In May, Carlos and Jean Urdiales reopened their restaurant at Florida Boulevard and Airline Highway (next to the Bridal Boutique building), after an absence of a few years.
The restaurant, offering Mexican dishes with an appealing Cajun seafood twist, filled the bill as a neighborhood restaurant in Broadmoor for some 30 years before the couple closed shop about four years ago.
Now Carlos’ Cajun Mexican Restaurant is back, and hungry travelers going that way might do well to seek out the little restaurant that’s probably too easy to miss on the service road that runs alongside Airline.
Its dinner menu doesn’t offer appetizers, per se, but it does offer six different types of nachos and sauces, ranging in price from $2.50 to $9.75. One especially appealing-sounding choice is the shrimp-and-crab nachos ($9.25).
We were happy with the complementary nachos, light and crispy, and the accompanying salsa - fresh and with an attention-getting spiciness.
For entrées, the dinner menu is divided simply into “Platos Mexicanos,” each for $9, and “Cajun Gourmet” dishes, each for $17.75.
The Platos Mexicanos are various combinations of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, burritos, beans, rice and guacamole salad.
The Cajun Gourmet dishes are six splendid-sounding items offering shrimp, crab, crawfish and chicken in different combinations of enchiladas, chimichangas (deep-fried burritos) and rellenos (stuffed peppers).
Aside from those two main categories of entrées, there are also a la carte items, fajitas, four house specials, a Carlos Mexican steak (a specially seasoned rib-eye, according to the menu) and something called the “Cancun.”
The Cancun ($12), one of the entrées we tried, offered one shrimp enchilada and one crab enchilada, set in a sauce of melted cheese, and a crawfish taco.
The crabmeat in the enchilada was creamy and delicately seasoned; the shrimp and the crawfish, in their respective Mexican settings, were well-seasoned.
The wraps - enchiladas and the taco shells - were homemade, light and flaky.
Another diner tried one of the house specials for $12.75. Called the “Chef Special,” it featured a fried beef burrito covered with chili, cheese and sautéed onions, served on a bed of rice.
The fried beef burrito was of a substantial size, making a to-go box a foregone conclusion. Topped with sautéed green peppers as well as onions, the almost piecrust-like pastry of the homemade burrito sometimes obscured the nicely seasoned beef filling. The diner was nonetheless satisfied with her choice.
The final two entrées (each $17.75) were off the Cajun Gourmet section of the menu.
With each dish made up of several items, all with some similarities, this portion of the menu seemed a bit of a riddle to read. See if you can spot - there may be a quiz later - the differences between these two offerings:
??The “Lafayette” featured a shrimp and crab enchilada with melted cheese and a crawfish chimichanga, with rice and guacamole on lettuce.
??The “Marie Antoinette” served three different types of enchiladas: one shrimp and crabmeat, one chicken and one meat with chili, accompanied by sour cream and guacamole.
While our heads may have been spinning with the selections, we appreciated some constants: fresh ingredients and generous fillings.
The entrées were good enough to stand on their own, said one guest, and probably didn’t need the generous melted cheese sauce that seemed ubiquitous. Perhaps that could be served on the side, she thought.
Jean Urdiales makes the homemade desserts and takes turns providing key lime pie, cheesecake and Mississippi mud pie on different nights.
On this Thursday evening, a delicious key lime pie ($5) was served in a sweet graham cracker crust with a topping of what seemed like homemade whipped cream.
Subdued lighting, Spanish mission-style chandeliers of wood and iron, and a nice spacing of the tables lend a quiet, restful elegance to the restaurant.
Carlos enjoys coming out of the kitchen to visit with diners.
“It’s about time you come out of retirement,” one of his customers called to him.