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  • Margaritas in mugs at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Pollo Queso at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Queso Flameado with chorizo at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Arroz con Pollo at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Tacos at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Tamales at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Lunch fajitas at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

  • The lunch enchiladas plate at Senor Fajitas in Columbia City.

Sunday, November 13, 2016 7:50 pm

Columbia City spot's fare is rare Mexican jewel

Ryan DuVall Restaurant critic

It was a little Mexican jewel in a place I never expected to find one.

Driving outside of Fort Wayne for Mexican food seldom happens because there are so many good choices here, but this little place just off the square in Columbia City had taunted me for years. The little green, nondescript sign in front of Señor Fajitas always caught my eye.

I wonder if that place is good?

How come I have never heard anything about it?

It looks like one of those homey little places I usually love.

Those were just some of the thoughts I had every time I passed by. And after finally trying it, I am kicking myself for waiting so long.

Señor Fajitas is one of those homey little places I love. It is a family-run establishment that set up shop 12 years ago and has been churning out simple, authentic Mexican food ever since.

How could I not love a place that served me a margarita in a jar-shaped glass mug? And those margaritas were excellent. The only disappointment was that Señor Fajitas was out of fruit-infused tequila – something I didn’t expect a place like this to have, but that I would have loved trying.

There was no disappointment when it came to my first bites of food. The salsa was vibrant with the perfect balance of cilantro, tomato sweetness and heat. But as good as it was, the cheese dips are must haves.

I had never had a cheese dip spiked with stewed chicken and the Pollo Con Queso I had here made me think it should be a standard at every Mexican eatery. The velvety white sauce had just a tickle of jalapeno spice and was loaded with stringy, tender chicken that had been cooked in a mild red sauce. The chicken melted in your mouth as sure as the cheese was melted in the dish.

The Queso Flameado had the same delicious sauce with peppery, spicy chorizo sausage that had me struggling to decide which one was better. Given a small bowl is pretty affordable at $3.59, I will just have them both next time.

The nightly special was a simple dish, but it was done to perfection. The Arroz con Pollo (Mexican chicken and rice) started with perfectly prepared Spanish rice that still had just the right toothsome texture. It may seem like a rather minute detail, but after having so much overcooked soggy rice over the years at Mexican eateries, having it so well done made this dish great and made the sides of rice with other dishes worth paying attention to for once.

The rice was topped with grilled chunks of chicken and a blanket of that luscious cheese sauce. It included tortillas, a side of hearty refried beans – also done with care and not a throw-away – tomatoes, lettuce and onion in case you wanted to make tacos from it all. There was not a flaw with this dish.

Another dish that did not sound very exciting was the enchilada lunch special which included two enchiladas – chicken or ground beef – with red or green sauce, beans and rice. I chose one of each and thought the ground beef, which I had with red sauce, was tasty, but it was the chicken that blew me away.

Chicken enchiladas are not my favorite because they usually don’t bring much to the table in terms of flavor. But Señor Fajitas’ had some of the most tender chicken inside the enchilada and a fabulous clear, salsa-like green sauce on top, along with shredded bi-colored cheese. The sauce had flecks of cilantro and diced green chiles throughout. It was as perfect as an enchilada sauce can be. It was so good that after my lunch platter was cleaned, I asked for one more chicken enchilada a la carte just so I could have more.

Ironically, the most disappointing dish at Señor Fajitas was the steak fajita I had at lunch. The steak was rather mediocre and had an odd aftertaste. The peppers and onions were nicely cooked and not mushy, but the dish fell flat overall. I also did not like that it was served on a plate instead of sizzling on a griddle.

The tacos at Señor Fajitas were offered traditional style with onions and cilantro or Tex-Mex style with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. The al pastor were my favorite, though they were much different than the usual al pastor. Instead of pork cooked in red sauce, they were filled with diced pork and bacon that was heavily charred. It almost looked like steak, but it tasted good and the added smokiness from the bacon was welcome.

The tamales plate was OK, but they were filled with beef instead of stewed pork which took them down a notch.

Though the atmosphere was pretty much an afterthought, the service at Señor Fajitas took its rating up a notch because it was exemplary. All of the people who waited on me were fabulously attentive. The son and daughter of the owner – who the son told me grew up in Reynosa, Mexico, near the Texas border – did everything from check on customers to clearing tables to refilling drinks.

They were proud of their restaurant and proud of what they were doing to keep it going. And they should be proud because Señor Fajitas is a place that should not be overlooked by anyone.

Restaurant: Señor Fajitas

Address: 209 S. Main St., Columbia City

Phone: 260-244-6040

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Cuisine: Mexican

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Enchiladas lunch ($6.49), tamales ($9.99), Arroz con Pollo ($10.29), tacos ($10.99 al pastor, $9.99 steak), fajita plate ($8.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette. net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.