*** I am very sorry to notify all readers of The Hardcore Foodie that I can no longer recommend Tex Mex & Beyond. The restaurant has lost it’s opening Chef and subsequently his replacement and the quality of its product is no longer at the level that this reviewer wrote about in this review.***
Tex Mex & Beyond
119 North Main Street
Berlin, MD 21811
Resurrection and Redemption with a side of Guacamole
Tex Mex and Beyond opened Labor Day weekend of 2012; to say that this was a bad decision is like saying that taking “Firefly” off the air after one season was a bad decision (obvious). Neither the kitchen nor the service staff were trained or prepared for the onslaught that followed. The reasons for such a sloppy opening were beyond the control of Chef Arturo Paz but never the less he was left to pick up the pieces and move ahead. But the question then arises; “How do you turn a restaurant completely around and win back all the customers who were initially turned off?” The answer is to start from scratch and that is exactly what was done.
Chef Arturo Paz came to Ocean City last season with the Phillips Restaurant Group. He was the opening and, unfortunately, closing chef for the Bombora restaurant in the Phillips by the Sea Hotel. Bombora was a modern, cutting edge Latin dining experience in a property that was used to traditional Eastern Shore food and the clientele was, unfortunately, not prepared for such a drastic change. To our good fortune Chef Paz and his family decided to stay in the area and when the first group to open the Tex Mex location backed out Chef Paz took on the challenge. Unfortunately, by the time the deal was finalized most of the summer was gone and the property owners insisted on opening ASAP. In most cases when a restaurant is forced to open before the ink is even dry on the contract that acronym ends up standing for Absolutely Suicidal and Preposterous and that is essentially how it ended up.
Enough of the negative history let us move on to a remarkable resurrection and hopefully the complete redemption for Tex Mex and Beyond. The building itself is a lovely two-story structure at the edge of the Berlin downtown area. The interior has a warm feeling with wood trim and a hard wood floor. The upstairs dining room is a mirror image of the downstairs with a complete bar in the back of both. The décor is sparse but cute which, along with the black t-shirts and jeans of the servers, gives the dining room a comfortable and friendly feel. The bars have wide screen TV’s and the music is fun but never too loud.
The menu, at first sight, looks like any other “south of the border” style restaurant. The difference is when the food arrives, and what a difference it is. To start everything I have ordered, tasted or seen come out of the kitchen is made from scratch and fresh to order. The Guacamole is some of the best I have had anywhere. It is made to order with beautifully ripe avocados, fresh cilantro, onion, garlic and tangy lime and can be made to your desired level of spiciness. The Chile Relleno does a Texas two-step on your pallet with its slow roasted pork, golden raisins, onions and peppers stuffed into a fresh poblano chile. The Tamales, which are hand rolled and served with a house made mole sauce that would bring tears to the eyes of anyone who has had an Oaxaca mole, are moist and flavorful. With these selections you would think the “Fire Starters” (appetizers) section would be complete but the true gem is the Plato de Carnitas which literally translates to a Plate of Meats. This is a meat lover’s dream with perfectly grilled skirt steak, spicy Mexican chorizo and succulent pork carnitas served with a tart green salsa and shredded fresh cabbage.
Among the soups and salads the stand outs are the Baja Chicken Tortilla soup which is bright and mildly spicy and the Peggy’s Taco salad which is hardly low cal but fresh and extremely filling. The tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas and chimichangas are all well known to anyone who has been to a Mexican restaurant but the freshness and lightness of the kitchens touch on these old warhorses will be an eye opener to most people. All the sauces are freshly made, the proteins are expertly prepared so that they are still juicy and full of flavor and while the cheeses are authentic to the dish they are not treated as the main ingredient as in so many other operations.
The two sections of the menu that are truly special and should be given serious consideration are the “Old Southwest” and “The Beyond”. Both are designed to give Chef Paz and his kitchen staff a chance to show their stuff and believe me they have some pretty good stuff. My favorites are the Mole Chicken; the Texas cut Rib Eye and the Pork “Osso Bucco”. The mole gives the chicken a depth of flavor that all other chickens can only aspire too while the rib eye steak is cooked to perfection and topped with a mushroom sauce that makes you want to lick the plate clean. The “osso bucco” is fall off the bone tender and served with cheesy grits spiked with Serrano peppers and Tasso ham gravy that will have you leaning back and loosening your belt.
If you still have room left I would suggest the flan for dessert, it is like my grand mom used to make. Also the cinnamon & banana bread pudding is yummy and something I wish my grand mom had made. Also worth mentioning are the margaritas at Tex Mex. Along with many fun, interesting and international drinks this is the only bar/restaurant I have found in the Ocean City area that actually makes its margaritas properly with fresh squeezed lime juice and Cointreau. Combine these ingredients with a blue agave Tequila and a little agave nectar and you will never look at a margarita made with bottled sour mix and orange juice the same way again.
So go to the Tex Mex and Beyond Happy Hour as a start and try some appetizers and a margarita. You may just agree that like the legendary Phoenix, Tex Mex and Beyond has risen from the ashes of a near disastrous opening and become an excellent restaurant and a great addition to the dining scene of Berlin, Ocean City and the Eastern Shore.