Durham >Food & Dining >
3642 Shannon Rd, Durham, NC | Directions 2770735.957006 -78.955978
Mon, Tue, Wed 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-9pm
Best Mexican Food in Triangle – Eaten here 12-15 times with up to a dozen friends. One so-so dish (turkey), the rest eye-rollingly good. It is a peasure to be in a place where the chef so obviously cares about the quality of each dish and has the expertise to surprise you by making it better than at least I could imagine. Appetizers are big enough to enjoy with a friend. Try a standard, like tortilla soup, and you'll recognize what it is but be amazed what can be done with it.
Best Mexican Restaurant in the Triangle – A wonderful restaurant with many pros and no cons. The person who complained about price must have been somewhere else. One item is at $19.00 (a dish with an assortment of fresh seafood: much more expensive anywhere else) and everything else is under $15. The appertizer dishes at $9 could be a meal in themselves. Unlike other Mexican restaurants, food is not all predone and just assembled for you. It is freshly prepared and it shows. There are no bad dishes and everything is made even more delicious by the wonderful sauces. Also, don't be driven away by the location. From Durham, on15/501 near Chapel Hill (everyone can find that), turn left onto Martin Luther King Parkway (just past the pickle, urr University Tower) and turn right at the first traffic light onto Shannon Rd. ... couldn't be any easier.
Experience Gourmet Mexican Flavors – Tonali's is a great place to spend a quiet dinner with friends. The chef melds flavors in a fashion not seen in other Triangle restaurants. Chef Andre's experience at other top restaurants in Durham shines through his creations. Anyone who wants to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine should give Tonali's a try. I have frequented the restaurant over ten times and each visit is a delight. Menu changes often.
Was decent, but not great – My partner had been to this restaurant before and recommended it, so we went. To our surprise, the dishes were much more expensive than we were expecting (he had been for lunch). Dinner was $14-$20 or so. In my opinion, it wasn't really worth the price. I have been living on the west coast, so maybe I am just spoiled for Mexican food. It was decent, but nothing I would rush back for, especially given the prices. The menu was also very limited variety. There were only about 5 dishes offered, all of which had something that I don't like in them. I ended up with a chicken mole. The mole sauce was good, but the chicken was heavily seasoned with cilantro (which I hate). The chicken I ordered also said it was served with rose petals. I asked the waiter about it and he said they were sort of as a garnish, but the plate came without any rose petals whatsoever. My partner had a paella which he enjoyed, but said was also not worth the price.
One complaint I have is that the waitstaff took things before I was done with them. For instance, I had a glass of beer with dinner and a waitress asked if I wanted another when the glass got low. When I said no to another, she took the glass, even though I hadn't finished it. The same happened later with my water glass.
All in all, it was decent, but Durham has a lot better to offer for the same price.
Disappointing business practices – Going on the belief that being a good neighbor in the community counts just as much as food or service, Tonali's falls disappointingly short of the generally positive approach most folks in our area take to conducting business.
After leaving an hour long dance session in the studio next door to the restaurant, I came out to find my vehicle had been towed from one of Tonali's spaces and I'd be spending $150 to get it back. I certainly respect that having parking available for customers is important and sometimes extreme measures are necessary to achieve results in areas where parking is limited (though Shannon Rd doesn't really fit that bill).
But rather than alienating potential clients in then neighboring dance studio who have been coming to this location longer than the restaurant has been open, it would have left a much more positive impression (and made better business sense) to issue notices about the week-old towing practices now in effect and invite us over to give Tonali's a try for dinner and drinks before/after class. It's especially tough to support the owner's decision to tow, given there were vacant spots available, and on that particular Tuesday night, parking for restaurant patrons was not difficult to secure.
While the food or service could be up to par, for customers who think business practices count as much as the product being sold, you may wish to seek an establishment that takes its neighborhood relationships a little more to heart.
Highly recommended – Having lived in Austin, Texas during the tech-bubble, I'm very demanding when it comes to Mexican (real) and Tex-Mex.
