Delicious and freshly prepared Mexican food, huge servings at inexpensive prices, along with tasty margaritas keep loyal customers returning to the Gringada Mexican Restaurant in Beltsville. As you drive down Route 1 look for the white brick building with a yellow sign and the full parking lot--customers come from miles around to wait patiently for a table in the evening.
We started with a pitcher of margaritas. Then, almost immediately, came the crisp, hot chips and fresh salsa. Even though these made a plentiful appetizer, we decided the seafood nachos ($6.95) sounded too good to pass up. Shredded lump crab, baby shrimp and mushrooms and cheese are served on crisp, fresh nachos--a sort of Maryland spin on Mexican food.
When we mentioned to friends that we were going to eat at Gringada, all of them immediately recommended the chimichanga ($5.95), so we tried the beef version, which was stuffed to the edges with beef and beans and had a flaky crust that was lightly fried but not greasy. The green chile pepper burrito ($5.50) was our next choice, a flour tortilla filled with shredded meat and green chile peppers. The cheese enchiladas ($5.25) and tamales with beans were also quite good--pulled beef rolled inside cornmeal. The beans had a smoky bacon flavor.
Note to vegetarians: The menu advises you to let your server know your preferences, since it's not possible to tell from menu descriptions if dishes include meat. For instance, neither the cheese enchiladas nor green chile pepper burrito mention meat, but both have plenty. However, since dishes are made to order, adaptations are possible.
We had also heard raves about the fajitas, so we tried the steak and chicken combo. Both meats had a delicious marinade and were cooked perfectly, along with onions and green peppers.
On the advice of a regular customer we added one of Gringada's complete dinners to our list: the Comida Grande (beef burrito, cheese enchiladas and tamale with rice, beans and salad for $10.95). He orders it every time he eats at Gringada and with chips and salsa as an appetizer he claims it's dinner for two.
Near the end of our meal we learned that Gringada has a wonderful patio in back, so we headed there for coffee and dessert. It's surprisingly quiet, and although you know traffic on Route 1 must be whizzing by, the landscaping provides a cozy atmosphere. We chose peanut butter pie ($3.25)--a sinfully delicious concoction that tasted like peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate crust.
Gringada Mexican Restaurant, 12300 Baltimore Ave. (Route 1), Beltsville. 20705; call 301-210-3010. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 12 noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Dinner, $8.50-$12.95; lunch, $7.25-$11.70). A la carte items $2.25-$8.50.