Spice Department

Published on: February 25th, 2014

For a state with as much Mexican-American history woven into its heritage as ours, you’d think finding great Mexican food would be a snap. Ana’s Mexican Grill is a step in the right direction, with a rich local tradition of her own.

Every meal starts with a basket of warm tortilla chips and a bowl of piquant house-made salsa. While waiting for our food, we ordered the La Flaca margarita because it included local spirits (not because it was the “skinny” option, as the name implies), but the drink was bracingly sour—way too much lime juice and not enough agave.

This place is packed on Friday nights, possibly due to the very popular Friday night special, carnitas. I enjoyed the slow-cooked pork doused liberally in a fresh-tasting green chile that’s full of flavor without being overly hot. The accompanying chimichanga and soft tacos were pretty standard, but well executed. All the meats were richly seasoned without being hot, and the rice was full of flavor—not the tasteless instant, mixed veggie stuff you come across far too often.  We were happy to dig into a plate of fresh, piping hot sopapillas to round off the meal.

On our second visit, we ordered the huge bowl of pozole, which comes wittwo fried potato tacos, and the el pollo loco plate: half a grilled chicken with potatoes.  The pozole was by far the best thing we ate at Ana’s. Brilliantly green with cilantro and tomatillos, the hominy was perfectly cooked (not a tough or chewy piece in the bowl), studded with big, flavorful chunks of chicken and hot enough to perk up your taste buds. The fried potato tacos seemed a little better in concept than in practice; I love the fact that they offer fried tacos, but these were overly greasy and dripping oil onto the plate.

The pollo loco grilled chicken was succulent. My friend—a huge devotee of crispy chicken skin—was over the moon with this bird, covered in ridiculously tasty skin. Served with fresh corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, and a dollop of guacamole, this really hit the spot.

The service, however, was not on par with the food’s excellence. When we returned for lunch on Wednesday, the service, as with the last visit, was inattentive and brusque.

It should say something about the food, then, that I’d be willing to risk the iffy service again for another bowl of that pozole.  Or to try Ana’s special shrimp or the ceviche that occasionally makes an appearance as a special. I think the true talent of this place shows up not in the Mexican-American style dishes you can get at any chain restaurant, but in the more authentic dishes and specials of the house.

Bottom line: Tasty food with an eye for authenticity, but less-than-stellar service.

Ana’s Mexican Grill
2821 A 120th Ave., Westminster
303.465.6472

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