Memo’s Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian: Reviews

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William Berg
Name: William
Occupation: Antique Dealer
Location: Benicia
Favorite Restaurant: Memo’s Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian
Reviewed Memo’s Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian: Thursday, February 18, 2010

I selected Memo’s Mexican Restaurant as my choice to be recognized on Check, Please! Bay Area, because of the honest, simple, and delicious way they prepare their classic and family dishes. Whereas I had never been a big fan before I tried them here, I now dream about the chiles rellenos. Rellenos tend to be heavy with cheese and too much (or too greasy) batter with a mundane red sauce. At Memo’s, however, the Rellenos are lightly battered, filled with three different cheeses, and have a light — but rich in flavor — sauce that is divine. I am also a fan of their Mexican wedding chicken, which is served in a boat, almost like an Indian food dish. It is diced chicken that has been simmered in sauce that is based on roasted pumpkin seeds with a touch of cream.

Memo’s is run by a very small crew that consists of Memo, his daughter Iva, a busser, and several cooks in the back. They are always friendly, and we feel welcome every time we eat there. My wife and I have a two-year-old and a three-year-old, and they can be a handful. Our boys can’t get enough of the chips and salsa, and the mess they inevitably make is tolerated well by the staff. There are half a dozen tables out front that we enjoy in the warmer months.

We are drawn back to Memo’s for the quality of the food made from family recipes that give, in our opinion, this little restaurant an advantage over the big box chain Mexican restaurants and the thousands of taquerias in the Bay Area. The décor is a mixture of Mexican art and Frida Kahlo paintings with full sets of linen on the tables. The service is consistently attentive.

We hope the other participants enjoy Memo’s and help put them on the map, because I want to be eating those rellenos for a long time to come. Memo’s is half a block off of the square in downtown Concord, close to Half Price Books. It would be easy to miss or overlook them if you were unaware of their quality food.


Marie President
Name: Marie
Occupation: Physician
Location: Menlo Park
Favorite Restaurant: Flea Street Cafe
Reviewed Memo’s Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian: Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Memo’s is a rather small, family-run restaurant that is tucked away off the main plaza of downtown Concord and a ten to fifteen minute walk from the Concord BART station.

Around noon, I spoke with someone at the restaurant and advised that we would be arriving a bit late for our 8:00 PM reserved time, given that we would be coming via BART. She said that it would be fine as long as we arrived before 8:30. When we arrived at 8:20, the proprietor was quite annoyed and did not want to seat us. Well, at that point I thought we could: a) leave in a huff and try another time; b) press the issue and try to get seated; c) render the owner unconscious with the Vulcan nerve pinch and grab some food samples from the kitchen. We chose to press the issue, and he did seat us. We were the only ones in the restaurant. Closing time was 9:00 PM.

Following his initial annoyance, the owner changed his attitude as the pride for his rather unique take on Mexican cuisine took hold. He explained their approach to the cuisine, made suggestions, and carefully led us through the menu. The décor was bright and inviting even if his early greeting was not. He even made some suggestions that were not on the menu.

Upon review of the menu, I saw nothing that appeared special; salads, burritos, gorditas, and the like. However, the first bite got my attention. The most appropriate word for the food is FLAVOR. It’s quite a notch above any other Mexican restaurant that I have been to in that regard. The spices, textures, and aromas were fantastic. Their signature dish is the chicken pipian. This is basically a chicken mole, but the flavors were reminiscent of Indian faire. The crunch of the sesame seeds added character and contrast to the dish.

The portions were large, and the prices were very reasonable, especially when you consider the quality of the food. We all shared the appetizers. I sampled everyone else’s entrees many times and was equally impressed. I couldn’t stop eating. Only the mental image of a stuffed pig that I had seen on television the night before brought me self control. To comment that the service was prompt and the noise level adequate is not fair, as we were the only diners. However, the feeling of the restaurant was comfortable and homey.

There was a vegetarian in our party, and she was quite happy nibbling on cactus salad, tortilla soup, roasted chili burrito, and potato gorditas. The beans and tortillas are made with no lard. The tortilla soup was made with vegetable stock instead of chicken. Vegans would have plenty of choices without losing the integrity of the cuisine.

