A worthwhile trip to the Riviera

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Riviera Maya
2258 S. Kinnickinnic

In the middle of a winter like this, it’s inevitable to consider a trip to warmer climes. For many of us, however, that’s a consideration that won’t come true any time soon.

So consider a trip to Riviera Maya in Bay View as a more affordable alternative. Once you enter the colorful, expansive dining room of this popular neighborhood spot, it’s easy to pretend that you are south of the border – if you don’t look out the window at the snowdrifts. The cheerful staff exudes warmth, and what they may lack in polish, they more than make up for in enthusiasm.

If you choose to start with an appetizer, the nachos Xel-ha is a good selection. A gigantic mound of chips is topped with steak, pork, chorizo and bacon and served with refried beans and melted chihuahua cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo. There’s more than enough for four to share as an appetizer, or for one to have as an entrée. The price is quite reasonable at just under $8.

The same can’t be said for the totopos con moles, a sampler of the café’s five signature moles with chips. At only a dollar less than the nachos, the dish is tasty but over-priced.

A much better way to sample the various moles is in the variety of entrées. The dishes are available with various fillings: chicken breast, steak or pork will run $12.50, two vegetarian combinations are priced at $10.95, and shrimp is $13.50. Diners can opt for the meat served in the mole of their choice, with tortillas on the side, or as enchiladas.

All of the moles are fresh and house-made. Brown versions include savory chocolate and ancho pepper, roasted peanut and broiled tomato. Red versions are pumpkin seed and almond base. My favorites were the green moles made with tomatillo and cilantro, one of which is a vegetarian version.

In addition to the enchiladas, most other Mexican classics are available: tacos, burritos, tostadas, flautas and chile rellenos, all priced at less than $10. If you’re in the mood for something even heartier, I suggest trying the tortas (the Mexican version of a sub.) There are nearly a dozen options, all priced $8-$10, except for the shrimp torta for $11.50.

Of course, the margaritas are delicious and I enjoyed one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had. There are three dessert offerings; flan, cheesecake and a chocolate cake, though I doubt you’ll have room to try one. The dinners at Riviera Maya are filling.

Riviera Maya is open for lunch, dinner and brunch, seven days a week, beginning at 11 a.m.

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