Businesses that aren't in the Morristown hotspots tend not to get as much media attention as maybe they deserve. We can be as much to blame as others.
While months and months passed, we reported the sporadic progress of South Street businesses like CUPS and Iron Bar as they inched toward opening. Meanwhile, on Lafayette Avenue, another business was spending about a year getting its ducks in a row and ready for the public.
American & Mexican Grill ... it's a utilitarian name in a utilitarian shopping center. There are very few frills in the same strip that hosts a Central American restaurant, Chinese restaurant, Dunkin Donuts, Staples and the Morris Gourmet Farm, among other businesses.
Upon entering American & Mexican Grill–which opened last week–you get the same impression. It's not flashy, but it is very clean. A woman working when I came in said the space had been quite the mess when they started, so everything was new.
Looking in the restaurant and at its expansive menu, one gets the impression the owners are looking to bridge the gap between Morristown's Hispanic diners and everyone else. Note the name: American & Mexican. Where a place like its strip mall neighbors El Encuentro Centro Americano Restaurante seems to cater primarily to a Spanish-speaking population (and the long-departed Mexican-styled Yo & Papa catered primarily to gringos), this new dining destination wants to invite everyone to the table.
The American portion of the menu is represented by items like burgers, club sandwiches, pasta, salads and wraps. The Mexican side features familiar items like tacos, fajitas, burritos and quesadillas, as well as lesser-known choices like Pechuga de Pollo Asada, Carne Tampiquena and a "Mexican Breakfast," where entrees are served with coffee, atole (a traditional Mexican breakfast drink), rice and cream.
There also is a buffet-style counter with various hot items diners can get assembled into a full platter. For $8.99 you get your choice of several meats, rice, black beans and plantains. Always a fan of variety, I went with this choice. Also, it was right there and I was very hungry.
Into my to-go container went some of the tastiest black beans I have had in a while. Salty without being overpowering, full of flavor. The rice was rice. For my entree, I got a portion of stewed chicken thighs, with meat that was tender, juicy and falling off the bone. And, a beef stew, with a flavorful sauce of onions and tomatoes. Add a bottle of Coke Zero, and the whole thing came out to just over $11. That's a pretty good deal.
I felt very comfortable at American & Mexican Grill. It's clean, the woman at the counter was very nice and the food was satisfying. It was definitely some down-home comfort food. It was not flashy, like those attention hogs on the other side of town that seem to get all the headlines, even before they've opened their doors. It did not need to be.
I'm very curious to see how the "American" side to their name tastes. The restaurant has table service and a large menu of choices and options for the chef to get creative with. Which means I'm likely to be back to American & Mexican Grill pretty soon.