The owner’s passion with which he spoke when he reviewed the menu was clearly evident in the food. He treated us like family, and we could taste the affection. It was clear that this was his home, and his annoyance in the beginning was that of a patriarch whose children had arrived late for dinner. Although it is quite a haul from the Peninsula, I would definitely eat there again if I’m in the area. I would highly recommend Memo’s Mexican Cuisine. Just get there on time!


Fabian Brown
Name: Fabian
Occupation: Deputy Sheriff
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Souls Restaurant
Reviewed Memo’s Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian: Thursday, February 18, 2010


This was a pleasant surprise. I thought I would get the usual Mexican food. This food felt healthy and light. I also liked the father/daughter aspect. They made us feel very welcome. I will return to this restaurant. I like the family atmosphere, the good food, the decoration of the restaurant, and the hominess. Upon entering the restaurant, you notice the different choices of tequila, mostly top shelf. There are plenty of prints from Diego Rivera, also books and information on him and his wife.

The owner’s daughter, Itza, seated us immediately. The chips and salsa were very nice. The green salsa was a little spicier. I like lots of spice so, although it was tasty, I would have liked more heat.

Food

Appetizers

The ceviche was very fresh. The fish was in light lime juice with slices of avocado. It was very tasty.

The portabella mushroom salad had warm slices of mushroom, and there was a fruity salsa that was just wonderful. There was also a creamy dressing that went well with the mushrooms.

Entrées

The chicken pipian with roasted pumpkin seed sauce was wonderful. It’s usually reserved in Mexican households for special occasions since it takes 2-3 days for the spices to set in. The portions of rice and refried beans were small, but I when I finished, there was still food on my plate (not the chicken) and I was full. The refried beans were very good (I usually don’t like them).

My mom had the tilapia. She had two nice sized filets, and they were lightly fried in cornmeal. They had a nice seasoning to them and tasted light. Her meal also came with rice and beans with a small portion of salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Both meals came with flour or corn tortillas. We chose the flour tortillas, and they were very good. We took a slice of the chocolate cake home, but I have not had a chance to try it.

I would recommend this restaurant to friends, and I plan to return. It can be a little pricey — I spent $90 (including tip) for two people.

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  • Ann

    I was very excited to hear about a good Mexican restaurant in the East Bay, so my partner and I just had dinner at Memo’s. Honestly, we were disappointed. I believe the restaurant was crowded since the review just aired, and we waited several minutes at the door before we were even acknowledged. Once we were finally seated, it again took several minutes before we were even served water. The food was average, really not special at all. I had the fish tacos, which were too large to eat as tacos, so I ate the fish and toppings with a fork and left the tortillas behind. The fish was fine, a little bland, but most disappointing was that the rice was undercooked. My partner had the tacos al pastor, which he thought were average, but also complained that the rice was undercooked and the beans were very dry. In all we will not be returning to Memo’s because the quality of food by no means justified the price- we could have had a far superior meal at any Chevy’s or El Torito in the area for a lot less.

  • Cristina

    Went there for lunch. Waited for at least 45 minutes before we got our food. Fish tacos tasted burnt. Fish was not fresh. The al pastor tacos were greasy. Wrong kind of meat was used because it was cubed not sliced. Meat tasted like curry not at al like al pastor should taste. Beans and rice were dry and flavorless. Worst fake Mexican food ever. We should have known when we tasted the salsa that it was not going to be good. The prices for the food are ridiculous.

  • Dalia Ibarra

    I have to admit that the place has a picturesque ambiance that took me back to my childhood years @ grandma’s house. My expectations were high after waiting for a few minutes for a table to be ready as we arrived during the busy Friday dinner rush. However, the fact that the house’s ” royal dish”, the pipian sauce, was served over julienne style frozen chicken killed the entire dinner experience for me. I was truly looking forward to savoring the dish and desserts, but after expressing my disappointment to Memo, and him not admitting to giving me frozen chicken, I felt cheated! They could have admitted that they ran out of chicken breast and tried to be creative with what they had in the kitchen. I’d give them credit for that! Instead, the two people I spoke with assured me that that was the way they served their chicken pipian and that everything was fresh “over julienne style frozen chicken”!!!!

    Unfortunately, I would not go back to that place nor would I recommend it. I will make sure to pass the bad experience around.

    Clearly, they underestimate the power of good service!