7330 E Southwest Freeway at Fondren
I’ve needed to take a break from the Fried Chicken Wars of late; unfortunately I haven’t been able to shake my recent penchant for picking mediocre new places to try and I’ve had nothing positive to blog about. Today, however, I continued my recent theme of comfort foods and caught a bit of a break with a visit to Mono’s Grill, a hole-in-the-wall Colombian place with a SW Freeway address but facing Fondren. It’s very new, spic and span, very small. The place was packed but more than half of the customers were waiting for takeout. Although it is set up to look like counter service if you’re dining in just take a seat and a server will bring you a menu. Food is served on real plates with real tableware.
There are 2 lunch special plates available M-F, 11a-2p for $7. One choice is always the Bandeja Paisa, the typical Colombian combination plate, which is what I opted for. This is Colombian comfort food, like a Tex-Mex combination plate. Unfortunately the lunch special version of this dish does not include any chorizo, avocado or an arepa, typical ingredients of a Bandeja Paisa. I’ve had some Colombian chorizo that was overcooked and dried out but I haven’t had a bad one other than that and I was looking forward to a few bites of an excellent sausage. Had I known there was none on the special I would have opted for the full menu version.
The frijoles rojos were excellent, with a very generous amount of pork fat and meat. Likewise there was a very generous portion of plantano maduro, along with the requisite rice and fried egg. The chicharron included a lot of fat but also a lot of meat, about the equivalent of half a small pork chop, but it was a little overcooked and dry. The skirt steak (churrasco) was another generous component and was tasty if not especially remarkable.
But for $7 I thought it was a fair meal and I wouldn't mind going back. I only got a look at one other dish being served, a fried fish that looked pretty good.
I always go to these restaurants representing countries which grow coffee as a major export expecting some better than average if not exceptional coffee but I have yet to experience any at any of the Colombian restaurants I’ve visited. The coffee Colombiano here had been on the warmer too long.
There’s free Wi-Fi; they’re only open till early evening but there is a bar section next door.
They have a website but its just a placeholder; they’ve put their menu and some pictures up on MySpace.
UPDATE 5/09: A review of Mono's on b4 mentioned the availability of Tamales Tolimenses and Lechona Tolimenses and I went in to try them. What's on the menu everyday is Lechon Enciendido and I did not see any tamales at all - maybe they're occasional specialties. From what I can find online, Lechon Enciendido is a Cuban dish.
I think this is pork leg or butt, simmered with peppers and onions and I'm not sure what else. It was a bit of a disappointment since I was hoping for the Lechona which sounds like an awesome dish. The red beans were excellent, however, and red beans and rice constitute a satisfactory meal for me anytime and I wound up taking about half the pork home. The rice was swimming in the juices from the meat. Once again the Plantanos Maduros here were excellent, nicely caramelized to the point of a little charring and crispness.
The restaurant has been remodeled with the wall separating the restaurant and bar sections removed, making for a more comfortable space. The young staff here has always been very nice.