This time a year ago, Route 33 from Robbinsville to Mercerville had only one restaurant serving Mexican or Tex-Mex food: Moe’s Southwest Grill, a chain restaurant in the Chipotle mold. Now there are four, and I’d be surprised if there aren’t more by the end of 2019.
The latest is My Quate Authentic Mexican Cuisine, which opened in late February in the location formerly occupied by FD Subs. It joins Taco Rito, which opened in Robbinsville’s Town Center last spring, and New Jersey chain Bubbakoo’s Burritos, which moved in to the former Steak ’n’ Shake location in Hamilton Square in November.
My Quate is the third restaurant from Franco Ordoñez, owner-operator of Franco’s Taqueria down in Riverside and Palmyra, and the first Tex-Mex joint on Route 33 to have no Chipotle vibe whatsoever. Ordoñez says “quate,” often spelled cuate, is a word meaning pal, friend, hombre.
The interior is cheerful, painted bright red and yellow with the odd sombrero on the walls. On one of the days I was there, Mariachi music played in the front of the small dining area, though it was drowned out by the TV in the back that was broadcasting a Yes concert.
My Quate has all the Mexican favorites we’ve come to expect, from taco salads to burritos to fajitas to enchiladas, plus platters like churrasco, New York strip steak and jumbo shrimp kabob. Though there is a special lunch menu from 11 to 3, you can order from the dinner menu all day.
Lunches range in price from $7.99 to $10.99; most dinners are in the $8.99 to $14.99 range. In general, prices are a tad high compared to other Mexican restaurants in the area—quesadillas and burritos are in the $11.99–$15.99 range—but certainly they are fair when compared to, say, Italian restaurants in the area.
When I try a Mexican restaurant for the first time, I go for tacos al pastor, or roast marinated pork. This gives me a baseline by which to compare one place to another. For lunch, My Quate has five taco dishes: ground meat, steak, grilled chicken, Mexican chorizo and roasted pork. For dinner there are more options, including beef tongue and shrimp.
Lunch tacos (two) come with beans (pinto or black) and rice for $8.99 (chorizo is $1 extra). You can get them with onions and cilantro (which is traditional), or lettuce, tomato and cheese (sometimes called americano style).
A basket of fried tortilla chips came out almost immediately, accompanied by a sweet, Old El Paso-style salsa. I’ll have more to say about salsa in a bit.
The generously portioned tacos came in handmade soft corn tortillas, which was a pleasant surprise. I always prefer soft corn tortillas for my tacos, and while I can’t think of a single Mexican restaurant in the area that hasn’t had good ones, few make the tortillas in house. These were fluffy but sturdy, lightly charred and good.
The pork was also good. It was remarkably tender for al pastor, sometimes to the point of pulling apart. The marinade was mild. I squeezed some fresh lime juice over it for an added zest.
Shortly before my tacos came, one of the hosts brought out three small squirt bottles of salsa, one red and two green.These were different from the salsa provided with the chips, and more to my liking. The salsa rojo was full of flavor and on the spicier side. One green bottle held traditional salsa verde, the other pureed guacamole. That one was probably my favorite of the three.
I liked my refried beans with cotija cheese. The rice, dotted with carrots and peas, was also good. It came topped with shredded cilantro.
My Quate also has an extensive breakfast menu, including egg skillets, breakfast burritos and quesadillas, omelets and traditional favorites like huevos rancheros and divorced eggs. All breakfasts are in the $8.99–$10.99 range.
I stopped in one morning and ordered a Mexican chorizo and egg skillet ($10.99), which comes with home fries. It was filling and tasty. I enjoyed experimenting with all three salsas. I should add that the coffee ($2) was very good.
I was pleasantly surprised when Franco recognized me and thanked me for coming back. Every time I’ve been there, the staff has been great. My Quate is a welcome addition to a part of Hamilton that lacked this type of food.
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As far as Bubbakoo’s Burritos goes, if you are a fan of Chipotle, Moe’s, Qdoba or Pancheros, then you mostly know what you are in for. In terms of the basics, Point Pleasant-based Bubbakoo’s is pretty much a Chipotle clone. They have tacos, quesadillas, nacho platters and bowls, but burritos are the thing.
They set themselves apart by going a little outside the Tex-Mex boundaries with their proteins. Options include hibachi steak, buffalo chicken and fried chicken. Sauces include BBQ, buffalo, sriracha ranch and General Tso’s.
To be fair, Bubbakoo’s does what it does pretty well. I ordered a fried chicken burrito with white rice, onions and cilantro, pinto beans, jalapeños and sour cream ($8.75), and I enjoyed it. The rice was more like sushi rice than Mexican style. It was interesting.
I don’t recommend ordering traditional-style tacos there, but if you like a big fat burrito for a reasonable price, I do recommend you give Bubbakoo’s a try. If it’s authentic south-of-the-border food you crave, My Quate is the better bet.
My Quate Authentic Mexican Cuisine, 731 Route 33, Hamilton. Phone (609) 890-0110.
Bubbakoo’s Burritos, 950 Route 33, Hamilton. Phone: (609) 570-5821.