40 and Famished: When in the Heart of the City, Don’t Wait ‘Til Mañana

Fajitas de Pollo. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben. Fajitas de Pollo. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben.

How does the stereotypical Spanish response to procrastinating from completing a task go? “Mañana, mañana?” Finally, tomorrow arrived, and I visited Mañana, a Mexican restaurant with three girlfriends on a beautiful summer’s eve.

Manana Dining Room. Photo Esther Szeben

Manana Dining Room. Photo Esther Szeben

Located across from Carré St. Louis, genuine Mexican decor, matching the authentic Mexican margaritas and food, one can count on an evening of good food amid charming surroundings. Never having been to Mexico, what can I really compare this to? So when I say genuine or authentic, please take this with un grano de sal.

Mango Margaritas. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Mango Margaritas. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

We sat on the terrace because it was early enough to avoid flying pests like mosquitoes and wasps, and come on, it’s St. Denis street!  Having crossed through the dining room to use the facilities, I remarked that this too would be welcoming seating. The walls are decorated with many Frieda Kahlo portraits painted in the style of Kahlo, and painted murals of open windows. The brick walls are adorned by decorative paintings, masks of animals and sunshine faces. If you’ve been following my posts for the last few weeks, you’ll know that I don’t say too many negative things. I try to see the quaint and the beauty in everything. Some people may say the decor is tacky or kitsch; I feel art is never a place to disparage someone’s personal expression and I revel in being hosted in a restaurant that is so different from my own abode. I am definitely not the Accidental Tourist and would never want to pay someone to feed me food that tastes like anything I can make, and serve it to me in what looks like my own kitchen!

Dining Room Brick Wall. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Dining Room Brick Wall. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

The menu is large and can quite possibly provide even the motley crew party of food-restricted-guests ample choices. You can be  gluten-free, vegetarian, possibly vegan, definitely carnivorous, and possibly even lactose-intolerant, providing some small tweaking to your selection and everyone would leave satisfied.

Sangria. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Sangria. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

The menu has a page long list of refreshing drinks! A Margarita glass will set you back $7.95 so the half pitcher at $14.00 was the most frugal way to get several drinks into all of us. We started with the traditional lime, and worked our way up to a thicker Mango Margarita. No hangover the next day, but I must admit, I was feeling a bit queasy. Tequila and Triple Sec have that effect on me. Other varieties of this alcoholic slushy drink include strawberry, banana, pineapple and cantaloupe.

Terrace Manana. Mañana Restaurant. Photo Esther Szeben.

Terrace Manana. Mañana Restaurant. Photo Esther Szeben.

The plates that we ordered, all resembled each others even though there were no duplicates. Your main course is served with a simple leafy salad, grated carrots and tomato slices, a dollop of guacamole, a scoop of rice and baked black beans with a bit of melted queso sprinkled on top. Myself, being one who tries to lean towards the gluten free fare, would have preferred corn tortillas also for their taste and grittier texture.

Enchilada Poblano. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Enchilada Poblano. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

My friend Caroline, who highly recommends this place as her all time favourite Mexican restaurant on the island, ordered her usual Enchilada Poblana and she orders it spicy! You get two large flour tortillas stuffed with chicken and mole negro (chile pasilla, cocoa and Mexican spices, grated with Mexican cheese), sour cream, avocado and onions. Served with rice and salad at $15.95 you get your moneys worth.

Fajitas de Filete. Photo Esther Szeben

Fajitas de Filete. Photo Esther Szeben

Flour Tortillas. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Flour Tortillas. Restaurant Mañana. Photo Esther Szeben.

I was feeling the need for iron, so I had the fajitas with beef filet sauteed with mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions and garlic. Your plate basically looks like a small stir fry, and you can build your fajita with the bread that comes wrapped in a colorful cloth in a basket on the side. At a moderate $17.95 I was able to make four small fajitas, though I found the meat quite chewy and tough. My friend Candis ordered the chicken version at $16.95 and couldn’t stop thinking about Mexican food the following day!  Meghan ordered the Quesadillas de Pollo at 1$4.95 and got two flour tortillas stuffed with chicken, melted cheese and sauteed vegetables, also served with the requisite rice, guacamole and salad.

Fajitas de Pollo. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Fajitas de Pollo. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Nothing out of the ordinary ordered on this night. I think I saw some appetizers on the menu that included cactus so if you wanted to be adventurous, you would get it. A table d’hote at $21.95 included a soup or salad and a dessert and coffee but the soup was cream of broccoli that night and it just didn’t seem to fit the Mexican fare I am used to and I didn’t have the extra appetite to finish a dessert. I did taste my friends banana flambeada though : flamed bananas with red wine and tequila that had a not-too-sweet and slightly nutmeggy spiciness to it.

Bananas Flambeada. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Bananas Flambeada. Restaurant Manana. Photo Esther Szeben.

Where was I getting my Mexican fix when I wasn’t here? My favourite Mexican restaurant of late is El Meson, on Boul. St. Joseph in Lachine. Its Mexican fare is probably more regional as Caroline finds their mole sauce to be quite different from what she is used to at Mañana. This is also a terrific summer spot with a terrace out front overlooking the St. Lawrence, and a private terrace out back with Mexican music ambiently playing in the background. Their prices are comparative to Mañana.

Bottom line: if you are downtown, don’t wait till mañana! The Jazz festival is going on and before you know it, Just for Laughs, and a myriad of other festival-come-excuses to dine on bustling St. Denis, so why not stroll down to this St. Denis must before catching a show? You won’t be disappointed in the palate or on the pocket.

Manana is located at 3605 St Denis. Esther Szeben can be reached for restaurant picks at fourtyandfamished@gmail.com

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