I am amazed at the Tennessee Valley’s apparent capacity for Mexican restaurants. Ever counted them up (or tried to)? You’d think we’d reach a saturation point sometime, wouldn’t you?
With so many choices, there’s no excuse for settling. If you want Mexican food that makes you happy with no compromises, then don’t stop until you find it. We found some this month, hidden in plain sight.
Mi Casa, in Harvest at 53 and Jeff, has one of those deceptive shopping-center facades that offers no hint of the ambience awaiting. It’s an inviting space, decorated with care, with two large dining areas and a small bar. We were seated promptly in a booth that was much more comfortable than it looked, and chips and salsa arrived nearly immediately.
A good Mexican place knows that its chips and salsa set the tone. It’s the first chance to win you or lose you. Our chips were warm, fresh, and crispy. The salsa is brisk and pleasant, without shirt-destroying large vegetable chunks, and mercifully devoid of the all-too-common cilantro overload. The white cheese dip we ordered was smooth and flavorful.
The Menu & Prices
The Mi Casa menu has the customary Mexican template (combination plates, ordered by number), but it also has extensive à la carte pricing. That means that, depending on your appetite, you may be able to have lunch or dinner for as little as $5 or $6. This is welcome flexibility. The combination plates start slightly higher and top out in the $25 range, for fajitas-for-two and so forth.
So the boys got beef enchiladas, I got steak and chicken fajitas, and Lea ordered a grilled plate.
Honestly, I can’t tell much difference in refried beans from one place to the next. To me, they only ever call negative attention to themselves; otherwise, they’re a status quo experience. These were warm and flavorful.
Rice, however, is a different story. I consider rice at a Mexican place an indicator dish, much like the chips and salsa. If it’s fresh and seasoned well, it’s a delight. If it’s wan and sad, it drags the whole plate down with it. This rice is firmly in the former camp. It was delicious. If you don’t eat the rice at a Mexican place because you tried it once or twice and didn’t like it, try it at Mi Casa.
My fajitas arrived with the usual sights, sounds, and smells, which is to say ours was the loudest table in the place for a couple of minutes. They were done just like I like, which is bit on the done side of the line. If any black at all on your fajitas means “burned” to you, then ask them to take it easy. The vegetables popped nicely, while the meats did not suffer the excessive saltiness that is a common fajita error.
Lea’s grilled plate was much like my fajitas, but on the plate with cheese. We both enjoyed our selections and made happy plates. The boys’ enchiladas also vanished quickly to good reviews. I tasted a bit of the enchilada sauce and was pleased with its zip.
Mi Casa offers a full bar, so if it’s not Mexican food for you without a margarita or a Mexican beer, you’re covered. There are also several desserts available, including flan and sopapillas, which we sadly did not have time for this trip. We’ll make that a point on a return visit and I’ll add a comment.
The kids’ menu has Mexican selections as well as the usual suspects (chicken fingers, hot dogs, and so forth). It’s easy to custom-build a reasonable kid’s plate with the à la carte selections on the regular menu, but if you need familiarity, the kids’ menu is there for you.
Our service was consistently excellent, both from our server and the personable owner herself. Restrooms are clean single-seaters, and highchairs and booster seats are available.
We are looking forward to returning to Mi Casa. This is one of the better Mexican restaurants in the area, and we’ve visited many. Next time you’re in a tortilla frame of mind, give Mi Casa your serious consideration.
Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant
Address: 5850 Highway 53, Harvest (map)
Phone: (256) 851-3527
Sunday through Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm
Friday and Saturday, 11 am – 9:30 pm
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