Dining Review: La Terraza brings homestyle Mexican to the grill

When real estate agents discuss property value, they agree upon one universal truth: location. It means everything. The same might be said for restaurants. If you were to make a date to meet at the Terrace Grill, it would be reasonable to expect something exotic and, very likely, expensive. Put that location in Webster Square, one of Worcester’s well-worn commercial “strips,” and a very different set of expectations holds true. The good news is that, although the view from La Terraza isn’t particularly special, the value of your food dollar is.

Given that it was rush hour on Park Avenue and a wind was gusting, my friend and I elected to forgo the terrace and sit at a booth in the dining room — at eye level with the floor of the outdoor terrace. It was immediately apparent that this was not a part of any chain of restaurants. La Terraza wears its independence proudly, with homestyle Mexican décor and a soundtrack that features arena-grade R&B and plenty of Pan-American emotion.

I had no inside information regarding La Terraza’s specialties, so as I scanned the menu, I decided to order cuisine I was familiar with; it seemed a reasonable means of treating them fairly. This would prove to be a strategy that skirted around their very strengths.

Had I thought more about it, I would have ordered from the grill. Fortunately, my friend did. Learn from him.

After snacking from the complementary basket of crisp tortilla chips, served with bean and green chili dips, we started our meal with the Guacamole appetizer. If forced to describe La Terraza’s guacamole in one word, it would have to be “fresh.” Each of its ingredients was honest, hand-prepared and tasty. Though I would have appreciated a bit more cilantro, the flavor balance was ideal.

Once upon a time, I ordered Chile Rellenos and never forgot how fantastic a meal it was. The char on those poblano peppers had such deep and dusky flavor! Over the decades that have passed since that religious experience, I’ve ordered them time and again, hoping for a repeat of the magic.

Some things just need to be let go.

La Terraza’s Chili Relleno was okay. The peppers were soft and mildly tasty; the queso blanco stuffing was gooey and mild; and the coating of egg batter was puffy-textured and mild in flavor. Yes, that’s mild three times in one sentence. Fortunately, the beans and rice came to the rescue with flavor counterpoints.

It was my Lime Margarita that saved the meal from obscurity. Tasty, frosty and with a touch of salt, it dazzled with flavor. A couple of them would make the view on Webster Square an enchanting experience.

La Terraza’s menu takes a core set of proteins and serves them in three formats: Tacos, Tortas and Burritos. And here, I believe, is the key to a delicious meal: Order meat. My friend ordered the Asada Burrito — thin slices of steak cooked on the grill with bits of onion and sweet peppers. While I was experiencing mild, he was delighting in a burst of flavor that came from tasty beef treated to a blazing iron grill top and delicious seasonings. Fortunately for me, the portion size was huge and sharing was a cinch.

For dessert, we ordered the Tres Leches Cake. La Terraza follows the classic recipe — a coarse sponge cake soaked in milk and topped with thick creamy frosting and a cherry. Our waitress laughed when she saw how fast it vanished.

As the weather warms up and people leave Worcester for their vacations, life should get quieter in town. If you feel the need for culinary change, pay La Terraza Parilla a visit. Have a margarita on the shady terrace and enjoy some homestyle Mexican cuisine. From the grill.

La Terraza Parilla Mexicana
591 Park Ave., Worcester
(774) 530-6360

Bernie Whitmore