A clever name makes Nacho Mama's Mexican Grill (1000 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 736-1188; 3242 Magazine St., 899-0031; www.nachomamasmexicangrill.com) easy to remember, and the restaurant's wholesome, innovative approach to Mexican cuisine helps it stand out.
"We make everything in-house from scratch every day, from our sauces to our salsas, soups and dressings. We don't buy anything pre-made," says owner and New York native Shane Finkelstein. "We're not authentic Mexican; we're not Tex-Mex. We're a healthy style of Mexican food."
Combining his background in business and his passion for Mexican food, Finkelstein created an eatery that focuses on a light but satisfying style of Mexican fare and incorporates traditional items like chicken tortilla soup.
"If you come to Nacho Mama's expecting lots of cheeses or creamy sauces, that's not what we do," Finkelstein says. "Overall, it's food my wife and I like, and (that's) what makes us feel good about putting it out."
With prices averaging around $10 a plate, diners are in for an economical experience. "I think people are surprised at how affordable our food is," Finkelstein says. "They feel like they're getting a good value here."
A new chef lends a note of authenticity to the new menu by incorporating traditional ingredients. "We brought in chef Joey Mongrue to take it beyond whatever I could do," Finkelstein says. "With the new menu, he decided to bring in more authentic ingredients like crema from El Salvador, Cotija and Chihuahua cheeses, and arbol and ancho chiles, as well as adobo seasoning."
Finkelstein says Mongrue has enhanced old menu favorites and added items like green pepper aioli. "We're now slow-roasting our pork, and we added a fresh tres leches (topped with candied pecans) to our desserts," Finkelstein says. The grill recently debuted a selection of vegetarian entrees including a veggie torta layered with grilled portobello mushrooms, vegetables, black bean puree and roasted red and ancho pepper aioli, and a "Green Monster" burrito packed with vegetables, pico de gallo, black beans and salsa verde.
"I always welcome advice from our guests that will improve our menu," says Finkelstein, who considers himself and his wife hands-on owners who enjoy interacting with diners. "We're going to have rotating daily specials like duck tacos, Gulf fish wrapped in banana leaves with plantain hash, and chipotle flank steak," Finkelstein says. "I think people will be really impressed."
With these new dishes on the horizon, Finkelstein hopes to satisfy his loyal customers and reach out to new ones.
"We feel like we're doing something different and unique," Finkelstein says. "We're an evolving concept, making it better and better, and one day I'll have the perfect restaurant."
Nacho Mama's offers Mexican-inspired dishes with a healthy twist.
Photo by Cheryl Gerber