The quest for moderately priced Mexican fare on Long Island can land you almost anywhere, from a kitschy Margarita-fueled cantina to an authentic bare-bones taqueria. Señor Nacho occupies that territory in between, catering to suburban expectations while offering a taste, here and there, of Mexican authenticity.
The cavernous space is dominated by big, splashy folkloric murals. Order up a sangria or a fruity salt-rimmed Margarita and, for nacho-dipping, the lime and chili-accented guacamole, prepared tableside in a molcajete (traditional Mexican mortar and pestle). Empanadas are crisp, well-filled, whether with shrimp, beef or shrimp.
But tamales -- a cornmeal mixture steamed with chicken in a corn husk -- come up dry throughout. Much better are street tacos, soft corn tortillas piled with your choice of filling, showered with cilantro and served with lime and sliced radishes. Best is the succulent tongue and spicy pork al pastor, featuring rotisserie-roasted marinated meat. Fried pork carnitas, however, are overdone, arid.
In the realm of Tex-Mex favorites, there's the "Mr. Nacho mix" fajitas -- steak, chicken and shrimp sizzling with onions and peppers in an iron skillet. Wrap the filling inside a tortilla -- soft corn or flour -- along with guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes.
Chuletas, or grilled marinated pork chops, are tender and juicy, served with mashed potatoes and very good sweet fried plantains. A creditable mole poblano -- chicken cloaked in a dark and complex chili pepper sauce made with unsweetened chocolate -- features moist bone-in chicken, dark as well as white meat.
One afternoon, however, overcooking mars the huevos rancheros, eggs over crisp corn tortillas with a guajillo pepper salsa. And huaraches, sandal-shaped cornmeal cakes crowned with beans, lettuce, cheese and red and green salsa, might have been ideal had not the too-thin cakes been fried to nacho-like crispness.
Conclude with the rich, creamy flan. Or hot fried churros that taste as though they came from a street vendor. It hardly matters that they're brought in from a California supplier. They simply work.