that arrives quickly as patrons settle in at the bar or one of the tables. The house salsa is nicely textured but mild — a spicier version is delivered for the asking. Tacos come two to an order and are available in seven interpretations, from brisket and chorizo to tacos Americano made with ground beef or chicken. And during the weekday happy hour that stretches from 2 to 6 p.m., tacos Americano are just $2 apiece. And admit it: Aren’t those the ones we really love?
The Americanos are also featured all day on Tuesdays when they are $15 for all you can summon to the table.
Mesa Tacos and Tequila adds a festive note to downtown Royal Oak.
Mesa Tacos and Tequila
312 S. Main, Royal Oak
Call: (248) 545-1940
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat., noon-midnight Sun. Bar later.
Prices: Appetizers $8-$12, salads and sandwiches $8-$12, individual tacos $4-$5, entrees $12-$20.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar with an emphasis on tequila
Noise level: High
Parking: Nearby municipal deck or street
Wheelchair access: No barriers