If you think I’m writing a lot about Mexican restaurants lately, you’re right.
Here’s yet another Mexican restaurant opening. It’s across the street and down a few blocks from Tonala Mexican Restaurant, which opened in February.
Casa Moreno Restaurant is the name of the new place tucked into a funky strip mall off 38th. It opened last month.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
It’s also a Mexican restaurant replacement.
“I really loved Agaves Grill, especially their mushroom pico de gallo,” a reader wrote to me last month. So did I. But here’s good news. Alfonso Ramos, the owner of Agaves Grill and Tacoma’s former El Guadalajara, just opened a restaurant in Port Orchard called Ay, Tequila. Ramos also operates Los Agaves in Belfair. He closed a Centralia location around the time he closed the Tacoma location, said Alfonso Ramos Jr., his son.
Casa Moreno’s menu is similar to Agaves Grill, as well as nearby newly opened Tonala.
Here’s a first-bite look.
The dining room: Nearly identical to Agaves Grill. The Agaves remodel wiped out the casual taqueria feel of the former Funky Iguana, which closed in that space in 2016. Agaves swapped the Funky Iguana's mismatched tables for handsome booths and replaced the Victoria beer flags with muted artwork and paint.
Booths are comfortable, deep and lined with wood trim creating a faux high back. Curved-back chairs would look at home in a casino. Floating drum pendant lamp shades cast a moody light by night. The palette favors muted tones with the occasional pop of color, such as flowers on the tables and a vibrant portrait of artist Frida Kahlo.
The menu: Standard Mexican-American fare. Burritos ($12.99-$13.99), one-item combination plates ($12.95), two-item combination plates ($15.99), taco plates ($16.99). Classic chicken dishes such as chicken mole ($17.99) and arroz con pollo ($18.99). Traditional beef and pork dishes including carne asada ($20.99), steak fajitas ($19.99), chile colorado ($14.99) and chile verde ($14.99).
A few unusual menu offerings, such as an array of steaks ($22.99-$23.99), menudo ($13.99) and molcajeta colima ($23.99).
Prices: A bit above market. For comparison, nearby Tonala charges $8.99 for a one-item combination plate, $14.99 for arroz con pollo and $14.99 for four carnitas street tacos with rice and beans.
On a first visit: Carnitas held crispy edges on a three-taco plate with rice and beans ($16.99). Tacos al carbon came with plenty of beans, rice and freshly-made guacamole ($17.99).
Chips and salsa: Two kinds of salsa, red and green, start a meal. Chips were plentiful.
Cocktails: A short tequila list, house margaritas, Mexican beer.
Casa Moreno Restaurant
Where: 3802 S. Cedar St., Tacoma
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.