Full disclosure: while Gem had very recently eaten as a guest of Mad Mex’s, this review is based upon my experience and at my own cost.
Corona as art.
A phrase not often uttered I suspect. Especially not by this (beer) snob.
That is, however, a rather apt description of Mad Mex’s light fittings in their Melbourne Central shop – perhaps the most beautiful and tasteful (ha, a pun) take on Corona yet – made from Coronas consumed by customers.
Aside from the lost-found-garbage art stuck to the ceiling thing they’ve got going on, Mad Mex looks pretty fast foody. One could be forgiven for walking past in sheer ignorance and derisive judgement, especially in a food court of a big arse shopping centre. However as the cliche goes, looks can be deceiving. Mad Mex fills the new but old and rapidly expanding fast casual segment. Think Nando’s, Grill’d and other similar restaurants where it kind of feels a bit fast food but served on a ceramic plate, using a lettuce other than Iceberg.
Yeah, one of those places.
If the marketing copy of Mad Mex’s corporate website is to believed, the chain was conceived to fill a gap in the quality Mexican food niche within Australia. After the run-away success of restaurants like Mamasita with their fresh and light menus (unlike the bastardised stodgy sour-cream-and-cheese Tex-Mex most Australians are familiar with as ‘Mexican’) I’d have to agree with them. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to see some quality Mexican food in Australia — apparently our collective repulsion at having to eat at Taco Bill wasn’t loud enough (though don’t knock their margaritas, bitch!).
Very much like a Subway or similar franchise, customers are herded cattle-style from one side of the counter to the other, to pick and choose their toppings. At its simplest it’s a three-step process: first, you must choose your Mad Mex style (i.e. what you’re having). I chose the burrito — I was hungry and it was the most expensive option on the menu at $10.90. Being the simple creature that I am I equated the most expensive item with also being the largest. Second, the meaty or (if you’re that way inclined) vegetably innards are picked — I went the Carnitas, a slow-cooked shredded pork. Then the last step: the ‘piece of resistance’:the salsa.
I chose Picante, a habanero based salsa which is the hottest in the line-up, but for my palate not particularly so. Fear not. More chilli sauce can be acquired. In the midst of the mêlée, I secured a serving of guacamole too. All in all, it came up looking a treat, I think you’ll agree. Other than looking great, it tasted pretty rad too.
While I haven’t yet tried the their tacos (though I will be back), I suspect they may rival the famed Taco Truck. Best of all, no hipsters.
Okay, you got me – and I want to go, especially since we have eaten Mexican *almost* every day of our current Road Trip USA – whether in a taqueria or made in the RockVan. But I need to know – do they have some pico de gallo on hand? Salsa verde? Surely the burrito has lime and coriander too? What kind of tortillas – please tell me they’re not Rosita brand? But if someone is doing ‘fast food’ Mexican, it means they *might* be doing it right… In fact, I’m taking a stand. We’re not coming home until someone gets it right!
There was a lot of stuff Tris couldn’t include as he didn’t get to go to the lovely event the owner and ace PR lad set up for us, but let me see how I go answering your questions: their salsa is pico de gallo (at least, I’m looking at Wikipedia and what is shown in the pic is what I had in my ‘naked burrito’), yes to lime and coriander, they don’t use branded tortillas as they make their own. They gave the impression that when it was possible for them to make it from scratch, it was done and when not, they sourced authentic ingredients from places that did things as true to the taste as possible (the owner is originally from the States so he stated he won’t settle for less).
I’m most looking forward to when they are able to get in 100% agave tequila – the owner Clovis was adamant that he would bring in tequila that would be authentic and thus not hangover-inducing because it’s ‘cut’ with 50% filler (which I can defs appreciate from a craft beer perspective!).
Admittedly my knowledge on Mexican cuisine is non-existent, but I was impressed by how fresh and flavoursome everything was. In fact, I’m trying to organise a double date with a ‘glutarded’ friend of mine to go as I think there was only one item on the menu that wasn’t gluten-free.
Gosh, I can only think of the wonderful Mex eats you must be getting with your nommelicious craft beer *first world sob*! Continue that bon voyage, lovely!
Ohh I’ve been wanting to try this out for a while!! I’ve heard it’s the most similar thing Melbourne has to Sydney’s Guzman Y Gomez (which was fantastic!), so thanks for the push to get there sooner!
Not that I mind clicking through to urbanspoon, but where is said Mad Mex? 😉
Hey, I said (sort of)! You’ll find it in the new food court in Melb Central on level two.
oh no, this is way too close to work!
i am definitely going this week to see how it compares to ‘mexican’ back home… really good burritos are one of the things i miss most from america!
MM sounds a lot like a place I recently tried; “High Tech Burrito” in Glenferrie. I even chose a similar combo: Carntitas Burrito. It was delicious, very very good for fast food. Of course now I’l have to give MM a try. Anyone else feeling Mex (minus the sour cream and cheese) is the flavour du jour?
I agree with you. It is very ‘of the moment’.
For me it was a combination of my expectations being so low, and the food being completely different (Tex-Mex vs Mexican)
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I’d rather take my chances on a bain-marie lucky dip @ the Big Merino in Goulburn then eat @ the Mad Mex in Chapel St.
Slow service and food that tastes like cardboard.
I haven’t been to the Melbourne Central store, perhaps it is more upmarket? Better managed?
High Tech Burrito is a worth a visit if you’re in the Hawthorn area..offers pretty good bang for buck.
Guzman Y Gomez is the Australian benchmark IMO….can’t wait for them to invade Melbourne 😀
I’ve been there twice now, and both times food has been good.
I suspect the experience at the individual stores (certainly in terms of service) is largely to do with the franchisee. This is certainly the case with Grill’d South Melbourne, whose slow service makes me think they slaughter the animals while you wait (which hasn’t been the case at other Grill’d outlets).
I will definitely go to High Tech Burrito next time I’m down that way.
I look forward to trying Guzman Y Gomez when / if the start serving us Mexicans (Victorians – ha, a joke).
Nice. I have yet to head back again. This is definitely so much better than yucky tacos bill… blergg
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