Juanita’s Mexican Restaurant
Address: 102 Anzac Parade, Kensington
Phone: (02) 9663 5013
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 6-9:30pm; Friday & Saturday 6 -10pm
As we entered Juanita’s Mexican Restaurant, the chilly winter night disappeared instantly behind us. The first impression was one of a naturally exuberant celebration: the restaurant full, Tijuana brass playing in the background, the smell of spices in the air, and the warmth of the (authentically) Mexican staff welcoming our arrival.
The bright colours of the decor lead our eyes around the room, soaking up what we relate to instantly as Mexican: a painting by Frida Kahlo, day of the dead paintings, hammocks and chillis hanging from the ceiling – and of course sombreros scattered around the room. Even the welcome sign was in both English and Spanish.
We were quickly settled into our seats as the friendly waitress handed us the menu. However, we were here on a Sunday, so we bypassed the regular menu in favour of the tacos and fajitas on the ‘all you can eat’ menu – awesome value at $24.95 per person – available every Sunday and Monday.
In spite of the full restaurant, our tacos arrived within minutes. Chicken, beef or bean – all were equally tasty, disappearing in an instant. I scanned the menu while we waited for our fajitas. The chicken acapulco (cooked in white wine, tomatoes, capsicum, mushroom and parsley and served with rice and salad) caught my eye, while my dining partner leant towards the seafood. The menu held all the regular Mexican-inspired delights you’d expect – nachos, burritos, chimichanga, enchiladas, quesadillas to name a few. After studying the menu, we were more than ready for our fajitas!
Soon enough the smiling waiter headed our way, preceded by the sizzling sound of the fajita mix on its hot plate. I can almost still smell the spicy (but not too hot) aroma as I write this! (By the way, if you like your food hot you can request more chilli.)
While we were enjoying our fajitas, the lights suddenly dimmed. A familiar tune yet with a Mexican twist started up, and as a cake heaped with candles was brought out to another table, the tune revealed itself to be ‘Happy Birthday’. A long-term customer celebrating in his favourite restaurant. The owner later told us that they have many long-term customers – Juanita’s first opened 22 years ago, and they retain many of their original clientele, as well as the new, younger crowd that were there that night.
Seating around 65, Juanita’s is BYO, so while they make a non-alcoholic sangria delicious in its own right, you are welcome to bring your own red wine to add to it. What I like about Juanita’s is that you can also bring your own tequila for a margarita or two. Keep in mind that booking is highly recommended – Juanita’s is open 6-9:30pm Sunday to Thursday and 6 to 10pm Friday and Saturday, and they’re happy to open for lunch bookings any day of the week.
After finishing off the last of our fajitas, and sadly too full for the tempting desserts, we decided to round things off with a hot chocolate. As my dining partner ‘likes to party on the non-conventional nights of the week’ we were the last to leave, which gave us time to chat to the staff, discovering the happy ‘family’ feel amongst them.
As we headed out, we left with a laugh, feeling more like Diego Rivera than the hungry waifs we were when we arrived.