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Published October 13th 2014
A Genuine Mexican Restaurant
Mad Mex on Flinder's Lane
Melbourne's food revolution takes us to the heart of Mexico. You might be thinking, the heart of Mexico in Melbourne's CBD? The answer is YES, you can have the taste of Mexico in the CBD! Melbourne has always been the go-to spot for a good meal, just think, Lygon Street. I have been fortunate enough to have dined in some of Melbourne's best-kept secrets for several years now and will continue to share my favorite places with you. For those of you searching for a true culinary experience your stomach will thank you for later, than explore no further!
Today, I'm spotlighting my favorite Mad Mex restaurant located on Flinders Lane and Elizabeth Street, less than a five minute walk from Flinder's Station. The decor in each restaurant is slightly different but the food is always delicious. Having experienced true Mexican food during my time in America, I was delighted to have discovered Mad Mex on Flinders Lane. At first I was sceptical, how can Australia replicate a true Mexican dish? The idea of real Mexican food proved to be too much of a temptation for me though so I went in search of Mad Mex one day.
Mad Mex is easy to find and with numerous eateries located throughout the city, they can fill your need for spectacular Mexican food. Just look for the Mad Mex banner and follow the delicious smells of their brand of traditional style food to their front door. The location of my favorite Mad Mex restaurant is nestled amid the many tall buildings that fill the CBD's trendy Flinder's Lane district. Mad Mex is the creation of Clovis and Angela. They had a vision: it was time to bring the genuine taste of Mexico to Australia and that's exactly what they did in January 2007. They describe it as "fresh, fast, full of flavor and just a little bit funky" and I would agree with that statement.
Though there are currently 40 stores in Australia and 4 in New Zealand, my favorite location at Flinder's Lane opened in 2012. Mad Mex is modeled after a contemporary Mexican restaurant. There are currently 8 stores located throughout Victoria at Melbourne Central, QV Melbourne, Southern Cross Tower, Southern Cross Station, DFO South Wharf, South Melbourne, Prahran and of course Flinder's Lane, with the first Mad Mex opening in Darlinghurst, Sydney in December 2007.
When you first walk into a Mad Mex at any of the above mentioned locations, the first thing you'll notice is the authentic Mexican music playing in the background. As you approach the counter to place your order, you are always greeted by one of their friendly staff. Before you place your order though, have a look around. Their traditional décor of a Mexican restaurant adds to the perfection of the food and you will feel as though you are in Mexico for the duration of your visit there.
Mad Mex's menu and open food preparation area
Once you have placed your order, stick around and create your meal to your taste as everything is made in front of you. This customizable menu allows you to build your meal to your individual tastes and specific nutritional needs, which is the key difference from their competitors. At their Flinder's Lane location, you will find plenty of tables and a bar-styled counter, if you prefer to sit and watch passersby while you enjoy your meal.
Mad Mex overlooking Flinder's Lane
At Mad Mex, you can choose from a range of authentic, fresh and healthy tacos, burritos, nachos and quesadillas that are filled with roasted, grilled and slow-cooked meats. All are perfectly complemented by your favourite Mexican toppings and hand-made salsas and guacamole, which are made fresh in stores every day. They also marinate, grill and slow roast all their meats too.
Mad Mex's vegetables are delivered daily to assure every bite of your meal is big, bold and flavoursome. Their passion for Mexican food and culture shows in their premium quality cuts of meat and the import of a variety of spices, chillis and tomatillos direct from Mexico, ensuring that all their salsas have a truly authentic flavor.
There are 7 main meal items which include their famous burrito, naked burrito, nachos, crispy tacos, soft street-style tacos, quesadillas and grande melts. I cannot say enough about the grande melts. They are by far my absolute favorite. Bring your appetite for this extra large burrito because you will need one! It is packed with cuts of chicken, pork or beef, perfectly cooked and never dry. They ladle on your choice of black beans or rice and don't forget the lettuce, tomato and sauces. All of this is wrapped in a tortilla shell and pressed until crisp. They offer a variety of hot sauces too. I always ask for the mild but I'm told the hot sauce is not too bad but I have not been brave enough to try it for myself. Beware; they can be addictive with their otherworldly taste.
Mad Mex staff prepare an order
The meals at Mad Mex are hearty so bring your appetite and try to save room for one of their desserts! Churros with chocolate, anyone? Despite my favourite dish being the grande melt, Mad Mex's signature dish is their famous burritos. They are always fresh, delicious and healthy, yes, I said healthy. But enough about the food! How about trying one of their signature drinks? They serve a wide range of authentic Mexican cervezas (beers), such as Negra Modelo, Dos Equis and what screams Mexico better than a Corona? If beer isn't your thing then why not try one of their scrumptious margaritas, especially on a hot day? They also have an array of authentic Mexican bottled soft drinks.
Abhi (manager) and Andrea (supervisor) prepare an order
I must admit, I have been a regular here at their Flinder's Lane location since they opened their doors back in 2012. There is always a good atmosphere here. I have not experienced all of the Mad Mex locations but I can say I have visited 4 of their 8 Victorian locations and Flinder's Lane is my favorite. At first appearance you cannot help but notice the uniquely repurposed Corona-bottle chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It goes for the minimalist approach, as you would expect to find in a traditional-styled Mexican restaurant.
Repurposed Corona bottles chandelier
Another chandelier made up of repurposed Corona bottles
Mad Mex does not change their base menu but they do occasionally offer special items inspired by different regions in Mexico, such as Yucatan, Oaxaca and Toluca. In the past, this has included a special Salsa Verde, extra spicy Yucatan-style beef, Oaxaca-style enchilada and sangria. Currently, they are offering Pork al-pastor, which is caramelized pork with pineapple pieces, at all locations and it is only being offered for a limited time. Their recipe for Pork al-pastor comes straight from the streets of Mexico! I am looking forward to giving this one a try.
When I asked Mad Mex about their inspiration behind their establishment, they had this to say: "Traditionally, Aussie Mexican food has been Tex Mex-style, which is very greasy; refried beans, cheese, sour cream and lots of carbs and fats. Mad Mex introduced Mexican food that tastes good and is very good for you!" This includes: using trans-fat free rice bran oil, offering brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, and offering gluten free, dairy free and vegan options, as well as, having a nutritional calculator to allow customers to clearly see what they are eating. Mad Mex is completely transparent about the nutritional makeup of its food. They encourage all of their customers to visit www.madmex.com.au/#nutrition to find their nutritional calculator so you can work out your full dietary profile of the food you choose.
Chicken Grande Melt
Though I would love to be selfish and keep Mad Mex all to myself, I would feel remiss if I did not share the wonders of Mad Mex's delightful dishes with you. This is one place that is too good to stay tucked away for long. Visit them today for a truly great meal before they become the hottest place in town.