Our Gourmet: Warm up with dinner at Hermanos in Concord
What better way to take the chill off cold night than to make a trip to what we had heard is one of the best Mexican restaurants in New Hampshire? We are happy to confirm that all the great things we've heard about Hermanos Cocina Mexicana are true.
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana, located in downtown Concord, has been cooking up Mexican specialties for almost 30 years, and the experience starts before you enter the doors. The brick building itself is unique, boasting vibrant colors, giving a hint to the bright flavors and festive décor inside.
We sat in the dining room, an airy space with large windows. We were immediately greeted by our server to take our drink orders. We indicated we'd need some time to look at the drink menu, which is large and features margaritas (natch), cocktails and an array of tequila shots. Your reviewer has not had good experiences with tequila in the past, so I left the margarita drinking to The Dining Companion.
We were impressed by the size of the drink menu, but we were wowed, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed, by the variety and breadth of the dinner menu. Name a Mexican dish and they serve it. Taquitos, chimichangas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas. Yeah, they've got that, and every variation you can think up. You can even mix and match. The possibilities are staggering. Also, if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you have not been left out. You can opt for vegan cheese for a small upcharge and there are many vegetarian dishes to choose from.
What caught my attention at the start was the number of different nacho dishes they offer (about 25). One of my favorite appetizers in the world, by far, is a great plate of nachos. I was hesitant to order nachos as I wasn't sure I'd be able to eat them all (and they don't always reheat well.) Lucky for me, they offer smaller portions, so I took that as a sign. I ordered Hermanos' Famous Garlic and Chicken Nachos ($13.99/$7.99): chicken, jalapeños and melted cheeses over fresh corn tortilla chips and covered in garlic dressing.
The portion, although I ordered the small, was generous. Despite the heaping pile of molten cheese on top, the chicken was the star this dish. It was moist, flavorful and plentiful. The jalapenos and garlic dressing added the right amount of punch. And despite the toppings, the tortilla chips still managed to stay crispy. Although a bit unorthodox choice as they stray a bit from the traditional nachos, the nachos were a great start to my meal.
TDC started with the Flautas (two for $4.99, four for $9.99, eight for $17.99). The tightly rolled corn tortilla cylinders are filled with tender white chicken, deep fried and covered in red chile sauce. They were served with a bed of lettuce with freshly diced tomatoes on either side. TDC said the corn tortilla was fried nice and crisp while the chicken inside remained juicy.
The one thing that caught TDC off guard was the sauce. It packed a nice wallop with a pleasantly spicy taste that didn't scorch his taste buds, though it did turn up the heat to the point where sweat formed on his forehead. That didn't stop him from going back for more sauce, however.
I made sure the nachos were boxed up before I started my entrée, a beef quesadilla ($12.99) with a side of rice and beans. I had 14 types of quesadillas to choose from including shrimp, spicy veggie crumble, and jalapeno and scallion, but after I took a bite, I knew I had made a great choice with the beef. It was fork-tender and well-seasoned, and there was plenty of meat to counter the Monterey jack and cheddar cheese. It was perfectly grilled crispy. I was so involved in eating the quesadilla I didn't make it over to the sides until late in the meal. I enjoyed the rice and black beans that I had added for $1.99, but both were topped heavily with cilantro, which I found myself having to pick around.
TDC decided to take advantage of their combo offerings rather than settle on one item off of this gigantic menu. He chose the chimichanga and taco combo with the beef filling ($15.99). The combo is served with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, Mexican rice and a side of refried or black beans. You can choose whether you want your chimichanga wrapped with a flour or whole-wheat tortilla. He went with the beef (shredded, not ground) for the chimichanga and taco.
When he asked for salsa they brought out a medium, which was a fresh garden salsa with diced tomatoes and onion. The hot salsa was green with diced peppers which tasted like pickled jalapenos that added a flavorful zing to both the chimichanga and taco.
The chimichanga was lightly deep fried and packed full of juicy shredded beef. The taco was similar tasting with the difference being the corn tortilla and ability to spoon in veggies and salsa to mix things up. Overall, TDC was pleased with the portion size and the flavors..
I audibly groaned when our server asked if we wanted dessert, but it was hard to resist after, again, seeing the many offerings. I opted for the Kahlua Pie ($4.99), a frozen Kahlua whipped-cream pie in a homemade graham-cracker crust, flavored with a swirl of chocolate and topped with whipped cream and a wedge of lime. ($4.99) If I have anything less than stellar to say about my meal, it may be that the dessert didn't live up to my expectations. I couldn't taste the Kahlua, or much of anything besides whipped cream, in the pie. After all bold flavors I had earlier in the meal, I was disappointed that the dessert didn't match up.
TDC had a much better experience. He chose the Peanut Butter Dream ($5.99 or $7.99 with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). This is like a mini chimichanga — a deep fried flour tortilla, filled with peanut butter and semi-sweet chocolate chips. It is served with a dollop of whipped cream on a plate that is drizzled in chocolate sauce. When you take a bite, the melted peanut butter and chocolate oozes out, overwhelming the pleasure centers of your brain. The flavor overload soon erased any guilt he felt after ordering such a decadent dessert.
Our dinner at Hermanos was meal was one we'll remember for a long time from the food, to the décor, to the service. On another cold night we'll make another trip. It may take us a few years, but maybe eventually we can get through the rest of the menu.
Sounds like a delicious challenge.