It's easy to imagine Te'kela Mexican Cocina y Cantina (kitchen and bar) set in a Mexican tourist town such as Playa del Carmen, catering to gringos and a few upscale locals.
Recipes and presentation are a little more jazzed than typical Tex-Mex fare at this new eatery, located in the former Maggie's Family Restaurant just south of Levis Commons in Perrysburg. With an owner tied to the successful El Camino restaurants, Te'kela is yet another Mexican restaurant that has taken off like gangbusters.
The cooks must chop tons of peppers, cilantro, limes, avocados, and tomatoes. That's a good thing.
Most food is grilled and sauteed. Beef, shrimp, and chicken are marinated for some dishes, and in one — Patron and Lime Chicken ($11) — the breast is soaked in tequila.
Avocado relish, served with chips and as a big dollop on many plates, is an admirable take on the guacamole most of us know (smooth and with sour cream). In this concoction, the avocado is a little chunkier and blended with chopped veggies and herbs. It has a mild kick, but cries for a splash of lime.
The beverage menu is so large (muchos tequilas including a flight of three glasses, Mexican sodas, and after-dinner coffee/dessert drinks), you'd do well to peruse it online before you go.
Decor is Latino Pier One, and Mexican pop music is piped in.
If you go on Friday or Saturday night, expect to wait at least 30 minutes, and when you're seated, to shout at your companions. It's that loud.
In two large dining areas and a separate bar with high-top tables, no seat is denied access to a television screen; they're hung all over the place and tuned to channels showing sports.
Everything I had was good or very good.
Simply delicious was shrimp al mojo ($14.50), the garlicky medium-sized crustaceans sauteed and served with crunchy green peppers and onions, cilantro lime rice, refried beans (melted white cheese on top), and tortillas.
Another winner was a sizzling mound of steak slices with oodles of grilled onions and red, green, and yellow peppers ($13). It came with refried beans, avocado relish, tortillas, and pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes with garnishments).
The menu does not have symbols indicating spiciness/heat level of various dishes, and on one visit when we asked how hot some items were, our server didn't know. Chili rellenos ($10), two deep-fried poblano peppers stuffed with cheese and drizzled with ranchero sauce (perhaps the culprit of the kick) should have warranted at least a word of caution from a server.
There are "street tacos," which I find hilarious: rare is the American tourist to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta who dares to buy anything edible from a vendor with a cart, even a peeled mango on a stick. But if gringos did buy street tacos, the nine offered here ($2 and $3 each) would be model samples. They're served in hard or soft double tortillas with salsa, and filled with chicken, steak, pork, and fish. I'd recommend the fish (grilled tilapia with spicy slaw and avocado), shredded beef, and pork tacos, but the chicken veered toward dry. Rice on a few plates, was hard.
Cactus chile ($3.50 cup) was a rich pleasure, thanks to sour cream and white cheese thickening up tomato soup with kidney beans, ground beef, and bits of cactus (if you didn't know better, you'd think they were green peppers). There's also a chicken tortilla soup. (Note: Soup and a taco would make a good meal for a moderate eater.)
Vegetarian options are scant but include enchiladas (veggie, cheese, or avocado-relish), salads, and sides such as refried beans ($2.50) and market vegetables ($3).
Open less than six months, Te'kela's young and inexperienced wait staff seemed a little frantic on a recent Saturday. Our server said "perfect!" after taking each order, making me feel as if I'd just earned an A for my selection. She was, however, "imperfect!", not knowing which soups or desserts were homemade, seeming a little reluctant to help clean up our guac spill, having to be asked twice several times, and not whisking away our empty plates promptly.
We shared the dense, creamy flan graced with just enough caramel flavor. Other meal enders ($5 and $6) included deep-fried ice cream and cheesecake in a deep-fried flour tortilla.
TE'KELA MEXICAN COCINA Y CANTINA
★ ★ ★
Address: 25481 N. Dixie Hwy., Perrysburg
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 pm. Friday and Saturday. No reservations taken for Friday and Saturday evenings, but accepted for other times.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: tekelacocina.com
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.