You might not know it based on the opening week of Tia Rosa Taqueria, but there are other Mexican restaurants in Gilbert.
Quite a few, in fact.
But that didn’t seem to matter to the standing-room-only crowds that packed the former Fazoli’s building on the southeast corner of Baseline and Gilbert roads.
The taqueria is the first spin-off of Rancho de Tia Rosa, the popular Mexican food establishment in east Mesa that consists of a full-service restaurant and a stand-alone taqueria.
Owners Dennis and Lizabeth Sirrine plan to open full-service Tia Rosa locations in Gilbert and Chandler this year, but it’s their 25-year-old son, Nic, who’s launched the Gilbert taqueria.
Accent pieces include rusted metal agave, ceramic roadrunners, sombreros and blue glass bottles.
There’s an elevated lounge area in the center of the dining room — a nice idea on paper but you have to wonder how long it will be before the precious real estate is converted to tables.
On both of my opening-week visits, customers waiting for their orders were crowded elbow-to-elbow in the cramped space between the soda fountain and the utensils dispensers.
And they had to stand for a while.
There are two registers to order at, and both have signs warning that training is in progress. The friendly staff also points out the kitchen crew still isn’t up to speed.
I waited about 25 minutes for my order on both visits, which were Tia Rosa’s second and fourth days of business.
(Nic Sirrine says a drive-through window, which only will be used for picking up orders placed by phone, will not be employed until the kitchen gets faster.)
The Gilbert taqueria has almost the exact same menu as the Mesa taqueria: mostly tacos (such as the salmon and shrimp ones pictured at left), enchiladas and burritos sold a la carte. Just because the atmosphere is casual, prices aren’t necessarily cheap.
Eight varieties of salsa are available. Three (a medium red, hot red and green) are complimentary, but you’ll have to pay extra if you want to try, say, orange-mango ($2.50 for 4 ounces) or papaya-watermelon ($2.75).
You’ll also have to pay for chips — $1 for half of a brown paper bag or $2 for a full bag.
Meats — shredded beef, pork, chicken and seafood — are marinated and roasted, making them juicy and flavorful.
Double-wrapped tacos start at $2.99, enchiladas at $3.49 and meat-and-bean burros at $3.99. You can add rice and beans to any item for another $2.
Thus, two medium-sized cheese enchiladas with rice and beans will run you about $9 before drink and tax.
There also are four specialty dishes. The two most expensive, a chimichanga ($8.50, pictured at right) and a carne asada plate (also $8.50), are the only menu items that include rice and beans in the price.
Besides soft drinks ($1.39-$1.59) and horchata ($1.50-$2), beverage options include beer ($3.50 domestic, $4 imported) and margaritas ($6.50-$12).
Tia Rosa Taqueria
Where: 2135 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert (southeast corner of Baseline and Gilbert roads)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Prices: Tacos ($2.79-$3.89), enchiladas ($3.49-$4.99), burritos ($3.99-$4.99), desserts $3.50
Info: (480) 503-3729 or www.ranchodetiarosa.com
First Taste reviews are based on initial visits to new restaurants and are meant to be more informational than critical. Full reviews only are written after a restaurant has been open at least a couple of months.
Photos by Tim Hacker, East Valley Tribune