That brought me to Mi Tierra, a favorite Mexican restaurant in Monroe, that The Herald first visited when it opened about a decade ago.
Over the years, the place clearly has become a watering hole for locals and a place to go and fill up on well made, authentic, south-of-the-border fare.
The room is reminiscent of a rustic Mexican home, with arches, thick wood and photos of the owner's homeland decorating the walls.
We were warmly greeted with smiles and promptly seated in a booth on the first level of the two-story dining room.
A big bowl of crisp, warm tortilla chips arrived as we sat down, accompanied by two salsas: one a fresh tomato and cabbage blend, with big pieces of jalapeno; the other a tomato puree with a bit more kick.
We added a bowl of guacamole ($3.25) that was fresh and tasty, although the portion size was the only small thing to emerge from the bustling kitchen.
Mi Tierra's menus are extensive. There were three menus to peruse: drinks, specials and the daily menu, which occupies four oversize pages.
The Thursday night special was pollo on mango sauce ($13.95), a stuffed chicken breast with mushrooms, corn and spinach in a sauce with fresh mango and pecans over rice, asparagus and peppers. Horchata, a milky rice drink with cinnamon, also was mentioned on the special board.
Plenty of cocktails are available including more than a dozen varieties of margaritas.
My friend ordered a mojito ($6.25), a blend of rum, mint and lime juice. I stuck with a cerveza, a chilled bottle of Pacifico ($4.25) that came with the traditional lime wedge accompaniment. (Alas, the same beer in Mexico was a quarter the price.)
After trying to decide among combinations of tacos, enchilladas and tamales, indigenous Mexican specials like a goat stew or whole fried fish, faijitas, salads and more, I settled on a house favorite, arroz con pollo ($13.95). The dish was grilled chicken breast with a tangy, tasty tomato sauce served atop a bed of rice with melted cheese. There were chopped peppers, mushrooms and onions and the large plate was decorated with a tomato slice and a wedge of fresh avocado.
My friend ordered the camarones Meixcanos ($14.50), a similar dish served with prawns. Both plates were fresh with flavors that danced on my tongue. The only complaint I had was the ring of oil that had separated around my plate (just a reminder of where some of the flavor originated).
A choice of corn or flour tortillas -- not homemade -- came with both entrees. The menu was clear that these dishes did not include the otherwise standard side of beans. Both portions easily could have fed four people. I had plenty of leftovers.
There are a handful of desserts too, including deep fried ice cream, sweet tortillas and flan ($3.75).
I settled on the flan, a creamy custard baked with caramel. It was rich and had just the right amount of sweetness. In the decade since Mi Tierra opened, the flan has maintained its consistency, but the price, alas, has more than doubled.
While Mi Tierra didn't live up to the fresh, fragrant tastes I found in Mexico, it was on par with my expectations for local Snohomish County Mexican food. It was homey, tasty and filling.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; email@example.com.
19480 U.S. 2, Monroe; www.restaurantmitierra.com; 360-805-5522
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Price range: Moderate
Vegetarian options: Many
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