Fresh Mexi-Cali Grill

1055 Mansell Road, Suite 100, Roswell. 770-552-9333

In the past decade, quick Mexican-inspired fare has become a local strip-mall staple. We're talking places where diners stroll up to counter service and peruse a burrito-heavy menu with lightning-fast results. Fresh Mexi-Cali Grill, a metro-based chain, falls into that category with its own methodology.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

You get no boisterous greeting and classic rock soundtrack like you'll find at Moe's. No mod decor like Chipotle. Instead, the intimate interior incorporates black and white checkerboard floors, high-top tables, counter seating and chili pepper trim running along the top of its walls. Large, framed images of food provide additional decor. And the restaurant takes advantage of a large portion of wall space to proclaim its catering business.

But the real eye-catching gimmick lies just behind the counter where pieces of chicken (breasts, wings, legs and thighs) splay out across a grill. They're getting a flame-broiled treatment right before your eyes.

SIMPLE DELIGHTS

The Crazy Char-Broiled Chicken, as it's billed, is clearly the star of the show. It's available in two-, three-, four- and eight-piece denominations. We order a two-piece plate, which arrives with Mexican rice, a choice of beans (pinto, refried or black), and aluminum foil packed with tortillas. It all comes on a casual foam plate. To the side of the counter is a salsa bar with several offerings. The spicy tomatillo gets our vote with its nice, even rush of tang and zest. The chicken's golden exterior has a tasty crisp, although it's a touch dry. But the inside is moist enough, and we pluck off bits of meat with our fork, drop them into a tortilla and lube with the tomatillo. Simple and satisfying!

OTHER TASTES

The burrito options include grilled pork, fish and shrimp. The Famous Cali burrito calls for avocado, sauteed peppers and onions, and a choice of chicken or steak. For the vegetarian burrito, the staff stuffs a spinach tortilla with rice, a choice of beans, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese, guacamole and sour cream.

The nachos, while nothing lavish, are another exercise in simple pleasure. Layers of tortilla chips, blankets of cheese and a choice of beans come in an enormous mound. Customers choose between plain or the addition of chicken, shrimp or steak. We wisely go with the former, starring shredded hunks of bird. It works as a meal or a shared appetizer.

MORE UNDER THE SOMBRERO

The restaurant opens in the morning with a menu of breakfast burritos and more. Other interesting lunch and dinner choices include fajita platters, toasted Mexican sandwiches, and dessert-style cinnamon chips. Guests can pair a taco or whatever entree they please with a chilly bottle of imported or domestic beer. Fruit smoothies, tea and sodas offer nonalcoholic alternatives. And kids can pick from a concise children's menu.



Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Sundays
Reservations: No
Recommended dishes: Char-grilled chicken, vegetarian burrito, chicken nachos, Famous Cali burrito
Prices: Breakfast items $2.99-$5.99. Lunch and dinner entrees $4.99-$8.99
Web site: www.freshmexicali.com
Verdict: Simple, satisfying fare from metro-based chain.

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