Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Champlain College's Digital Forensics Lab Renamed in Honor of Sen. Patrick Leahy | Main | From the Village That Brought Us the Men of Maple Corner Nude Calendar: A Happiness Store »

November 15, 2011

Alice Eats: Madera's Restaurante Mexicano Cantina

3 Main St., Burlington, 802-657-3377

The Mexican explosion in Vermont just seems to continue. Last week, Corin reported that a new Mad Taco is opening in Montpelier and that the Farmhhouse Tap & Grill team is throwing its sombrero into the ring with El Cortijo.

IMG_3184This new glut owes directly to the long-standing complaint that Tex-Mex food in the Burlington area was lacking. Amidst all the chatter, I recently realized that it had been years since I'd given a chance to one of Burlington's elder statesmen, Madera's Restaurante Mexicano Cantina. Was it as lackluster as people said? Perhaps it was a hidden gem and folks were simply ordering the wrong thing.

The restaurant smelled great as I entered, though the spices reminded me more of Indian cuisine than Mexican. Immediately upon being seated, our server proffered chips, salsa and steaming hot refried beans. Nice touch. Too bad they were all a little disappointing. The chips were crisp but low on flavor. The beans, too, were bland, but they were so warm and soft, I couldn't stop eating them. I had an easier time resisting the salsa, which was punctuated throughout by stale-tasting dried herbs.

IMG_3186I was excited to try the house special. I adore green chiles, and this flat enchilada was made with Hatch chiles, straight from New Mexico. A pepper symbol next to the item on the menu denoted it would be hot. It was not, though green chile dishes are usually more tangy than spicy, so I didn't mind. The problem was, it was also missing that telltale zing. Most of the dish's flavor came from the fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.

It was too bad. I loved the soft braised pork with its barky crust that filled the quesadillas. I also liked the fact that the whole plate had been heated in the oven, leaving the rice with a paella-like crispness on top. The beans were so thickly laced with cheese that I ended up scraping them to avoid it. All that said, I still kind of enjoyed the meal. Though the flavors were on mute, the textures were very pleasing.

IMG_3187The script was flipped with the combo platter we tried. The red sauce that covered the enchilada and tamale was unconventional and quite yummy. Cinnamon played a more dominant role than chiles. Unfortunately, the chicken in the enchilada hadn't been cooked in it. The pulled meat was hard and stringy, and untouched by sauce.

The pork in the tamale was more moist, and speckled with seeds from the peppers that flavored it. However, the masa in which it was enrobed reminded me of semi-hardened Play-Doh, far from the creamy tamale I had hoped for.

It was nice that we were allowed to replace the rice and beans of that dish with a big green salad with homemade salsa-based dressing. Another fun departure was the option of a pair of Mexican sodas. I tried the Jarritos Mandarina. It didn't really taste like mandarin oranges, but I can never say no to an orange soda, especially if it's imported.

We had hoped to end the meal with sopaipillas, but our courteous waiter informed us, with apologies, that the kitchen had run out. Too bad, but with a few sips of Mandarina left to end the meal, I can't complain too much.


There's never any real REVIEW of the food. Is it good, or is it bad alice? We're just left hanging at the end. My perspective is that this place is bad. It's not good, and the newer options in town blow it away.

Lighten up!

I've tried Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico, Tucson, Az., San Diego, Palm Beach and assorted spots west o' the Pecos..., all unrewarding. All bloatatious. Heavy.

Fer Chrissakes, it's Mexican food..., blech.

I second Dianne's comment about the non-review. Please either evaluate or -- if Seven Days doesn't want to offend potential advertisers -- stop saying you're reviewing the food.

And btw, I also second Dianne's review. Madera's is bland, bland, bland.

And what would be the point is Alice came right out and gave Maderas a terrible review? Clearly we all can glean from her post that it's not a fantastic restaurant. I like how Alice reviews places and provides her experience for readers, but she's not marching across the state tearing apart every place she eats. This isn't New York City for crying out loud, and we're a small enough state that at the end of the day, Alice can provide wishy-washy reviews of the restaurants and no one gets seriously hurt.

KG, that's the whole point. Alice needs to give this whole thing up. It's pointless. We aren't getting any information.

And... how about letting readers know if a place has vegetarian/vegan choices? Not all do... just a comment or 2 stating that yes they do or no they don't. Not everyone that reads the reviews is pork centric like you, Alice! Even non-veggies like to order vegetarian food.

If Madera's charged about 40% less, it would be a great spot for decent Mexican food. But mediocre and pricy seems to be the order of the day in so many Burlington restaurants. I'm so tired of $14 "farm to table" burgers and dishes with descriptions longer than the declaration of independence. We need more decent, un-fussy ethnic food in this town!!!!

Madera's is bland and overpriced, BUT their nachos are the best in Burlington. They are huge, cheap ($8-10) and nearly perfectly executed. That is the only thing I order there.

Been a fan of Madera's for years. Love the Pescado Borracho, the Huachinango A La Veracruzana and their mole (and many other dishes). As you said, Alice maybe folks are ordering the wrong thing.

And did I just read a review of a "Mexican" restaurant without a comment on the margaritas?! Madera's makes a GREAT margarita! Don't believe me? Try one here, then head to Mexicali...

Madera's has been sorely lacking ever since it changed it's name years ago. It used to be that the food was amazing, the drinks fantastic and service was great. Ever since it changed over the food has been awful, the margaritas weak (& pricey) and the service mediocre - throw in the ridiculously overpriced menu and one visit is all you need to remind you why you're never going back to Madera's.

I completely agree that Madera's is overpriced. Can't believe that so many of their entrees are over $14. The only thing I order are the quesadilla de pollo. Very good. About $8, but no rice or beans.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684