Delicious dishes at Trios worth the price

We enjoy Mexican and Tex-Mex food, and why not? It doesn’t have to be expensive to be satisfying, and even a fairly ordinary such establishment can usually whip up something a diner will enjoy. When Mexican restaurants aspire to be more than ordinary, it gets our attention.

Trios Mexican Bar and Grill gets our attention.

A fairly recent entry to the Baton Rouge dining scene, Trios doesn’t try to overdose you with ambience. It occupies the space many locals will remember as the former Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, and those who sit with their back to the Mexican-themed artwork on the western wall might think nothing has changed.

Instead, Trios seems to put its effort into getting a lot of the little things right. Like guacamole good enough to eat with a fork. Or fajita beef cooked medium, so there is still a spot of pink in the middle of the quarter-inch slivers of meat. Or waiters knowledgeable enough to confidently give advice.

The food here is really good, and though not as inexpensive as some Mexican restaurants, it is well worth the price.

On that subject, one thing about the lunch menu surprised us: There isn’t one. Trios has one menu for whenever you show up, which may or may not be a good idea. A large portion of the dining public counts on lower prices (balanced against smaller portions) at lunch. Except for appetizers, salads and desserts, we found exactly five items for $10 or less. There was a decent crowd during our weekday lunch visit, but the restaurant was far from full.

That said, we left satisfied.

A clever touch we liked right away was that the basket of complimentary chips (with salsa) included some that were blue, red and green. Using a little imagination to consider the other chips as white, the color combinations could be arranged to represent the U.S. or Mexican flags.

When we chose the chili relleno dinner ($11.79), our waiter asked whether we wanted it filled with seasoned beef, chicken, steak, seafood or cheese. We chose seafood, later discovering it costs an additional $2 (as might the steak, since it isn’t listed on the menu as one of the options). But we’re not complaining. The shrimp dressing filling the poblano pepper mixed well with the melted cheese and ranchero sauce. The dish comes with Spanish rice and refried beans. The beans are rather ordinary.

At our waiter’s suggestion, we tried the carne asada ($15.99) and were stunned by the enormous portion of beef that came our way. The meat’s edges extended over the edges of the 10-inch plate, and came with guacamole, sour cream, grilled onions and peppers and tortillas that invite diners to dine fajita-style. My guest, a Texan, declared this a higher quality of meat than many carne asada steaks he’s had, to the extent that he preferred using a fork rather than let the tortilla get between the meat and taste buds. The guacamole also was excellent; the rice OK. This order almost guarantees a take-home box at meal’s end.

For dinner, we started with empanadas ($8.29) and were delighted. The deep fried corn tortillas came to the table hot and crisp and stuffed with cheese, pico de gallo and, in our case, ground beef, with white queso sauce on the side. The sauce was a nice complement, but the empanadas stood on their own, with the red and green bell pepper chunks still crisp, and the flavors blending well.

The fajita beef quesadilla ($9.99) was another winner, as the meat was perfectly cooked. It was small as quesadillas go, but most tasty. The grilled vegetables we chose as a side order were sliced squash, carrots and zucchini and retained their crispness, which we prefer.

Likewise, the enchiladas ($10.59) exceeded our expectations. Although the menu offers options of cheese and onion, chicken or beef, our waiter said we could have any combination we wanted, so we had them all. We highly recommend this. All the meats were well-seasoned and well-prepared.

The shrimp Acapulco ($16.99) is six bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese and poblano pepper, served with grilled onions and bell peppers on a sizzling plate. They had us at bacon, but everything else blended nicely. This dish is served with tortillas for those who want to eat it fajita-style, but this is great with a knife and fork.

Desserts include a hot fudge cake ($4.99) — moist chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream — and the cheesecake chimi ($7.99). The latter is a delightfully creative concoction, a deep-fried tortilla filled with cheesecake and topped with a butter sauce and strawberry sauce, and we detected some cinnamon along with it. This is one of the most interesting and pleasing desserts we’ve had in a long time.

We’ll be back.