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The Journal Gazette

  • The T-bone Mexicano at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • Mi Casa Shrimp Salad at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • The Pollo Papa Potato at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • Enchiladas Poblanas at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • The Super Donkey burrito at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • The Abuelo's Quesadilla at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

  • The Super Quesadilla at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Ossian.

Saturday, March 11, 2017 10:01 pm

Ossian's new Mexican joint worth the hype

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

It wasn’t long after Mi Casa opened in Ossian that I started hearing about it.

Not only were the folks in the little town thrilled to have a brand new Mexican restaurant, they were impressed by the kind of food it was offering. So I had to find out whether it was really as good as they were claiming or just good for Ossian.

What I discovered was a place that looked the part, had a menu that covered all the bases from old standbys to more modern healthier spins and would not be out of place in a bigger city.

If you have been to any of the Mexican chains in Fort Wayne, you know what Mi Casa looks like. Its strip-mall space is made up to be a faux Mexican cantina with an adobe paint scheme, arched doorways and a smattering of southwestern art.

The menu is big, colorful and looks quite corporate – just like the places in Fort Wayne. Its "Quesadilla Grill" section provided my first tastes from Mi Casa and both satisfied.

The Abuelo’s Quesadilla was the kind of dish I could eat pretty much any day of the week. It had a big, grilled, flour tortilla stuffed with steak, shrimp or carnitas stewed pork – I chose steak – that was coated in the restaurant’s creamy white queso sauce. The steak was the star as this carne asada was tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned. Combined with the cheese and some of the sour cream from a nifty little edible fried tortilla dish, it was a great start to my visits.

The Super Quesadilla had a jumbo tortilla that was stuffed with steak, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, tomatoes, green peppers and cheese. There was no shortage of any of the meats and though the chorizo was a tad mushy, its flavor was spot on. The only thing that could have made this quesadilla better was a blanket of queso sauce like the Abuelo’s had.

Though getting a steak at a Mexican place other than carne asada is a risk, I was intrigued by the menu’s boastful claims that all of Mi Casa’s steaks were "fresh hand-cut in house every day. Grilled to perfection in their own juices." So I went for the T-Bone Mexicano, which was topped with sautéed tomatoes, onions and bell peppers.

It was not cut very well as about a third of it was fat and gristle that I could not eat. It was also rather bland, and I found myself adding salsa to perk it up. The only thing that saved it was – no surprise here – some more queso sauce I had left over after ordering a cup with my chips and salsa. Maybe I have a queso sauce problem, but this sauce sure helped fix this problematic steak.

Another unique item that called to me was the Pollo Papa Potato – a big baked potato that was split open and topped with grilled chicken, chorizo, onions and pineapple.

The combination of the zesty chorizo, sweet caramelized onions and pineapple worked well; the chicken was tender and nicely seasoned and I really enjoyed the dish. It was a bit carb-heavy since it came with rice, refried beans and flour tortillas. I had no use for the tortillas and would ask for a side salad or something instead of one of those sides next time.

The Enchiladas Poblanas was not like any dish I’ve seen at other Mexican eateries, and it was one worth trying to find because it was the best thing I had at Mi Casa. It was not a complex creation – three cheese enchiladas topped with carnitas, poblano peppers and tomatoes with sour cream and guacamole – but it was perfection.

The pork was tender, juicy and full of flavor; the peppers and onions were charred a bit like they are on a fajita; and the red sauce on the white cheese-stuffed enchiladas also packed a flavor punch.

I would try about any carnitas offering at Mi Casa given how good this pork was.

The healthiest dish I had, the Mi Casa Shrimp Salad, was lifted by a simple condiment. The salad was topped with grilled shrimp, jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, shredded queso fresco, fresh avocado and lime. None of the rather standard American salad dressings offered seemed right, so I just squeezed the limes over it and asked for salsa verde. And it was fantastic. The green salsa had a real fresh-tasting vibrancy and its kick of peppery heat – along with the citrus from the lime – rounded out everything perfectly.

The dish with the coolest name was the biggest disappointment. The Super Donkey burrito was stuffed with steak or chicken (my choice), cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. The description said, "The mix of hot and cold ingredients means this one is best enjoyed at room temperature."

Well, my Donkey came out steaming hot on a plate that literally burnt my hand. The lettuce inside had wilted, of course, and the combination of hot sour cream and guacamole was disgusting. I wanted to file a false advertising claim.

The service at Mi Casa was stellar and the food came out crazy fast. Given it is a shining star in Ossian, it is uber popular so be prepared to wait for a table on the weekends.

The restaurant isn’t very big and there is little elbow room as the owners have crammed as many tables as they can into the place. The comfort level was lessened more by the narrow tables – by design I assume to cram more in there. The servers struggled to even find room for entrée plates with just baskets of chips and drinks on the table.

Restaurant: Mi Casa

Address: 1140 Dehner Drive, Ossian

Phone: 260-622-6555

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Mexican

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Abuelo’s Quesadilla ($10.99), Super Quesadilla ($11.99), Pollo Papa Potato ($9.99), T-bone Mexicano ($12.99), shrimp salad ($8.99), Super Donkey ($8.99), Enchiladas Poblanas ($9.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.