My childhood home of Robesonia has undergone a lot of changes over the years, oftentimes in ways that I would have never expected.
For example, 25 years ago, I would have never imagined a Mexican restaurant would open in town. But that’s exactly what happened in August 2017 when Castaneda’s Mexican Restaurant debuted.
The location doesn’t have a great track record – restaurants have come and gone over the years. Most notably, Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ occupied the space for about two years. Castaneda’s is trying to turn that around.
Visitors may recognize owner James Castaneda as one of the business partners who began La Abuela Mexican Restaurant in West Reading.
Castaneda’s menu is smaller with a greater emphasis on lighter fare – tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos and salads.
We visited on a Saturday evening in December, and the dining room was about half-full. Castaneda’s has a handful of tables for four in the small storefront. There was also a steady stream of customers picking up take-out orders while we – Julie, Jakob, my parents, and myself – sat at a table by the front window.
With a relatively small menu, it didn’t take long to decide on our meals. Before our meals were delivered, we were served our complementary chips and salsa.
The salsa is pureed, not chunky, making for easier dipping and more consistent flavor in every bite. It was good, though I don’t think I could ever complain about free chips and salsa.
Our meals arrived a short time later. Looking for more of a meal than a snack, I ordered the enchiladas Verde – three hefty beef enchiladas in homemade green sauce and queso fresco.
Verde isn’t normally my go-to, but I wanted to switch it up from my usual order of enchiladas with mole sauce.
The sauce gets its distinct green color from the tomatillos. It had a very mild spice, but was full of flavor. The ground beef was also well-seasoned, and the two worked very well together. And the cool creaminess of the queso fresco added a nice finish.
Enchiladas at Castaneda’s are served with yellow rice and refried beans. I have always preferred black beans to refried – the texture of refried beans leaves a lot to be desired – but these were fine. I found myself scraping for as much of the salsa Verde as I could get to mix with the rice and beans to give them some of the great flavor that the enchiladas had.
Julie also ordered enchiladas, but for her it was enchiladas Suizas, one of several daily specials advertised on the menu board.
Enchiladas Suizas literally means “Swiss enchiladas.” The name comes from the dairy used to make the creamy white sauce (thank you, Google).
Choosing chicken as the protein, Julie really enjoyed the dish. It was a heavier sauce (Julie had to bring one of the three enchiladas home with her because they were so filling).
Suizas sauce was also out of her comfort zone (ranchero sauce is her favorite), but this dish got her approval, and she said she would definitely order it again.
My parents each enjoyed their meals as well – my mom had a quesadilla with a side salad while my dad had the chile rellano – a stuffed pepper also served with rice and beans.
But despite all of us being full, we couldn’t leave without trying the fried ice cream. By that, I mean Julie couldn’t leave without trying it. We just had to help her eat it.
The vanilla ice cream was coated in a corn cereal, and deep-fried. It was served with cinnamon tortilla chips and whipped cream, and topped with chocolate syrup and sprinkles.
It’s probably the highest calorie menu item in western Berks County, an indulgence that is great once every five years or so. But it’s so good. The contrast in texture and temperature between the hot, crunchy shell and cold, smooth ice cream never gets old. Everything else is unnecessary (but delicious) window dressing.
It’s also a lot of food, especially after a full meal. We all left feeling way too full. But while we certainly packed on pounds, our wallets didn’t lighten much. Castaneda’s is reasonably priced. The four of us were able to eat for less than $50, even with the dessert and some sodas.
It’s still crazy to think that there is a Mexican restaurant within walking distance of my parents’ house, but Castaneda’s is here. And based on what I saw – and tasted – it might just be hanging around for a while.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
Castaneda’s Mexican Restaurant
141 W. Penn Ave
Robesonia, PA 19551