We went to this little restaurant on the corner of Marks and Belmont for my birthday dinner last night. We'd wanted to try it for a while, ever since reading some excellent reviews online, and had even walked there one night from our apartment in the Tower District (a 2 hour walk!) only to find that it had just closed (I think they close at 9, even on weekends). But last night we took the bus and found the restaurant to be open and were promptly seated.
The Atmosphere: This restaurant is out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields and houses with lots of junk cars sitting outside. They've managed to use the remote location to their advantage, however, with a quiet outdoor patio surrounded by greenery that completely blocks the view of the road. We sat outside and I only got a quick glance of the inside dining room, but it looked like they'd created a similarly nice atmosphere in there as well.
The Service: We were seated immediately and everything we ordered was promptly brought to the table. The waitress was friendly and helpful when it came to any questions we had about the menu, but there were a few times she seemed a little distracted (at one point, she brought us more salsa for our chips, but walked away without replenishing our empty chip basket). I think she might have been working both the patio and the dining room by herself.
The Food: This is where things get really good. The complimentary chips and salsa were a cut above the usual. The chips were handmade and had a sprinkling of chili powder over one side. The salsa was cilantro flavoured, and was a bit watery... until my boyfriend asked if they had a hotter version. The hot version was a thick, pungent salsa verde that was definitely worth asking for.
They don't have a liquor licence, but have a decent selection of Mexican beer. We both ordered Cerveza Bohemias, which were brought to the table perfectly chilled.
For dinner, I ordered the filete de pescado a la diabla. I can't remember the name of the dish my boyfriend ordered, but it consisted of ribs in a thinnish red chili sauce. The filete de pescado a la diabla was wonderful. The fish was just tilapia, but it was moist and tender and was covered in one of the most flavourful sauces I've ever eaten. I've spent the whole morning searching online for a comparible recipe, but it seems that most "a la diabla" sauces are made with chipotles and tomatatoes. This sauce was lemony and buttery with tomatillos and spicy green chilis. I thought it might have artichoke in it, but when I asked our server, she said it didn't. I didn't get a chance to taste the ribs, but reports were that they were equally excellent. I did sneak a bit of the sauce and while it looked thinned down, it didn't taste thinned down at all.
Both dishes were served with the requisite rice and refried beans, as well as a little mound of iceberg lettuce and a choice of corn or flour tortillas. The beans and rice were pretty standard, and while my boyfriend thought the lettuce was unneccessary, I thought it added a nice crunch, without competing for flavour. As for the tortillas, I ordered corn and he ordered flour. Both were made in house and both were delicious.
A final bonus was the pricing, which was really reasonable. We both ordered off of the entree menu and each had 2 beers and the tab totalled up to less than $20/person. If you ordered tacos or burritos, it would be even more affordable.
Final Thoughts: I would recommend this place in a heartbeat. I think this may be the best Mexican food I've eaten in Fresno. As my boyfriend put it this morning, it's a good thing it isn't closer to our house because we'd end up eating every meal there.