Chow down with John Batchelor at Frida’s Mexican Kitchen
Most recent visit: Oct. 24
Overall: 2 Stars
Food: 2 Stars. The usual Mexican dishes are at least as good as other places, and there are a few items here that elevate Frida’s above the rest.
Ambience: 2 Stars. Modern, upscale building
Service: 1 Star. Pleasant and earnest, but not well coordinated.
Value: 2 Stars. Moderate to low prices, relative to the Triad market.
Ratings range from Not Recommended or Acceptable to one (satisfactory), two (good), three (very good), four (excellent) or five (truly exceptional) stars.
Frida’s name honors Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter known for her folk art style. I timed this review to coincide with an exhibition of her work at the North Carolina Museum of Art (running from late October through January 19- see ncartmuseum.org). I have noted several Mexican restaurants named after her. This Frida’s in Kernersville, owned by Josue Flores, is not affiliated with any other.
The look is upscale, a stucco-clad structure of the recent vintage. The interior is decorated with reproductions of Frida Kalo’s art, along with posters advertising selected aspects of the restaurant’s bar service or menu.
I first became acquainted with Frida’s during the YES! Weekly Triad Margarita Wars. My wife and I evaluated margaritas from 16 restaurants (see my blog for a photo of the lineup). Tastings were anonymous- each drink, delivered by YES! personnel, bore only a number. First impressions generated five finalists. We asked for seconds on each of those, in order to ensure freshness. That round identified two that clearly earned top rank status, and further research, in more depth, enabled us to name a winner. We learned that we had chosen the margarita from Frida’s. (Note: we did not consume all of these drinks, and I was not impaired to drive!)
We found the margarita served in the restaurant to be just as good as the winner from the competition, and we liked their mojito, too. Guacamole seemed like a good way to start our first meal. The staff at Frida’s prepares it tableside, scooping out the avocado interior and mashing it, then blending it with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and fresh-squeezed lime juice. You can customize the preparation as you taste. We liked a little more lime than usual.
I have never met a Mexican sausage I didn’t like. So another starter, Queso Fundido- ground chorizo sausage blended with mushrooms and melted Mexican cheese- turned out to be especially gratifying. This is really rich, and like everything else at Frida’s, the portion size is ample. Plan to share and maybe take some home, too. (I often keep a cooler with ice in my car when I go out to eat, to hold leftovers.)
That ground sausage also makes an appearance in an entrée, Fajitas Vallarta- strips of steak and chicken, served sizzling on an iron platter, along with onions, plus red and green peppers. Absent the sausage, this would be at least as good as any fajita rendition I have had in other Mexican restaurants. But the sausage flavor elevates it above the crowd. Certain entrees seem mandatory in Mexican restaurants, based on their familiarity with American audiences.
Street Tacos come in three versions- beef, chicken and shrimp. The beef is cubed, not ground, which gives it more flavor. The chicken and shrimp both taste pleasantly fresh. Diced onions and cilantro add impact. Enchiladas Banderas is a combination that provided three corn tortillas, one filled with pulled chicken (which I usually prefer over grilled in most Mexican restaurants), another with ground beef and the other with melted Mexican cheese. Three sauces- a spicy tomato, a white cheese and salsa verde- go well with either of the enchiladas; one sauce isn’t necessarily intended to match a specific enchilada.
Another combination dinner allowed us to explore Chicken Quesadilla, Chile Relleno and another Beef Enchilada. The chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. In the Chile Relleno, the flavor of the chile pepper blends well with cheese- queso, I think. Pescado San Jose places two thin slices of mahi-mahi, plus mushrooms and large, deveined shrimp, in a thick, rich cheese sauce, over mashed potatoes. (Rice is also available.) Both plates of seafood had been cooked just right. The quantity of mashed potatoes could have served two. I ate the seafood but brought most of the sauce and potatoes home for another night. A few leaves of spinach added a bit of color as well as nutrition, but I would have preferred more.
Camarones al Mojo de Ajo places large shrimp, sautéed in garlic butter with onions and red bell peppers, plus pieces of avocado, over rice. It’s a colorful, flavorful dish; the shrimp were not overcooked and their flavor married well with the avocado. I especially liked this. Chile Verde, however, turned out to be my favorite entrée. Chunks of tender pork are cooked in “green sauce,” which bears a mild vinegar-pepper flavor. I have not seen this elsewhere. It’s a real winner.
Rice and black beans come with most entrees. Servers are earnest, deliveries prompt. But they are not able to provide information about ingredients or how food is prepared. And no matter how our orders were conveyed, personnel don’t seem to be accustomed to dining by multiple courses. Specified appetizers sometimes came out of the kitchen after entrees or at the same time. If you want separate courses, I would suggest ordering your drinks and appetizers first, then placing entrée orders after the first course has arrived. Check backs usually occurred as soon as deliveries had been completed, before we had time to actually taste the food.
On balance, though, I liked Frida’s, and I would return. There are a few things here that make it worth a drive, either from Greensboro or Winston-Salem, especially since Kernersville is so conveniently located. (Take Business 40 from Greensboro, not the bypass.)
Frida’s Mexican Kitchen, 550 Pineview Dr. in Kernersville, (336) 497-5097. www. fridasmexicankitchen.com. Frida’s is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.