Susan and I recently headed down to the Southcenter Mall last week to enjoy a night out while having some traditional Mexican food at Moctezuma’s Restaurant.
Founded in Tacoma in 1978 by Arturo and Magdalena Garcia, now run by their son, Bernie, Moctezuma’s is the real deal. Bernie took a “mom & pop” favorite restaurant and broadened the concept into a multiple locations: Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Tukwila (Southcenter) and soon, a new restaurant in Silverdale.
The food, drinks and experience are inspired by Bernie’s heritage. The food, at every step, from the salsa and fresh guacamole to the desserts, is incredibly authentic. In fact, Bernie refers to the food at Moctezuma’s as being created from “recipes from the heart.” I concur.
The exterior and interior design are inspired by Bernie’s travels to Guadalajara.
The tiles surrounding our booth were imported from Mexico, as were the hand crafted wood chairs and large ornate lights that were spread throughout the restaurant.
The restaurant is split between a large dining area and an almost equal sized bar. The bar is large but again, not overwhelming.
What was exciting to learn is that Moctezuma’s has a selection of 100 plus tequilas to taste on their own or have put into a wide assortment of margaritas. This is good to know for those of us who love margaritas. Moctezuma’s is also a great place to try some really well made, artisanal tequilas. This will change your thinking on tequila if your only association with it is from raucous college parties.
Adjacent to the bar is a quaint outdoor eating area which is adorned with vibrant red umbrellas and is nicely sequestered away so that while eating you don’t hear the traffic outside.
The place was packed and the host stand had a large amount of of people ready and willing to wait. Always a good sign. The vibe of Moctezuma’s was really electric, but we appreciated that it wasn’t too loud.
Ricardo, our very friendly and well-versed server, took us through the specials and then took our drink order, as we enjoyed some chips and salsa.
For me, great salsa is a make or break item for a Mexican restaurant. This salsa was spot on. Not too thin and runny while having lots of traditional flavor and heat.
Susan and I started with a couple margaritas that complimented the chips and salsa. I had a traditional or Cadillac Margarita and Susan had a Jalapeno Margarita.
Both were incredibly good. Mine came with a handy tequila self disperser
which I have never seen in all my years drinking margaritas. The flavors were bold and really tasty.
After an order of really fresh guacamole,
we had an order of Jalapeno Poppers wrapped in bacon. I was a little weary, though I love Jalapeno Poppers, because they tend to be a safe item in the starter category.
Ricardo promised they would be great and they were. Perfectly cooked through and wrapped in a smokey bacon. Yum!
We also ordered a house specialty appetizer, the Flaming Cheese. This combination of Oaxaca cheese and Jack Cheese with a little green salsa is brought table side bubbling within a stone that is heated to 500 degrees.
The cheese is then set afire next to you and served with tortillas. This was amazing.
Next, after ordering another round of margaritas we ordered our entrees.
Again, Ricardo helped make some eliminations on a menu that is full of options. Susan ultimately settled on the Surf and Turf which is a flank steak she described as “cooked to perfection,” with jumbo prawns also wrapped in the smokey bacon.
She was pretty content. I went for the Steelhead and Mango Tacos which
was a seasonal special and they were extraordinary. Very fresh, well plated and presented, and the serving size was huge.
I don’t know if it was the cheese, the guacamole or the three jalapenos I had before, but I almost didn’t finish my tacos.
What was especially nice was the attentiveness of the staff. We had the manager stop by and inquire about our meal and Felipe the Kitchen Manager popped over to ask how the food was. Again, this for me is a great sign because they are not worried about putting a face and name to their food.
Though we were quite full, Susan and I knew we could not leave without trying the Plantains Flameados. As you can expect, these are plantains (a large a delicious version of a more traditional banana) yet again, set afire tableside and served. Marvelous.
I’ve been eating Mexican food my entire life, having grown up in California, lived on the East Coast and then in Chicago, where the Mexican food is amazing. I can tell you, Moctezuma’s is a place to go if you want Mexican food that is full of flavor, traditional cooking styles and presentation, and great and highly attentive service.
I did not have one thing that I did not find really great and Susan and I are already planning a trip back with some friends. It does not surprise me that South Sound Magazine voted them best Mexican restaurant for years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Location: 1150 Southcenter Mall
Tukwila, WA 98188
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11am – 11pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am – 12am
Happy Hour: Sunday – Friday: 3pm – 6pm
Sunday – Thurs 9pm-close
Disclosure: Moctezuma’s graciously provided complimentary products/services to try and review. The opinions expressed here are our own, which we take great pride in providing with unmitigated honesty.