After posting on this place Saturday, I took some initiative and actually tried it out, along with my wife and two sisters. Results were somewhat mixed.
Margaritas are advertised in neon on the window (in a strange juxtaposition, just below the neon carry out sign), and I can rarely resist starting a sit-down Mexican dinner that way, particularly at a new place. We ordered a pitcher. It was not good. Tasted strongly of margarita mix and not very much of tequila. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure fresh limes were provided, though I could be mistaken.
The chips were brought to the table immediately and were fairly good. They were not quite as dense or thick as what I am accustomed to here, though not nearly so thin as in a Dallas Tex-Mex joint, for example. The salsa was smooth and had a pleasant though not overwhelming heat to it. Unfortunately, I didn't think it had enough flavor...I would have preferred it a bit more tomato-y.
We ordered the C. Manny's Fiesta appetizer, which came with 2 loaded nacho chips, 2 quesadillas, and 2 chimichangitas. The latter scored the first real triumph of the night, one chicken and one beef, both well-spiced and perfectly fried. The nachos and quesadillas (cheese melted between two little flour tortilla triangles) were acceptable but unmemorable. The guacamole on the nacho left a bit to be desired. The plate is a good-sized appetizer for two, but I'll try to just get the chimichangitas if I return.
For entrees three of us got enchiladas, one suizas, one verdes, don't recall the other. I got the Bistek ala Ranchero, skirt steak grilled and covered with a mild but flavorful ranchero sauce and melted cheese, vaguely reminiscent of a pizza topping, but in a strangely good way.
The entrees, as the appetizers did, stood out for their meat. The chicken in the enchiladas was tender, juicy, and flavorful, as was my skirt steak. Pretty much everything else--rice, beans, sauces--solidly rendered.
Overall, the meal tended more toward tex-mex than I've generally found in Chicago, and having spent six years in Dallas, that holds a firm place in my heart. While C. Manny's doesn't quite hold up to that standard, it is good for what it is. It was a nice, friendly neighborhood place, with warm, relaxed, and efficient service.
The place seems to be aiming a little higher than what one would expect from a neighborhood Mexican place. It is a long storefront restaurant, with both sides paneled by mirrors. The back half of the east wall is devoted to a pleasant looking bar. There is a Latin-music jukebox that provided music for most of the meal, but not obtrusively or obnoxiously so. Strangely, the entire place was decked out for Valentine's day, nearly a month in advance, with a large assortment of red hearts hanging from the ceiling and light fixtures and a "Happy Valentine's Day" banner stretching behind the bar.
C. Manny's is not Taqueria la Oaxaquena (to compare to another Mexican joint close by), nor is it trying to be. On its own terms, I think it succeeds rather well. And if you go, remember, their strength is in their meat.
A few other miscellaneous items that have come to me just now:
Tortillas (served with my steak) were not really very good.
For four entrees, one appetizer, and a pitcher of margaritas, the bill came to $63, plus tip for $78 total. A little more than I expected to pay for that meal, in keeping I guess with what seems to be an aim a little bit upmarket.
3641 W. Irving Park Road
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