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Friday, March 23, 2012

Mad Mex

March 14, 2012

We've been hitting up Mexican joints all over town lately, and big ups from Louise, Carla and an anonymous commenter put Mad Mex at the top of our 'to try' list. It's a chain that started in Sydney and has now spread across Australia - there are a couple in Melbourne, on Chapel Street and in Melbourne Central. We hit up the Melbourne Central store, in a little corner of the food court with its own tables and a liquor licence. They've done a good job making the setting interesting, with Corona-bottle light fittings and cute little planter boxes.


The menu is sort of a build-your-own Mexican meal setup - you choose a base style (tacos, burritos, nachos etc) and then select fillings, sauces and toppings. The mix and match style means that Mad Mex is both vegan and gluten-free friendly, which is a rarity in food court style places.

On our first quick visit, Cindy and I split a plate of the nachos ($10.90, not pictured as we were camera-less). They come covered in the stock veg filling (a mix of eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms) with cheese, black beans, your choice of salsa, sour cream and guacamole. The corn chips were crispy and fresh and the toppings generous and tasty - a promising start.

We returned a week or so later for a proper meal. Cindy went with the veggie quesadillas ($9.90), which included the same veggie filling and oodles of cheese grilled between two tortillas and accompanied by corn and tomatillo-based salsas, a fresh tomato mix, sour cream and guacamole (which is free with all the veggie dishes).


The accompaniments were all pretty great, but the quesadillas themselves were a bit disappointing. They were really, really cheesy, which kind of overwhelmed everything else and the eggplant/zucchini/mushroom filling had a slightly bitter taste. They were hard work - Cindy didn't make it through the whole dish.

I went for the standard veg burrito option ($10.90), with the veggie filling and all the trimmings: black beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, hot salsa, sour cream, onions and capsicum and the fresh tomatoes.


It's a good sized burrito - and very filling, but I wasn't crazy about it. I had the same issues with the eggplant mix - it stood out amidst the rest of the ingredients, and not in a particularly pleasant way. I think I'd have enjoyed this more with just the beans and rice as the main filling. Still, the hot salsa was sharp and smoky and the guacamole fresh and delicious, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Mad Mex provides the fastest fast-food Mexican in town - the production line at the counter means you go from ordering to eating in less than five minutes. The staff are friendly and the flexible nature of the menu is a plus. We were just a bit disappointed by the actual food (especially on the back of all the rave reviews) - if we're eating in the food court for some reason we'd probably go back, but we won't be making a special trip to seek it out next time.

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The opening of Mad Mex in Melbourne has been met with universal acclaim. From a vegan perspective, both easy as vegan pie and Louise, by Degrees and fans, while meat-eaters: Americans in Melbourne, eat.drink.write, Travelling in Mary Janes (sponsored post), Melbourne Dining Experiences, new international students, foodcautious, trish eats and The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua (sponsored post) also all give it the thumbs up.

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Mad Mex (Melb Central Store)
Food court, Melbourne Central (cnr Swanston/La Trobe Streets)
9663 7010
Veg dishes: $7.90-$10.90
http://madmex.com.au/

Accessibility: It's as accessible as Melbourne Central, which presumably has lift access (although we came up the escalator). Ordering and payment takes place at a relatively low counter (see picture above).

10 comments:

  1. hrm... perhaps because I always get the vegan? no cheese smothering there...

    try the vegan taco option next time and see... its the only thing I eat there being easily vegan and gluten free...

    but also having said that... a quesdilla means 'cheese tortilla' its traditionally a tortilla filled only with cheese...

    great post though! you covered off so many dishes

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    1. Thanks Carla! I don't mind a cheesy quesadilla in theory, there was just so much of the wrong, plastic-y congealed stuff here. I think their condiments are pretty good so a cheese-free taco could be the way to go.

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    2. ahhhh its the actual cheese too... yeah... go cheese free!

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  2. I agree with you about the eggplant and zucchini mix! I'd rather have it with beans alone and tonnes of that yummy guacamole and salsa!

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    1. Yes! We liked the guacamole too, it's great that they offer it free on vegetarian meals.

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  3. I went to the Chapel Street store a couple of months ago for some taco time, and absolutely agree with your "meh" verdict. The food was just... boring. Boring and bland and left a completely empty impression in my mind. I'm pleased that they offer so many options for vegans and gluten-freers, but Mad Mex personally left my taste-buds cold.

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    1. Thanks for chipping in, Hayley! Yep, on balance it will probably be a 'desperately hungry and know they have options' place rather than an 'Oooh! I'm in the mood for...' place.

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  4. I was so excited when Mad Mex opened because I *loved* Chipotle when I was in the US. But I'm another 'meh' - something about the flavours just falls flat.

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    1. Hey fatgretel! Well, at the very least I'll put Chipotle on my wishlist for some far-off future trip to the U.S.

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  5. I have been to a few different Mad Mex restaurants in Sydney, I am a vegan so it is particularly difficult to eat out. The Mad Mex in Newtown were very friendly and helpful when I asked about the ingredients in the guacamole and I ended up with an amazingly fresh, flavorsome meal. I went to the one in the city at Central Station and it was vile. The man serving me kept trying to put meat, cheese and sour cream on my meal, I had to scream at him many times to stop before he nearly doused it with dairy products! The vegetables were wilted and the entire thing was so overwhelmed with the taste of stale onions that I had to throw it out. Also I had to ask him twice for more guacamole and he didn't seem to understand. In Newtown they gave me a tonne without me even having to ask!
    Overall I think it's a good place, kept clean and a great idea, but it's like any other franchise, it depends on the staff and management.

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