Rave Reviews

Costa Messa serves up Mexican fare with unususal touch

The salsa, the salsas. Costa Messa's incredible salsas set it far apart from the average Mexican restaurant. Add their absolutely classic preparation of Mexican dishes, and you're in for an authentic Mexican-food experience, the likes of which diners usually have to cross the border to get.

Cooks were tight-lipped about revealing exactly what goes into Costa Messa's salsas. But their red "chimichurri" salsa apparently includes a hot red pepper, garlic, and maybe some sour cream. And their tomatillo salsa has some incredibly hot green peppers mixed with tomatillos (green tomatoes). Their pico de gallo (beak of the rooster) is loaded with tomato, onion, cilatro, and jalapeño- accented with a touch of garlic. The best thing about these awesome sauces is that they're complimentary, served with fried corn tortilla chips and baked flour tortillas. Baked flour? Yes. Costa Messa serves baked flour tortillas as an appetizer. An unusual touch, but unusual touches are what this restaurant is all about.

There's nothing unusual however about Costa Messa's menu. It's straightforward Mexican fare. Not Tex-Mex mind you, but Mexican. There's a lot of grilled foods on the menu, like their chuletas - two highly-seasoned cuts of pork grilled medium-well, served with a baked potato, and a side of rice and beans. And there are some very spicy items on the menu, like their chipotle chicken, which sautés grilled chicken fajitas in super spicy chipotle sauce. Zowee! Plus Costa Messa has a healthy dose of seafood items on their menu, prepared using traditional Mexican recipes.

If Tex-Mex is a must, though, Costa Messa can provide that, too. Interestingly, Costa Messa's Tex-Mex dishes are listed on the back page of their menu, as if to say to its customers , "Hey, try the real Mexican food, people! We put Tex-Mex dishes on the last page, hoping you'd have decided on an order by now." But if a back page order is a must, rest assured Costa Messa's Tex-Mex is as good as Tex-Mex gets. Their botana platter for two flares fried, moon-shaped tortilla chips on a platter, then douses them with cheese and refried beans, and tops the dish off with butterflied fajitas, guacamole, onion and jalapeño.

For those not so familiar with the different varieties of fajitas available in local restaurants, "butterflied fajitas" are not the chunky strips of beef that the world has come to know as fajitas. Butterflied fajitas are very thinly filleted cuts of beef. Costa Messa marinates them, then spices them, the combination of which gives their butterflied fajitas resonant flavor as well as zip.

Yes there's more, but Costa Messa is the type of place where diners can pick confidently from an extensive menu, as if each dish on the list were a specialty item. Costa Messa is sure to become a hit.

Another hot item is the parillada for two (grilled meats) which boasts chicken, beef, fajitas, mollejas (neck gland), sausage and short ribs, deep fried whole potatoes, rice, charro beans and tortillas.

Costa Messa is spacious enough to hold a serious weekend rush. The wait staff is energetic and attentive. The tiled floors and quaint murals create a setting that's so much like Mexico, you might forget you're just a block from 10th street. But the biggest notch in Costa Messa's belt is definitely their food. Rich in flavor and exact in preparation, Costa Messa's Mexican cuisine is dead on the mark.

-The Monitor's Festiva. Article by David Robledo, February 14th, 2003

The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold

With its white tablecloths and display cases of pricey jewelry, this must be the most upscale Mexican restaurant in town. But at five to a plate (with rice and beans on the side), its taquitos are a bargain. Pork is marinated in a secret red sauce for about thirty minutes, then slow-roasted until tender and all but spurting with juice. The robust flavor goes best with the small but thick corn tortillas, but larger flour tortillas, also handmade, are offered as well (they come three to an order). While there's nothing wrong with the salsas, the meat is so moist and tasty that it's better without them.

-Texas Monthly: The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold: Pork Tacos de Trompo, December 2006

Costa Messa provides plenty of food for the price

Costa Messa, located on a small side street in central McAllen, is a pleasant place to enjoy some fine Mexican food. Formally dressed, the waiters are extremely attentive and never far away. The service is quick yet gracious. The main dining room itself is a bit garish, though, with one wall painted orange and another painted blue. Across the largest wall is a mural of a mesa. It is a spacious room, and the tables are covered in linen tablecloths with cloth napkins, which add a touch of formality.

After being seated and our drinks brought, we were presented witha basket of freshly fried tortilla chips. Something I had never seen before, though, were two fried tortillas lining the bowl. The corn tortilla chips were good but I was not as impressed with the flour tortillas, although it made for an interesting presentation. We also received three salsas, with a warning that the green one was jalapeño, not guacamole. I would like to thank the young man who warned us, because it did look like guacamoleand it could have been painful. It was good, but spicy. The other suaces were a creamy cheese and pico de gallo. All were good, and it was a treat to have more than one salsa to choose from.

Our entrees were preceded by a small cup of soup featuring vegetables, mainly celery, and some zucchini and carrot. It was fine, but it was heavy on the celery. For our entrees, I chose tacos de fajita, and my dining companion chose tacos de trompo. All plates come with beans and refried beans, but our waiter let us substitue charro beans on one plate for no extra charge. My fajita tacos came three to the plate, with french fries accompanying the rice and beans. The corn tortillas were huge and filled with tender meat, so much so that I could only eat one. The rice and beans were delicious, but I could have done without the french fries, which were essentially frozen steak fries. With tortillas, rice and beans, I don't see the need for french fries as well. The tacos de trompo consisted of five smaller corn tortillas covered with diced pork in a special sauce that was heavy on the paprika. The pork was tender and the requested charro beans were some of the best I have had. This one did not come with the fries. Other taco plates include the tacos cazuela, grilled tortillas filled with beef, beans, and cheese, or tacos de palambre which is tortillas filled with beef tenderloin, bacon, cheese, onions and bell pepper.

On another visit we tried the Mexican plate and the pollo al tromop. The Mexican plate consisted of a crispy beef taco, a chalupa, a cheese enchilada, rice and refried beans. The meat in the taco reminded me of picadillo, it was ground beef with potatoes and carrots, but no raisins. It was all very good. The pollo al trompo is a boneless chicken half cooked in the paprika-laden sauce, which turns it a deep red color. It was tender and juicy, and came with rice, beans, grilled onions, bell pepper, a grilled jalapeno and tortillas. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Costa Messa has many other choices available. From the beef menu you could try the churrasco, a 9-ounce cut of Argentinian beef tenderloin or mollejas doraditas (crispy sweetbreads). Seafood choices include a whole red snapper, fixed either grilled, fried, garlic or ranchero. Frog legs, and the surf and turf, with fajitas, rice and beans.

Desserts are worth a splurge here. Another new item for me was chocolate tres leches cake. It was luscious as only a tres leches cake can be, with the added attraction of chocolate. It is frosted with chocolate whipped cream. The vanilla version is also available, as is cajeta cheesecake and mango cheesecake.

Children can feast on a chicken strip plate, enchiladas or a burrito plate.

For some interesting twists on familiar food, as well as simply prepared familiar food, Costa Messa will fill you up, without emptying your wallet.

-Texas Monthly: The Greatest Tacos Ever Sold: Pork Tacos de Trompo, December 2006