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Spotlight: Mesa 21


Most people will likely gravitate directly to the patio at Mesa 21.

The waterfront seating with a view of Lake Ivanhoe has long been the draw of this space, ever since the building was erected, circa 2004, and Gargi’s moved there from across the street.

Gargi’s is gone, and Mesa 21 has moved in. While some now grouse that the view across the lake is marred by the ongoing construction related to the I-4 updates — what’s it been now, 15 years? — they probably assume the patio is the place to be.

Not necessarily. I experienced both over two visits to Mesa 21, and while the patio is certainly nice and I appreciate the waterfront in a downtown location, I found the new decor of the interior to be quite pleasant. And if you dine while it’s still light out, you have a better than OK view of the lake through the large windows. And air conditioning.

And there’s no reason to adjust the evaluation of the food and service. Both are as recommendable as the view, cranes and mounds of dirt notwithstanding.

On a first visit, my companion and I started with an order of guacamole, which was delightfully chunky, as God intended guacamole to be.

I liked the Chili Relleno, a plump poblano stuffed with mild-flavored panela cheese and slathered with a tomato sauce.

I liked my Carnitas, too, though it was certainly different than any I’d had before. Instead of a usual pork butt cut, Mesa’s is fashioned out of a pork shank, braised a la osso buco. It was doused with salsa verde and accompanied by onions and warm tortillas. The meat was sufficiently tender and juicy and fell off easily for wrapping in the tortillas.

At a lunch visit, I selected the trio of tacos, or Mesa 21 Real Tacos, as they’re touted on the menu. They were about as real as they get, though let’s be honest, authentic tacos aren’t that difficult, many restaurants just try to make it look that way.

Besides the benefit of cooler air, the inside dining room also offers the comfort of padded chairs and a decor of brick walls in a chevron pattern with simple but colorful Mexican artwork.

Good food; great location — Mesa 21 is a nice addition to the downtown dining scene.

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