Pillbox

From burritos to margaritas

For all those fans of Si Señor, be informed: There is another alliterative Tex-Mex joint in town. I am writing, of course, of Mad Mex, a bar and restaurant chain most conveniently located on Atwood St. in South Oakland.

Mad Mex offers the shadowy, seductive qualities of a Tijuana bar — except without the Mexico. The décor is a half-comical, half-legitimate mix of western-looking decorations, from fake (hopefully) animal skulls to multi-colored Christmas lights. Meanwhile, green glass jars turned light fixtures hang from the ceiling, creating an enchanting, almost seedy vibe — again, without the Mexico.

For lovers of Tex-Mex, Mad Mex is an obvious choice, serving the usual tacos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, and enchiladas, ranging from $7 to $15. Over half of the options are vegetarian or “veggie possible,” the menu advertises, and most come with a choice of chicken, steak, shrimp, portabella mushrooms, or tofu — that’s two delicious options for burrito craving herbivores.

If all the -illas, -itas, and -chiladas are intimating, I recommend starting with a burrito. From the Super Mad Mex Burrito (zesty spinach, chickpea chili) to the Carnitas Burrito (slow-roasted pork with a side of blue cornbread), Mad Mex burritos are all artfully executed, resulting in meals both pretty to look at and wonderful to eat. Customers can pay $1.95 for double the protein, or request a whole-wheat tortilla gratis.

For one thing, the menu offers the standard Texican soups and salads, but the aforementioned quesadillas take the cake (or maybe flan) when it comes to lighter fare. Mad Mex quesadillas are sensibly cheesed and easy to eat — ideal for dates.

Appetizers are not a must (the main courses are satisfying enough), although the cleverly named “Pickadippa” might be an exception. Here, customers choose three salsas or dips to devour with an unlimited quantity of tortilla chips. Those interested should order the Pepita Hummus, a dip so infused with Tex-Mex flavors that it tastes like you stuck your chip in salsa, guacamole, and hummus.

Clearly, Mad Mex is a desirable locale for those craving South-of-the-border cuisine, but what about everyone else? It’s hard, sometimes, to find a group of friends all hungry for the same type of food, but, luckily, Mad Mex is accommodating. The menu offers an entire “Los Wingos” section, with flavor levels mild, wild, and insane. Wing-ordering customers should exercise caution, though; the “wild” are as hot as most taste-buds can stand. Along with wings, Mad Mex serves two Thai-inspired dishes, a wrap and a burrito — perfect for that member of the group who was more in the mood for Bangkok Balcony.

And if there’s one thing friends can agree on — those 21 and over, anyway — it’s alcohol. The Mad Mex bar is fully stocked, and of-age visitors might consider the sangria (red or white) or one of about a million varieties of margarita, from hibiscus to tamarind. They’re delicious, so I’ve heard (from my 21-year-old amigos).