Hours: Lunch: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: Entrees in the $6 to $8 range.
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa, Master Charge.
Reservations: Not taken for parties under five, advisable for parties of five or more.
Atmosphere: Pleasant decoration in a slightly tour-bus atmosphere.
Special Features: Lots of parking accessible by wheelchair; booster chairs and highchairs available.
Plata Grande is a fine example of the glossy big-time American Mexican restaurant. It serves food that is delicious without being too threateningly foreign. Think about it: Chinese people are seen dining in Chinese restaurants and every now and then you see Italians in an Italian restaurant, but how often do you hear Spanish being spoken at the tables of our Mexican restaurants?
Even though we heard no Spanish at Plata Grande, neither did we hear any complaints about the food. The portions are huge and the spicy dishes are politely seasoned -- just hot enough to exclaim over but not hot enough to bring tears to the eyes.
In fact, our only problem with Plata Grande was the slow pace in the kitchen. It wasn't the waitresses' fault -- they had nothing to do but stand around, apologizing periodically, while waiting for the kitchen to deliver.
And our waitress didn't mind at all explaining for the 45th time the nuances of difference between roscas and quesadilla, though all that is clearly spelled out in the menu.
As soon as you hit your chair a basket of hot tortilla chips and a tomato and chili salsa are set before you. The menu takes a while to penetrate, chatty as it is, but has the virtues of being thorough and complete.
We tried the roscas -- tortilla strips filled with cheese and spices, then rolled into cigar shapes and baked. They were rich, mild, filling and good.
Our other appetizer choice was chili con queso, a hot cheese and chili mixture to be scooped up with torilla chips. This, too was very successful and just fiery enough to make us alert for the main course. Appetizers run in the $2 to $3 range for generous portions.
Main dishes tend toward the gargantuan. The menu spans the basic burritos-and-enchiladas, goes on to fresh seafood, and ends with a number of imaginative desserts. You can count on spending $6 to $7 for a main dish, though seafood and other specialties tend to cost more.
For the faint of heart there are a few American entries, and even a sort of Mexican surf 'n' turf, called steak and seafood enchilade. And for children, there are four entries at $1.95 each.
A dish of red snapper Veracruz couldn't have been better. The fish was fresh and perfectly cooked with a pepery tomato sauce. It was served, as are many of the main dishes, with rice Valencia, which most of us know as Spanish rice.
Shrimp in garlic butter were also fresh but hampered somewhat by the timid application of garlic. The zucchini side dish was what fresh vegetables should be and rarely are: cooked quickly so that they retained their sweetness.
Enchiladas blancas turned out to be a gooey and rich creation suitable only for serious cheese eaters, since they are both filled with and topped by cheese. Not a subtle dish, but nice if you're into cheese. This dish's $6.25 price is about average for a platter, and comes with your choice of soup or salad.
A platter of chimichange Sonora style proved so huge that its owner felt compelled to issue insincere disclaimers ("How could I have ordered so much?" etc.) Chimichanga is a giant flour tortilla filled and topped with everything we have come to think of as Mexican: beans, beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, green peppers and onions.
The tostada grande is more or less the same thing, except that the tortilla is shaped into a shell and fried crisp, then filled with chicken as well as beef and beans.
For dessert, try a simple cafe granita, which is something like an expresso snow cone. Or choose the dessert sopapillas, warm triangles of puffy pastry to be spread with honey-cinnamon butter.There are more desserts, including a wonderful chocolate cake, and all but the ice cream are "homemade."
And for children, here's the best part of all: All the soft drinks after the first one are free.