One of my favorite restaurants in town is Mesa Grande Taqueria. I probably eat there three to five times a month. Why? The food is fresh, tasty and healthy. Those three things are very important to me when selecting where to dine.

My band, the Fabulous Ripcords, went on tour in California in 2010. We ate at a number of taquerias there and, I will sincerely say, Mesa Grande is as good as or better than any one of those California taquerias that I ate at.

I love walking into Mesa Grande. Owner Jim Daddabbo has done a great job with the look of his restaurant. The vibe is definitely Los Angeles. The lime green walls and the clean industrial look are a fabulous combination of hip and modern. As you walk in the front doors, you literally are in line, and will order your food cafeteria-style. I especially like this cafeteria style, because I can see my meal being prepared right in front of me. On this day, the service was fast and efficient. I asked a couple of questions and the shift supervisor, Chelsea, was quick to answer my questions. She proved to be very knowledgeable and efficient. I was very impressed.

The Mesa Grande menu is robust and appealing. MG can offer you tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, carnitas and vegetarian and vegan options, all made with fresh ingredients! There is a wide variety of combinations for you to choose from. Note: Everything on the menu is gluten-free, with the exception of the flour tortillas.

Through my previous dining engagements at MG, I developed a taste for its guacamole. I must say, without hesitation, that this is the best guacamole that I have ever tasted! So fresh and delicious, this is a must when you eat at MG. Guacamole contains monosaturated fat, which has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels. As to whether avocado increases or decreases cholesterol levels overall, nobody knows. Avocado also has lots of vitamins, fiber, potassium and other good things that are often lacking in American diets. In addition, MG's salsas are super delicious as well. The freshness of the salsa, in addition to the taste, stands out immediately. I have been known to stop by the MG on my way home from work to pick up some MG chips and salsa for my favorite snack. Again, my eating healthy philosophy is portion control. Mesa Grande offers a great selection of food that is fresh, tasty and healthy. You have to do the rest in terms of selection and portion control.

So, on this particular day, my assistant Suzanne Hai and I ordered a burrito bowl (vegetarian) and a taco salad with grilled chicken. The burrito bowl (without the burrito) consisted of white rice, black beans, peppers, guacamole (love!), jalapenos and mild salsa (!). Muy delicioso! What can I say? It was splendid. Rice and Beans, when eaten together, form a complete high-fiber vegetarian protein. Beans and grains have a symbiotic relationship in which the amino acids of each complement one another to form a complete protein, which is the foundation for the growth and development in humans. MG is very generous in its portions, so I was careful not to eat all of it. But the leftovers served as a great meal the next day!

Suzanne enjoyed a taco salad that arrived on a bed of lettuce with beans, grilled chicken, salsa, vinaigrette and cheese. So fresh and tasty!

The shift supervisor, Chelsea, was gracious to stop by our table outside underneath the awning (I love this outside dining area) to ask if everything was OK. I told her it was more than OK. It was great! In my conversation with Chelsea, she told me that MG was green-friendly. She explained that from the energy-efficient lighting to the reusable metal silverware, reusable baskets rather than disposable plates, real glasses for drinks as opposed to plastic or paper cups, and biodegradable to-go utensils, the restaurant is focused on being part of the green movement. This was remarkable to hear.

I guess the true mark of a restaurant is if the food and staff will make you want to come back. Mesa Grande does all those things and more. What are you waiting for? See you there!

Have a healthy day!

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Irving Lyons is the executive director for the Cayuga Community Health Network.


Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.