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Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, Published February 25 2013

Review: Mango’s a decent enough Mexican option in Fargo, but could use some tweaks

FARGO – Very few dining options in the Red River Valley generate polar opinions more than Mexican food.

Fans are loyal. Critics are harsh. Critics of the critics are downright brutal. It goes beyond love-it-or-hate it.

This makes reviewing Mango’s, located at 2901 Main Ave., a bit of a challenge. Food is, on the average, good. Service is almost always good. Value for the dollar approaches excellent all the time. Authenticity, the rock every opinion stubs its toe on, is difficult to judge because Mexico is very big and has lots of food.

Fargo, on the other hand, is small, has limited options and is about as far away from Mexico as you can get in the continental United States. And everyone who spent a weekend in Cancun on spring break in 1973 has an opinion on authenticity.

So we are left with forcing a judgment on the food, and here a generality is in order.

The meat at Mango’s pushes entrees into positive territory to be sure. The beef in the Chilaquiles Mexicanos ($8.95) spent enough time on the stove to allow its shredded version to carry the

dish. A green tomatillo sauce turns enchiladas ($8.95) from tortillas stuffed with flat-flavored chicken into a genuine rendition of a Mexican pollo dish. The marinated beef in the Molcajete ($11.95) is pushed up front by grilled peppers and onions, a nicely selected vegetable mix and a mercifully mild and illiberal bit of cheese. In all the dishes I tried one principle applies: It’s hard to fault the flesh.

So what’s not to like? The sides tend to be so far to the side, you half wonder why you need them. Bland is not the right word. Perhaps one could say basic. The rice, the beans and even the guacamole don’t say very much. Some will say this is a matter of taste, but I think the subtlety of these sides drags down the dish, and a splash of pepper sauce adds heat rather than flavor. The solution, I think, is in the kitchen, not in the bottle on the table.

It’s hard to argue that a good mango margarita can’t bring balance to the force, but I’m not sure it’s enough. Perhaps one can wash away the ambiguity with the very excellent fried ice cream ($3.25) that could only be improved by breaking the maddening Fargo tradition of refusing to use real whipped cream on desserts.

Mango’s has done what it can for atmosphere. Much of it was adopted from Jalapeno’s, its predecessor in that location. Some of that came from Kroll’s, the almost contra-Mexican Midwest diner which, in turn, picked up a few things from the Highway Host before them. The space has simply seen too many incarnations. Service is very friendly and help with the menu is gracious.

Mango’s is a good addition to casual dining in Fargo. It holds its own against the mega-Mexican options that dominate Mexican food in town in terms of meat dishes and, as a value option, it can’t be beat.

Review

Mango’s

Address: 2901 Main Ave., Fargo

Cuisine: Mexican

Food: 3

Service: 3

Ambiance: 2

Dining details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Phone: (701) 232-4886

Reservations accepted: No

Alcohol: Bar menu, margaritas and beer

Dress: As you like

Credit cards accepted: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.