The signature seafood paella, beef medallion tacos, bbq pork tacos, chile relleno, condensed milk creme brule'.
Comments: this place's cost performance is excellent. you can have a great meal for $15 per person (1 beer included). You can see the chef working in the semi-open kitchen, and he does make the paellas one by one, instead of making in large batches - and it shows...
Response time is affected due to inefficiencies in the kitchen, but it is needed for a high quality food.
The location: simply bad. It is by the Durham Shannon Plaza US Postal Office. There aren't many other
shops of interest around . The place is definitely UNKNOWN, and i sure hope that they get enough
people in to keep running the business.
Finally : good food @ great price. Take your mouth to Tonali today!
Fresh flavors – NOTE: Sign on door said they were open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays.
I agree with the other reviews that the food is terrific and a good value. The chips in the "chips and salsa" that were served as soon as we were seated were fried flour (vs. the usual corn) tortillas. The one-page (March) menu lists "First Courses" and "Entrees" at dinner. We ordered one dish from each and all four came out at the same time!!! Our "First Course" smoked trout salad was fantastic as were the fish tacos (soft corn tortillas). The fish tacos would have been plenty as a meal for me. The flavors were very fresh and bright. We also got the beef tenderloin tlacayos (sp?) which were basically strips of beef in oval flour tortillas and the turkey sincronazads (sp?). The tenderloin strips were certainly tender but because it is a lean cut of meat, they were a tiny bit dry. The sincronazads were tasty and similar to turkey quesadillas. They came with a mole sauce which was delicious. We chose this dish to take home since there was so much food and thought it would reheat best. All of our dishes except for the salad came with a small side of dressed salad greens and a corn salsa. Again, both were very flavorful and refreshing. I could have made a light meal out of them by themselves. We also had the sweet corn flan for dessert. It was tasty but not as smooth and sweet as I like my flan. Our coffee came out with a coffee press so "warming the cup" was easy. Overall, it was a delicious meal, but next time I would just order any of the taco-like dishes as my meal as well as make sure that the dishes came out in sequence if I order two. We also each had a glass of wine which were generous pours. Meal with tax & tip was about $$70.
Menu has completely changed...for the negative – Below is the review I wrote in the spring of 2007. I went back in May 2008 for the first time since then and I was shocked by the menu. The prices went up dramatically. There were several dishes for nearly $20. Plus, they didn't look that exciting. So, for the first time ever, we got up and left. I liked this place before but likely will never go back.--------
This was the third time I've been to the restaurant. While I liked the food this visit, it was not as memorable as the first two times. It's still better than most places. Every time I go, I can't pronounce the dish but it's still good. They apparently have a liquor license now as they are several wines offered. The menu is supposed to change on a regular basis but it's the middle of May and March's menu is still being used. The best part about the place is that the food is not what other Mexican places serve; it's not an Americanized dish and it appears to be authentic. You'll not find a burrito there. Their tortilla chips are great and taste very fresh.
A Hidden Gem – Excellent, fresh food. The best mole sauce and coffee I've ever had. Ingredients were super fresh, innovative, and full of flavor. Portions were perfectly sized. Everything looked and tasted amazing. The decor was a bit on the cold side but the service was excellent and prompt. Dessert was beautiful to look at and better to taste. Restroom (women's) was spotless. One down-side (they have no liquor license). It's a wonderful restaurant, excellent prices for gourmet food. This is not your normal Mexican fare. All in all, a fabulous meal.
Great new find in the South Square Area – I have been trying new restaurants lately and was pleasantly surprised to find Tonali. The food is remarkably fresh, the portions are a reasonable size, and the food is much healthier than other Mexican places (which tend to smother their food in cheese). I disagree with the Citysearch price rating-- this place tends to be around $8-$10 for an entree and 2 people can eat comfortably for around $30 (including some after-dinner coffee and maybe a dessert). I like that they change their menu frequently and have creative specials.
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