Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Leon's Mexican Restaurant

Did you know Leon's Mexican Restaurant was a Rachael Ray's $40 a Day stop in Saratoga Springs? That's right, home of the Burro Ranchero with Rachael's seal of approval. I am obsessed with anything Food Network-related and religiously watched $40 a Day back in its early years. I couldn't believe that J had a special connection to the restaurant when we were first dating. Turns out Leon's was an extended family affair. Consider this our official disclaimer. Yes we are greeted by familiar faces when we walk through the door but having had my share of Mexican food around the Capital Region and San Diego, this is truly a gem that has gotten better within the past few years, even months. 

A change in decor and atmosphere in addition to changes in plating and presentation has improved the overall experience at Leon's. The restaurant has started using seasonal and fresh ingredients, which makes a huge difference in taste. On a recent visit J and I were quite impressed by said recent changes.  A new paint job and open seating with brighter lights made the dining room much more inviting. If you opt for bar seating, Uncle Jimbo the weekend bartender, will gladly make you a killer house margarita. 

You should always start off your meal with a basket of chips and salsa. We were treated to an array of dips: freshly made guacamole and two kinds of house-made salsas: a traditional tomato-based one and a spicy green tomatillo salsa made with garden-fresh tomatillos grown and picked right on premise. (If you go in the summer, Jimbo makes mojitos with mint from the gardens too.) We had the unfortunate experience of being served canned-salsa at another Capital Region Mexican joint and haven't looked back since and it was comforting to know and taste the difference between fresh and canned. Be prepared for the spicy salsas here, they pack a punch.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Our usual go to dishes are Mexican pizza (a light crisp tortilla topped with pulled chicken, guacamole, pico, and sour cream) for J and I usually go for an order of the house special, an authentic pork verde green chili. Leon's now serves a variety of lighter and smaller portioned tapas plates and single tacos alongside filling entree portions. To start we ordered the chicken flautas, which was pretty much a bite size version of the mexican pizza but more fun to eat. What I love about the dishes now is that a mere addition of fresh lime, pico de gallo, and mango salsa really brightens up the flavors. Plus the addition of queso fresco (think Mexican feta cheese) brought just enough saltiness. Isn't it beautiful too? Plating and presentation has come a long way here. 

Opting to vere out of our comfort zones again, J ordered a shrimp burrito and I went with a duo of tacos: one pork and one veggie taco. J's burro was huge! We weren't sure how well the shrimp and mango salsa would go together, but were surprised how delicious the sweet and savory combo was. Plus the green sauce and squeeze of lime really pulled it together and the rice was perfectly seasoned. In the past we felt that some dishes were very heavy but overall, everything tasted lighter and cleaner and it's mostly in part due to the use of fresh ingredients like the mango and tomatoes in the pico. My tacos were wonderful bites too, although the pork was a bit dry but chunks of pineapple helped out and the spinach and bean taco was fantastic too. J and I are big meat eaters and again this veggie combo caught us off guard, in a good way. Plus the addition of sweet onions and cilantro gave the tacos a wonderful crunch and contrast in textures, and you can't forget to squeeze the lime! It makes a big difference. 

If you're not drooling over these pictures yet, lo and behold the margarita ice cream float! Did you see that margarita up top? That's a huge scoop of cherry ice cream in there! This grown-up treat is the perfect accompaniment or end to a meal at Leon's. If you're ever up in Saratoga, go off the beaten Downtown path and get to Leon's on Crescent Street and let us know how your experience turns out. 


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