Villa Del Rey
9 Du Rhu Drive, #335
Mobile, AL 36608
It was a battlefield. I had been so busy there had not been much time for me to swipe the plastic the week before Christmas. My shopping had suffered due to my own business tying me up with gigs, recitals, lessons and repairs. It’s a humblebrag, maybe, but every minute of my day had been planned for months. My golden boy of an employee, Jef Funk, was kind enough to give me (most of) the day off to take care of some neglected things. I took full advantage.
A full tank of the expensive stuff was needed for the giant loop around Mobile County, but it began close to home. I’d never live down a day off if I didn’t take my big boys out for lunch. We’d had our Chinese for the week already, so our non-Christmas outing would be to look for some good Mexican. I also needed to poke my head into Williams Sonoma, so off to Legacy Village we sped.
Right next door in the old Mirko location sat the new Villa Del Rey Cocina Mexicana. What a convenience. I was being chauffeured by Lucas and shotgunned by Graham, and they agreed to a place we’d never tried before.
Sure, it was lunch. But we are the kind of guys who like ice cream in the winter, soup in the summer and two appetizers at noon. The first was the Ceviche Tradicional ($7.99). The shrimp were plentiful, as were the onions, while the mild jalapeños, tomatoes and cilantro were enough to shine through the lime juice. I was explaining to Graham how the shrimp were “cooked” in the acid (these may have been boiled) when I noticed they’d left off the avocado. No worries. He loved it, as did I.
Appetizer dos was the El Rey Sampler ($11.99). Billed as cheese dip with three flour tortillas, this came out as a plate of nachos with toppings over chips. The ingredients were spot on, despite the misnomer. It’s an “everything but the kitchen sink” sort of deal with grilled chicken, steak and shrimp, smothered with cheese and grilled veggies. I was glad it wasn’t a dip.
Graham was sucking on a Jarritos ($3.07) and hovering over his Kid’s Meal #3 ($5.99). Just a year under the recommended cut-off date, the sixth-grader had his rice and beans with a quesadilla filled with shredded chicken and cheese. This is his measuring stick that determines whether the place is Mexican or Mexican’t. They passed the test. I like his idea, though. If someone screws up a quesadilla, rice and beans, it’s definitely a Mexican’t.
I wasn’t driving, so I had my choice of Modelo Especial in a bottle or draft. Though I chose the draft, I’ll say I should have chosen the bottle. The draft is a little large for lunch when you plan on doing a lot after. I can’t fault them for giving me more beer than I needed. It was fine.
I started with a bowl of Sopa de Tortilla ($7.49). When asked if I’d like to add chicken for a cool $3, I gave her a simple, “Si.” This clear chicken broth was fortified with lots of greenery, including onions and cilantro with slices of avocado finding their way into every other spoonful. Pockets of sour cream would burst under the swish of the spoon, and flat, uniformed tortillas were suspended next to the chicken.
I really liked the soup, but was taken aback by how large of a bowl I’d received. I felt as if I’d ordered tortilla pho! I picked the good stuff out as not to overstuff.
Lucas was set on trying the Burrito De California ($12.53). This monster burrito looks fairly normal, lightly grilled on the outside and stuffed tight. The California side is the serving of French fries on the plate. Lucas was only a couple of years from being a California baby, so I explained to him it was up to his conscience as to whether or not he put those fries into the burrito. He did not. But he ate as much as he could stand and dipped his fries into the leftover cheese and sauces that seemed to be surrounding us.
I’d grown full of my soup and went on to try an a la carte taco ($2.99). I went total gringo with the ground beef and hard shell, happy with the finely shredded Jack cheese, lettuce and tomato topping. They do have street tacos I shall return to try.
Next, I had a single tamal ($3.29). Served with a side of tomatillo sauce, I couldn’t wait to share this with the boys. They love delta tamales, so they were just bursting to have the Mexican version. The stark white masa was a contrast to the darker ones they’re used to, but we all had fun sharing this one and rubbing each bite into the sauce. It was good enough for them and good enough for me.
Adding to our pile of to-go boxes, these two guys, who’ve done nothing more than play video games and MAYBE throw the football over vacation, wanted dessert. I couldn’t look at another thing, but they ordered a chocolate chimichanga ($6.99) on wheels. I’m yet to receive a bite, but they bragged on it a little.
In the heart of an already busy shopping center, Villa Del Rey will do well. Everything we had was good, though occasionally misrepresented. Beer, wine and margaritas will keep this full of the Spring Hill crowd and a destination dining spot for those a little farther away. A supplement to their Schillinger Road location, it’s good Mexican in the Oh-Eight. We stayed fairly safe this go-round, but I’m sure to spread my wings at the next visit.
In that shopping battlefield, this place was a haven. Definitely try it.
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