Looking for delicious Tex-Mex just minutes from the U of Maryland campus? Azteca Restaurant & Cantina delivers with big flavors and wonderful food.
Two weeks ago OSU had a bye week, and Maryland had a home football game. I hadn’t been to a Maryland game in 2 years, and it was my birthday week, so it was the perfect excuse to fly home for the weekend.
When I go back to Maryland in the summer, it’s almost always around Heather’s birthday, and we always go to Marathon Deli. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in College Park, and is one of the few restaurants where I always get the same thing. Yes, I know that goes against the premise of the blog. But sometimes there are are special exceptions.
Heather had suggested Azteca Restaurant and Cantina for lunch when I was home this summer. We chose another option that day, so I wanted to try it out on this trip.
Azteca is on Route 1, about 2 miles from campus. Route 1 has absolutely exploded since I left 10 years ago. The area has always been very busy, and they keep adding businesses and big apartment buildings. The problem is, they can’t expand the road beyond its current 4 lanes, so at some point the area just won’t be able to handle any more.
Many of the businesses on Route 1 are right along the edge of the road, and Azteca is no different. There are a few parking spaces in front of the building, plus additional parking in the back. I parked out front, and then realized that probably wasn’t the best decision, because I would have to back out into traffic. Thankfully though, when we left we got out pretty quickly.
Azteca is surprisingly spacious inside, with a generous entry foyer and waiting area. The colors are bright and vibrant, and there are windows along the street side, providing a lot of natural light. The dining room is large, separated into 2 sections in the middle by a half-wall.
Chips and salsa is standard at every Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant. Azteca took it to a new level for breast cancer month and The Power of Pink.
Yes, those are pink chips! For some reason I thought they might taste different, but they don’t. The chips are warm, fresh, and lightly salted. The salsa is really good. It is very flavorful, and has just enough kick. The danger with chips is the mindless eating. And yes, we accomplished that quite well.
The Azteca menu is huge, as is standard for many Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants. They offer a regular menu, plus a lunch buffet. We planned to check out the buffet, but once we began to look over the menu we never got up. I don’t do well with large menus, because they are so overwhelming! There’s just way too much to choose from.
Heather got the chicken chimichanga.
I didn’t taste any, but she said it was delicious
When I visit a Mexican restaurant for the first time, I usually get fajitas. I figure if they can do fajitas well, everything else will be pretty good. I did beef fajitas, skipped the rice, and requested extra guacamole.
These fajitas are amazing. Huge, well-seasoned, tender and juicy strips of meat. The tortillas are hot and fresh, and taste homemade. Most Tex-Mex restaurants serve refried beans as their standard, so it was a nice surprise to get borracho beans. These beans always have so much more flavor than refried.
Usually when you ask for extra guacamole, they are very skimpy with the “extra”. Not Azteca. This was a very generous portion, and I had Heather’s as well because she doesn’t eat it. It was almost too much guacamole. Almost.
I rarely ever get dessert, especially at Mexican restaurants because I’m so full. However, we decided to share sopapillas.
What a fun birthday treat! A very generous portion of sopapillas, plus a scoop of ice cream. And 2 of the servers sang Happy Birthday to me. We each had only one sopapilla, but couldn’t stop eating the ice cream. It is so light and creamy, and has a wonderful flavor.
The only negative in our entire Azteca experience was that the service was quite slow. The restaurant wasn’t crowded at all, so I’m not sure what happened. We didn’t notice it early in the visit because we spent so much time catching up, but towards the end it truly stood out.
Azteca has a generous vegetarian menu, so it’s perfect for my parents. They are also creatures of habit with restaurants, so this will be a nice twist to mix in for them.
Will I go back to Azteca? Of course I will. The food was delicious, and there are so many other things to try. Also, they do Jazz Fest every Sunday! What a great idea