Posted January 4, 2006 by John in Reviews

Restaurant Review: Red Mesa Grill, Boyne City, MI

On a ski vacation over New Years, I had the good fortune to visit the Red Mesa Grill in Boyne City, MI. Red Mesa specializes in Latin American food, offering “Traditional Mexican dishes as well as unique specialties from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica and other Latin American Countries.” They also boast a very large wall of hot sauce (which they wouldn’t let me sample from) and a selection of over 100 tequilas in a very nice Southwestern atmosphere.

Since Red Mesa Grill doesn’t take reservations, and was swamped with a big holiday crowd, our small group of 15 had a long wait. Fortunately, spots opened up at the bar. I spied a bottle of El Yucateco Green at one table, which bode well for our eventual meal. A Mesa Margarita went down very nicely with some chips and salsa. I then ventured into the braver stuff, getting a glass of Chinaco Anejo. I asked the bartender if she had anything hot to put on the chips. “How hot?” she responded. To which calls of “DA BOMB! DA BOMB!” broke out amongst my companions, who had obviously experienced the heat before.

Da' Bomb Hot Sauce at Mesa grill

The bartender gave me a skeptical look and said, “I don’t have time to run for sour cream or any other dairy product. So try it at your own risk.” She brought it over with some napkins, put a bottle of Da Bomb: The Final Answer in front of me, and the whole bar staff stood watching as I took a drop on a chip, looking not unlike a crowd of gawkers at a particularly nasty car crash.

I put the drop in my mouth, and the burn came on in a second or two. For being 1.5 million scovilles, the heat wasn’t nearly as intense as I thought it’d be. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot. I skipped over the sweaty forehead and running nose straight to feeling a misty tingle in the corner of my eyes. I didn’t eat or drink anything, but the burn completely passed in about 5 minutes. Needless to say, the waitstaff was disappointed. And since the only other person in the group who’d try it was a pretty serious chilihead, there wasn’t much entertainment on that front.

I had a few more Bomb Chips, and was again surprised. The heat seemed to get significantly less intense with each I ate. That’s a marked difference from my experience with other extract sauces, where each drop fuels the fire hotter and hotter. I asked the bartended if she had anything hotter, which prompted a response of “no, that’s it Mr. Big Balls.” Sheesh.

We finally got seated after almost two hours at the bar and hit another round of Mesa margaritas. I selected the Roasted Chicken Black Bean Burrito. At our table were a bottle of Red Mesa’s house Chipotle sauce, jalapeno sauce, and another watery jalapeno sauce that I hadn’t heard of. I called for their basket of hot sauces, which was rather disappointing. Nothing of note except for Endorphin rush and Da Bomb: Ground Zero; I sampled a few I hadn’t heard of and didn’t find what I was looking for.

In desperation for a tasty sauce to douse my burrito, I ventured back to the area where I had spotted the El Yucateco Green, thinking of how to broker a very one sided hot sauce trade, and good fortune struck! The table was unoccupied. I grabbed the green nectar, and also spotted a bonus. There sat a welcome surprise in the form of a bottle of Marie Sharp’s BEWARE! sauce, ripe for the plucking. I scurried back to my table with the treasures in hand, and didn’t have long to wait.

The food arrived, and everything looked great. The burrito was one of the better that I’ve had. The chicken was high quality, the flavor terrific. I alternated between sauces on each bite.

As always, the El Yucateco was the perfect blend of taste and heat. I definitely buy into the theory that you can tell usually a good Mexican restaurant by the presence of El Yucateco on the tables.

I was highly impressed with the Marie Sharp’s BEWARE!. The flavor was robust, fresh, and immediate. The sauce burst through heavily on each taste, accentuating the flavor of the burrito rather than dominating it. The habanero flavor was intense, and the heat was significant and concentrated; I could feel the tingle wherever the sauce hit my mouth. I think I have found a new favorite sauce for Mexican food.

Another favorite at the table were the wings, which were some of the tastiest I’ve had. They were so good that our hosts ordered a few dozen for the New Year’s Eve party the next night. Acceptable heat, and one of the best spice blends in a Southwest style, non-sauced wing that I’ve had.

Overall, I was extremely please with Boyne City’s Red Mesa Grill. The service was acceptable, the food was exceptional, and how can you possible argue with 100 varieties of tequila and 1.5 million scovilles waiting behind the bar? On top of that, the prices were reasonable, running between $8 and $12 a plate, with top shelf tequila around $8 for a generous pour. Red Mesa Grill is a place I will certainly return.