Atmosphere: Simplicity carried almost to a fault, but you can wear your cut-offs and dirty T-shirt.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
Price Range: A la carte items 65 cents to $2.25; dinners $1.50 to $4.95. Most dinners $3.75.
Reservations: Not taken.
Credit Cards: None; checks or cash accepted.
Special Facilities: Parking area surround restaurant; outdoor cafe in back of restaurant is accessible to handicapped; booster chairs and high chairs.
When you've whiled your afternoon away at the pool, and it's too hot even to think about cooking; when you're too sunburned to wear anything more than you ragtag shorts and a T-shirt; when you really can't afford to go out, but you're sick of Big Macs, Anita's Mexican food may suit you.
Certainly it seems to suit Virginia residents who support it in three different locations -- Vienna, Fairfax and, more recently, Burke. On a recent Sunday evening we watched the tables around us fill, empty and fill again in the small, plain indoor dining room. Out back, under an inelegant awning, the small outdoor cafe bustled as well. In between the two, a tiny kitchen bustled with Anita and a small army of efficient waitresses sporting bright yellow "Anita's" T-shirts, who flew back and forth with bottles of Mexican beer and baskets full of tacos and burritos.
Now mind you, Anita's is a no-frills operation. The place is suburban tacky almost to the point of being camp: Ugly tile floor, scratched paneling and worn plastic tablecloths. The menus have chili stains on them and the chair you pull out may have old taco crumbs and a few shreds of lettuce on the seat. There is only one inevitable potted plant sitting in a small wall alcove. Plates are disposable and cups are plastic. Needless to say, the kids love it.
Although not outstanding, the food is decent. It can be dirt cheap, and it is fast food with a difference. For one thing, this Mexican food is "New Mexico style," hotter and spicier than traditional Mexican dishes. For another, Anita's menu has several authentic touches not usually found in Mexican fast-food operations: one can get flour as well as corn tortillas; it is possible to order a soft shell tack and a Carta Blanca beer to go with it, and there are sopaipillas for dessert.
As soon as we were seated, our waitress brought a small bowl of warm tostadas. We ordered drinks -- large Cokes are only 50 cents -- and guacamole, $1.95, to go with the chips. The guacamole was disappointingly thin, and lacked an authoritative avocado and lemon flavor.
One of our 9-year-olds is a recent convert to enchiladas. She happily ordered an a la carte dish for $2.25. Her sister asked for two meat tacos at 85 cents each. Our 13-year-old daughter decided to try a "burgerrito," a ground beef, lettuce and cheese burrito for $2.50. My husband requested a tostada compuesta, $3.50, and I decided to try everything else in a combination plate of enchiladas, tamale, taco, refried beans and Spanish rice, $4.95.
The girls loved it. The burgerrito was a big hit, the enchiladas disappeared in short order, and the tacos were pronounced very good. The tostada compuesta was a dinner plate-sized version of a Mexican salad: corn tortilla layered with refried beans, chili, cheese, lettuce and guacamole. c It was good despite the weak guacamole.
On my combination plate, everything swam together with a similar sharp seasoning under a minimal layer of cheese. The best items: the tamale and the enchiladas. Refried beans were too mushy, and the taco meat had a gluey gravy on it that I didn't care for, although the flavor was fine.
For dessert we ordered three sopaipillas, 75 cents each. They are large pieces of flat dough deep-fried, sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar and served hot, to be drizzled with honey at the table. Many more elaborate Mexican places don't offer them, and our waitress first said the kitchen was too busy to fix them for us, despite the fact that they had been served a bit earlier at a nearby table. We were disappointed, but she returned a few minutes later to say she could now serve them to us after all. Of course, the girls loved them.
Our total tab, with tip, for the five of us was $27.