Flying Under the RadarJul 01, 2023 ● By Lisa Sciortino
by Lisa Sciortino
Look up the word “unassuming” online (because does anyone use an actual dictionary anymore?) and you’ll learn that its definition is “not pretentious or arrogant.”
Lalo’s Cocina Mexicana certainly seems unassuming, both inside and out.
The longtime Plano favorite recently opened a Frisco location along the edge of an expansive neighborhood shopping center on Preston Road north of Lebanon Road.
However, the building’s subdued beige exterior and the restaurant’s contemporary interior design belie the solid flavors and presentation of what owner Lalo Guzman describes as the “traditional fine Mexican food” being served here.
Hoping to beat the standard dinner-hour restaurant rush, my teenage son and I arrived at Lalo’s a bit early on a recent weeknight for a meal. To our surprise, only about a dozen other diners were seated inside at that time. We were promptly shown to a booth by Adrian, who also was our server for the evening.
I was hankering for a frosty, frozen margarita, and he recommended a tall mango and strawberry selection whimsically served with each flavor occupying half of the glass (aka “Sunrise Style,” according to the menu). Cool, fruity and refreshing, it did not disappoint.
Another member of the wait staff appeared with a brushed-metal, cylinder-shaped container piled high with light, crispy tortilla chips and a pair of petite bowls of tomato salsa which, while a bit on the thinner side in texture, was flecked with cilantro, chili seeds and chopped onion and packed a pleasantly spicy punch.
Although I had been leaning toward ordering a large scoop of Lalo’s Guacamole de Mesa as an appetizer, my son’s request for queso dip won out. The bowl of warm, orange cheese dip was, (save for a garnish of chopped red peppers) silky smooth and flavorful.
Perusing Lalo’s concise menu, we made relatively quick work of selecting our entrees. I went with chicken fajitas, opting for both corn and flour tortillas on the side, while he chose the El Famoso combination platter, which includes a duo of enchiladas as well as a crispy beef taco.
While waiting for our entrees to arrive, we tore through the first serving of chips (Adrian noticed the void and quickly refreshed our supply) and took the opportunity to admire the restaurant’s understated décor.
Unlike at some heavily themed Mexican eateries, inside Lalo’s, one’s senses are not bombarded by brightly colored, decorative hues and artwork. Instead, muted earth tones reign here.
The walls are painted a crisp white, which helps the orange booths and dark-wood tables pop and gives the restaurant an upscale feel. I counted a total of 20 tables in the dining room, which lends a cozy vibe to the space.
The place’s small bar (it only seats seven) is backed by a tropical wall mural upon which a pair of television showed the evening’s sports games. Glasses and bottles atop a shelf are elegantly up-lit.
A trio of oblong abstract artworks adorn a turquoise jewel tone-painted wall that partially conceals a bustling kitchen pass-through window. Seated not far from said window, I could smell the smoky aroma of the chicken fajitas I’d ordered before Adrian delivered them to our table.
Wisps of smoke swirled from the sizzling platter that featured thick slices of flavorful, tender chicken breast boasting a lovely char. As is traditional, the entrée was garnished with a trio of red, green and orange bell pepper slices served a top a thick bed of lightly caramelized-yet-still-crunchy onion slices.
Per my request, Adrian provided both fresh corn and flour tortillas into which I alternated piling the chicken. The former possessed a pleasant, toothsome chew while the latter were surprisingly light in texture, not thick and dense like some flour tortillas can be.
A side plate held a generous scoop of chunky guacamole and literal pile of shredded cheese while another contained a puddle of refried beans and a large scoop of traditional orange Mexican rice — all of which I deposited atop the chicken and onions. When it was all over, I was as stuffed as those tortillas had been.
My son devoured the sizeable El Famoso combination platter, the stars of which are the enchiladas (one cheese, one beef) that are smothered in a warm and slightly chunky chili con carne sauce and topped with plenty of melty cheese. They were warm and gooey in the best possible way.
Meanwhile, the taco (ground meat inside a crunchy corn shell) was served with a scoop of the aforementioned rice as well as a fresh avocado salad garnish that was a perfect for topping the otherwise naked taco.
Similar to the rest of Lalo’s menu, its dessert offerings lean toward the traditional side.
My son’s interest was piqued by the prospect of trying flan for the first time. The smooth custard typically is made of eggs and sweetened condensed milk and topped with a thin caramel sauce. Oh, but there were also sopapillas. The deep-fried squares of delightfully puffy pastry are a favorite of our family (we rarely miss an opportunity to order them). In no mood to choose between the two, we decided to treat ourselves and requested both.
The tall, pie slice-shaped wedge of flan was light, velvety and decadent, served with a literal cherry on top and garnished with sliced fresh strawberry halves. It is as good a version of the classic dessert as I’ve ever had and is now a favorite of my son. The sopapillas were beautifully fried to a light, crispy golden brown and made crunchier by a thick coating of cinnamon sugar. Served four to an order, they were accompanied by a petite bottle of honey meant to be drizzled over top for an added layer of sticky sweetness.
In a city such as Frisco that brims with flashy, high-profile eateries, the unassuming Lalo’s Cocina Mexicana is (for the time being, at least) flying a bit under the radar on the local restaurant scene. All the more reason to venture in and enjoy a meal there sooner rather than later: A place serving such downright delicious fare won’t stay a secret for long.
Frisco STYLE Magazine dining reviews are not scheduled with or paid for by the featured restaurant. All reviews are completed for the purpose of helping readers learn about and enjoy local dining options. Is there an area restaurant that you’d like us to review? Email us at [email protected].
Lisa Sciortino is managing editor of Frisco STYLE.