My roommate recently had a discussion with a physician about where to eat Mexican food in this town now that Taqueria Jaripeo was totaled by the tornado. Two places came up in the positive: Jalapeno’s and Fernando’s Mexican Grill. Sure enough, Fernando’s is pretty solid.
Nothing about Fernando’s aesthetic gives me an indication that it is any different than the likes of an El Rincon. There are statues of Mariachi musicians standing out in front. The walls inside are a hodgepodge of light browns and yellows and reds and greens. Gimmick light fixtures and neon abound. It is over-the-top.
Service at Fernando’s is quick and efficient. You are seated, with drink orders taken, in a flash. Those last two sentences are very restaurant-review-cliché, aren’t they? Well, there’s a lot about Fernando’s that is cliché. But cliché works sometimes. It is something of a cliché to the idea that if a server keeps your water glass filled without your having to ask then the service must be good. But there’s truth there, and Fernando’s keeps those glasses full.
I was hoping to find some authenticity on the menu, but Fernando’s only offers the core essentials that you find in seemingly every family-owned-and-operated Mexican-American restaurant all across the country. Chips and salsa that isn’t so much spicy as it is a tastier, more robust alternative to ketchup. Combo plates and quesadillas and $11 fajita dishes served in a sizzling, personal-sized skillet. Rice and refried beans and guacamole salads on the side. Not a real taco or torta to be found.
But this classic sort of menu is just fine when well-executed, and Fernando’s executes. The quesadillas here – filling and balanced and seasoned — are a far cry from El Rincon’s sad lumps (El Rincon, being on The Strip, is always my point of reference for these kinds of restaurants). There was an inlet menu with what appeared to be specials, and the carnitas were calling my name. These pork tips were served no-frills: meaty cubes of pig with plenty of moderately-cooked onions. The pork was cooked through to well-done, which isn’t ideal, but the earthy seasoning blend made up for it. The small, quite round steamed tortillas were durable enough to hold plenty of pork for the impromptu tacos I made. Everything that I saw on other tables that came from the grill looked and smelled tasty.
As far as sides go, Fernando’s rice sticks out amongst Tuscaloosa competition for being somewhat Spanish-influenced. A Spanish-Mexican hybrid rice (that could have used some saffron) that matched up nicely with the earthy flavor of my carnitas. The refried beans, by comparison, were very standard-issue.
If you live in Northport, give Fernando’s a chance. It is leagues ahead of the likes of Pepitos and El Rincon. What I had there was quite solid, and I feel that their menu warrants further exploration.
Fernando’s Mexican Grill is located at 824 McFarland Blvd W in Northport, across the street from Cici’s Pizza.
Mon – Thu:11:00 am-9:00 pm
Fri – Sat:11:00 am-10:00 pm
Sun:11:00 am-9:00 pm