The Joliet/ Shorewood area gained a new Mexican restaurant and cantina; Friaco’s is located at 1321 Route 59. Though a prime location with shopping centers nearby there are also many other dining options for this small, local chain to contend with.
However, since its opening in September of 2013 Friaco’s has been jam packed with locals looking for authentic Mexican cuisine and a lively atmosphere. For the most part Friaco’s does not disappoint.
Driving up, the street view of Friaco’s is inviting and reminiscent of an old world cantina. The dining patio has an awning covered in clay tiles while on almost every side large neon signs glow with the Friaco’s name and signature cactus logo.
Once inside you are greeted with the friendly welcome of the hostess while also taking in the wondrous aromas of Mexican spices, subtle music and the bright but warm atmosphere. Impressive wood carvings, hand paintings and iron work are prominent making the main dining area of Friaco’s a feast for the eyes.
Once seated the server is prompt to bring the table a complimentary basket of corn tortilla chips, a dipping bowl of salsa and a small carafe of extra salsa so you can refill the dipping bowl without having to wait for the server.
Drink orders were placed first and came to the table surprisingly fast. The same cannot be said for the food orders. The server was nowhere to be seen for at least ten minutes before the appetizer order could even be placed; by which time the main course decisions had already been made. Fortunately the server was strategic in bringing out the order with the main course coming fifteen minutes after the appetizer making the meal experience more relaxed and not rushed.
A jumbo margarita cost $10.49 while a pitcher will cost $19.99; any flavor. Texas margaritas are also available but do not come in pitchers. The house made Sangria although full of flavor lacks the essential fruit that makes it authentic. A glass will cost you $5.99 while a pitcher is $19.99. Other specialty drinks, warm beverages such as horchata, domestic and imported beers, wines and bottled sodas; as well as fountain drinks are also available.
The food presentation was acceptable and prices were moderate. The Friaco’s dip, $5.99, consisted of melted Monterrey jack cheese mixed with well-seasoned ground beef and potatoes topped with pico-de-gallo (fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapenos) and served with corn tortilla chips. This warm concoction could have come out of grandmother’s kitchen. It was comforting and perfect this cool, fall evening.
For the main course the Carnitas, $11.49, subtlety seasoned pork tips deep-fired until crispy on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside are served with a side of refried beans topped with cheese, Mexican rice, lettuce, tomatoes, raw onions, raw bell-peppers, avocado slices, a giant grilled jalapeno, and your choice of flour or corn tortillas.
Sadly the tortillas are not made in-house and were unremarkable. The rice has a great texture and mild flavor; though nothing special can be said about the re-fried beans. The uncooked side of veggies added much needed texture and freshness to the plate. The giant jalapeno should be left for the brave!
As for dessert, skip it. If anyone at your table is still hungry after this heavy meal go to Coldstone Creamery just down the road for a cold treat. The dessert can be summed up with one word…fried. And not fried well for that matter.
Friaco’s signature fried ice-cream consists of artificially flavored vanilla ice cream tossed in crispy flakes and deep fried. Unfortunately the flakes don’t stay crispy; in fact they get gummy and hard to chew. It’s served in a cinnamon sugared tortilla shell and topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a canned maraschino cherry.
Overall Fraico’s is worth the visit if in the area but not worth driving out of your way for. As far as Mexican restaurants in the area, Friaco’s is a top contender and a nice addition to the Joliet/ Shorewood area. Friaco’s…come for the food stay for the atmosphere. For more information and locations visit http://friacosrestaurant.com/