Classic and venerated as Amanda's Fonda obviously is — having won the Indy's reader-voted Best Mexican award for the last thousand years or so — some diners, including this one, felt it often left something to be desired in flavor. Sure, the margaritas were good, but sometimes the food ... well, here's user Frenchie commenting on our website: "Used to be the BEST Mexican food in town. Has gone downhill lately. Amanda would be sad to see this."
But with new ownership can come new energy, and maybe that played a part in a recent tasty lunch featuring great garlicky roasted salsa and plenty more. We also ducked into another west side go-to this week, in addition to a staple seafood spot on Academy Boulevard.
3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975
It's pretty clear there's little customer anxiety over fast-food mogul Rick Holland assuming control of Amanda's Fonda: Pulling in for lunch, I grabbed the last spot in a packed parking lot. A few plates later, I understood why the jam was justified.
The shredded chicken enchilada mole ($10.95) arrived covered in some of the best brown stuff I've tasted. Good chicken, but it was the sauce — a store-bought mole base combined with peanut butter, chipotle peppers and more — that killed. A little sweet at first, it melted into savory spice before scraping the back of the throat with heat. A tender flavor-bomb of thin, marinated carne asada skirt steak ($12.95) next to some standard beans and rice made for a great lunch, as well. Maybe a little too salty, it still left nothing but happy feelings. — Bryce Crawford
Mountain Shadows Restaurant
2223 W. Colorado Ave, 633-2122, mountainshadowsrestaurant.com
Mountain Shadows just got a liquor license in its 21st year, saucing up new Thursday-to-Saturday dinner hours, launched by employee-turned-owner Kasie Swain and co-owner Ben Zook. Deals like an $8.99, 10-ounce Ranch Foods Direct steak highlight that menu, but local breakfast favorites haven't much changed, which is a good thing.
The genius Reuben Omelet ($8.29 with hashbrowns and toast or pancake) wraps the usual fixings of melted Swiss, Thousand Island, corned beef and sauerkraut in a three-egg hug. It's less weird than you may fear, and if you dig the sandwich, you'll dig this; the sauerkraut's tang perks up the plate. Hot chorizo house green chili enlivens slightly undercooked hash, and the pancakes are textbook. — Matthew Schniper
English Dockside Seafood and Grill
2220 Academy Place, 380-7732, englishdockside.com
More than six years' worth of accolades line the walls of his restaurant, but Thomas English still battles misconceptions. No, he's not English, as in "Jolly Ho." He's a Southern boy, from Alabama, with a passion for fresh seafood.
Or maybe "comfort seafood," as evidenced by the sweet and crunchy blue-lump crab cake ($9.95 for one) served on a bed of garlicky rice and a creamy crawfish "gravy." One thing English doesn't do is fast food: Items are made to order from daily-delivered product, and worth the wait. The prices here reflect the quality, so if you want fast-fried fish on the cheap, Captain D's is down the street. For fresh fish cooked with a deft hand, I'd stay Dockside for my money. — Monika Mitchell Randall