A friend and I recently enjoyed our first visit to Poblanos Mexican Grill and Bar in Johnson City.
According to a listing on the back of the menu, Poblanos is a chain of Mexican restaurants that has expanded out of Florida, selecting Johnson City as its first location in the Volunteer State. Our server informed us that the location at Boones Creek in Johnson City opened in February 2012, so the restaurant is celebrating a year in business.
Poblanos occupies the location that formerly housed El Matador. After our first visit, my friend and I found ourselves very impressed with the fare at Poblanos Mexican Grill and Bar.
The dining area is designed around a courtyard theme and features tile floors and attractive brick archways accented with sandstone and brown clay stucco walls. There are tables as well as booths, which are carved with colorful designs and painted with bright southwestern colors. Some colorful ceramic bowls are displayed on the walls. There are also some television sets mounted on the walls behind the bar and in the dining area. During warmer months, diners can enjoy outdoor seating on the restaurant’s dining patio.
Our server, David, brought us menus and also delivered a complementary bowl of toasted tortilla chips and a small bowl of spicy black bean dip. Right away, Poblanos set itself apart from other Mexican restaurants offering a free basket of chips with salsa. We enjoyed the bean dip so much that we asked if we could have a second serving, which our server delivered promptly with more chips.
Don’t fret if you prefer salsa — the restaurant also offers a salsa bar with five different varieties of salsa ranging across the heat scale from mild and medium to extra hot. The varieties included an excellent Salsa Verde, aptly described as a medium heat, as well as hotter salsa such as Chile Arbot and Green Jalapeno. The Classic Salsa, which was a mild, fresh-tasting condiment, would please most salsa fans. I also liked the smoky heat of the Chipotle Salsa.
Although the menu offers appetizers, such as Ribs, Taquitos and Chicken Wings, we were content with our chips, bean dip and salsas. We did notice an interesting meal starter, Guac This Way, a guacamole prepared table-side to your specification by a server with a cart stocked with various ingredients.
The menu at Poblanos features a diverse selection of soups and salads, starters and specialties, or especialides. There are also sections for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos and combination dinners.
The menu features two soups, and between the two of us, my dining partner and I decided to try each of them. He ordered the Puchero Soup, which is described as the signature soup at Poblanos, while I chose the Pozole Verde Soup.
The delicately seasoned Pozole Verde Soup is a great way to start a meal. The flavorful soup features shredded chicken, hominy and tortilla chips in a green, cilantro-infused broth.
My dining companion also enjoyed the Puchero Soup, which he generously allowed me to sample. This hearty soup featured shredded chicken, vegetables, potatoes and rice in a rich, thick broth, all topped with an abundance of colorful, confetti-like tortilla chip strips.
By increasing the service size from a cup to a bowl, either of these soups could easily serve as a light meal, especially if paired with one of the restaurant’s salads.
After enjoying these outstanding soups, we considered our entree options. I was greatly tempted by the Molcajete Fajitas — described as the “Mamajama of Fajitas” on the menu — which is served in a stone bowl overflowing with chicken, steak, shrimp, ribs, chorizo sausage, beans, cheese, grilled vegetables and pineapple and mango salsa.
I also considered such dishes as the Enchiladas Suizas, Jalisco Lime Chicken, Mahi Mahi Tacos and Chili Relleno.
I was assisted by our server in reaching a decision when he recommended the Amigo Bowl, which consists of a flour tortilla shell bowl filled with a variety of ingredients. I chose the Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables Amigo Bowl.
My dining companion considered the Chicken Chimichangas, California Burrito and Carnitas Verde before he chose the Grilled Mahi Mahi Dinner.
Our meals arrived promptly. My Amigo Bowl offered an ample helping of grilled plump shrimp, as well as grilled onions, green bell peppers and mushrooms served on a layer of rice and lettuce in an edible bowl. The well-seasoned shrimp were perfectly grilled.
My dining companion also enjoyed the grilled Mahi Mahi, which was marinated in a house garlic, lime and tequila sauce. His only complaint was that the fish was ever-so-slightly overdone. His dish was served with Mexican rice, grilled squash and red bell pepper and a particularly zesty pineapple salsa.
We were duly impressed by the bold flavor combinations of all the items we sampled at Poblanos Mexican Grill. The restaurant does offer some sweets — Not So Impossible Cake, Deep Fried Ice Cream, Flan and Banana Burrito — but we decided to skip dessert after these satisfying, filling meals.
I’m confident I will enjoy future meals at Poblanos, if for no other reason than to enjoy those fantastic soups again. If you’ve not yet visited with Poblanos, consider this restaurant the next time you’re craving some Mexican. Let them know they came recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Poblanos Mexican Grill and Bar, 2697 Boones Creek Road, Johnson City. 928-0178. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Dinner entrees range from $4.59-$17.99. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Full service bar available.