I’ve been wanting to eat at Tampico Grill for a while. It’s small. It’s local. It’s been around for at least five years without any major changes, though some of my coworkers say that there used to be a cheese steak joint in its place. It’s got all the indicators that it could be another great sleeper-of-a-restaurant.
The first test of Mexican-style restaurants is the chips and salsa. It’s my thinking that they ought to be included and refilled as part of the meal, not just because I’m thrifty but because the right salsa can help cleanse the palate and enable a better sense of taste. The chips and salsa are complimentary at Tampico Grill, just as they should be. There was a zingy California-style tomatillo salsa that went really well with the thick tortilla chips that left me licking my lips, ready for my meal.
It took a little longer than expected (probably 15-20 minutes), but when it did our server just kept bringing out more plates.
The Carnitas pictured about are listed under the Specialties section. After indulging, I can see why. Chunks of pork, marinated in orange juice and garlic. The pork is soft on the inside, with a touch of chewiness on the edges where it’s been sitting on the iron skillet. The onions were hot and cooked but still crispy. The garlic was lost on me in the mix, but I could distinctly taste the citrus from the orange juice. The platter was served fajita-style with sauteed cilantro, 4 grilled tortillas, and a full round of sides. It was one heck of a meal.
There are several homemade sauces to choose from on most dishes, ranging from mild (ranchera, mole, and green) to spicy (both a Chipotle-based and one based on chile negro guajillos and anchos). Everything that we saw delivered to other tables looked delicious. The menu boasts several unique dishes, like catfish or talapia fillets, Oaxican migas, Mahi Mahi tacos, shrimp agave (made with tequila), and portbello fajitas.
As you enter Tampico grill, the pickup counter awaits. Large photographs of some of the dishes are prominently displayed; they aren’t professional photographs but the food pictures still looks delicious. To the left booths line the front side of the building. Larger tables sit farther back. To the right is a small bar room fit for 20 or 30 people. During Happy Hour (Monday through Friday, 4-7pm), this is where you can buy half-price appetizers and get $1.25 12oz domestic drafts. Sunday and Tuesday (from 4pm-close) they serve $9.95 Fajitas, normally $13-15. With deals like that, I could see Tampico Grill becoming one of my regular fixes.
Tampico Grill isn’t a place that I would zoom into to have a really quick meal. It’s a place that I’d come to have a chance to talk with my dining companions. It’s quiet and secluded. At no point did I feel like I was being rushed. That’s really important to me. I hate it when I feel like the server just wants to turn a table as soon as I sit down. The food took a little while longer to come out than at a large chain, but the food was worth waiting for and I was enjoying talking with my Dad.
Located on Route 1 just one block north of Main Street in Laurel, Tampico Grill technically sits on the southbound side, but it is accessible from the northbound side too if you turn left into the Quality Inn parking lot and pull through.