We visited Marina’s Mexican Grill looking to see if there was something that would make it stand out from its abundance of Mexican and Tex-Mex competitors. Not that a Spanish version of je ne sais quoi is an absolute necessity for success, but it doesn’t hurt.
We didn’t find it. Our mid-week lunch sampling of Marina’s fare turned out some hits, some misses and some pretty-goods.
Located where a couple of other restaurants tried and failed, Marina’s doesn’t try to overwhelm customers with ethnic ambience. It wasn’t crowded when we showed up, and the service was prompt and cheerful.
The grilled chicken breast ($12.59 on the lunch menu) is a visually pleasing dish. A sizable portion of breast meat is covered with melted white and yellow cheese and grilled onions and bell pepper strips. Pico de gallo and sour cream come on the side, along with rice and refried beans.
The pico and sour cream seemed superfluous when the meal arrived. However, the chicken was moist but not robustly flavorful, and those additional ingredients took care of that. Overall, it was a pleasing dish.
Before we go any further, let’s discuss the refried beans. At many Tex-Mex restaurants, this is an afterthought, with beans that emerge from the kitchen so watery that they hit the plate and spread out like a miniature mudslide or a nearly flavorless, gelatinous paste.
Not so at Marina’s. They are thick and hearty.
Longtime Baton Rougeans will remember the beans at the old La Fonda’s in which a fork placed straight down would remain as erect as a flagpole. Marina’s doesn’t quite reach that standard, but they’re quite good.
The taco salad ($12.99) served in a edible taco shell bowl contained the usual suspects — iceberg lettuce, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes and black olives — but what made this salad special was the delicious fajita steak meat mixed throughout the dish. Cut in small pieces, this well-flavored beef made the salad stand out, and the scoop of guacamole on top was perfect once a bit of salt was added.
We ordered the house vinaigrette on the side, which turned out to be the right call because we found it overly sweet. The fajita meat was so good the salad didn’t really need a dressing anyway.
Though we didn’t order any fajitas, we suspect the steak version of this Tex-Mex favorite is worth exploring at Marina’s.
The lunch portion of spinach and artichoke enchiladas ($8.99) came with two enchiladas smothered in sour cream sauce, rice and beans. The spinach and artichoke tasted freshly made, and there was plenty of it. The artichokes delivered a slight variation in texture from the leafy green spinach. The filling, however, had little seasoning. Its topping of rich, creamy sour cream sauce dominated the dish. We expected a little bit more spice.
Our meals were filling, but there’s always room for flan ($4.99). The sugary, creamy custard covered in an even sweeter syrup is a light but delightful ending to any meal.