As I've pointed out in many posts regarding Mexican food restaurants in the Quad Cities, we are blessed to have a number of very good places that serve authentic Mexican cuisine. One that has been around for over six years is La Flama in Moline. They recently moved to a larger spot in downtown Moline - one that used to house the former Brown Bottle restaurant. We went there recently on a Sunday night when neither of us felt like cooking.
Juan, Alex and Martin Garcia moved from Mexico to the Quad Cities in 1998 and worked in various restaurants around the area. In 2004, the brothers opened La Flama in a small building on 5th Ave. in Moline. It became one of the more popular places for authentic Mexican food in the Quad Cities. A couple years ago, the brothers opened Papi's Bar and Bites on Kimberly Road in Bettendorf, not far from our house. They bring in food from La Flama and serve it on the menu there. We drive by it all the time, but have not yet gone in.
The Garcia brothers (right) moved to their new location (see map) just a block down the street from their old location in January of this year. Their old location had seating up to 100 patrons, but the new location effectively more than doubles the capacity. Friday nights is La Flama's "Salsa Dance Night" with a D.J. who plays salsa, merengue, and cha-cha-cha music. The basically move the tables out of the way on the floor and turn it into a dance club. We've gone by the place on Friday night and it's usually packed.
A City of Moline parking ramp is located directly behind La Flama and you can park there for free after 5 p.m. There's a rear entry to La Flama coming out of the parking garage. We got into the restaurant around 7:30 that one Sunday evening and we didn't realize that they closed at 8 p.m. on Sundays. We got a hostess to seat us and she gave us menus to look over. Both Cindy and I ordered margaritas. It wasn't long before a young guy brought us chips and salsa.
The food found on the menu at La Flama is typical of what you find with other authentic Mexican restaurants around the Quad Cities. One thing that is rather unique is their selection of soups, including pozole - shredded pork in a red chile broth with hominy. It's topped with lettuce and onion and served with tortilla chips. They also feature the Mexican staple, sope. They take a large hand-made tortilla and fill it with beans, deep fry it and then top it with anejo cheese, sour cream and guacamole. You can also add chorizo and potatoes or steak and onions to a sope, as well.
La Flama also features lengua - basically beef tongue. They boil slices of beef tongue in herbs and spices, then top it in tomatillo salsa. You can also get lengua tacos, as well. I'm not quite that brave enough to try beef tongue, although the Mexicans rave about the stuff.
Cindy was certain that we'd eaten at the original La Flama before. She may have eaten there at some point, but I was overly certain I had not. She said, "I don't think you liked it. That's why I was surprised that you wanted to come here tonight." I assured her that I had never eaten at La Flama before.
Our waitress brought out our margaritas and took our order. We had eaten heavily for breakfast and it was one of those lazy Sunday days where we really didn't do much to work up much of an appetite before dinner. I was pretty basic - I went with an order of beef tacos, although I almost went with the pork carnitas tacos. I wasn't overly hungry, so I thought three small tacos would be fine.
Cindy ordered up a single beef and bean burrito, topped with melted colby cheese. We figured between the chips and salsa and what we ordered for dinner, we'd be fine.
And the chips and salsa was pretty good at La Flama. It didn't stick out as anything remarkable. It was pretty much about the same as you find at other Mexican restaurants.
But the margaritas - hoo boy! Were they packed with tequila! Cindy took a drink of hers, sputtered, opened her eyes real wide and said, "Oh, my God! These things are lethal!"
I took a drink of mine and was taken aback by the amount of tequila in mine. I like tequila, but this was almost overpowering. I said, "I'm glad I didn't order a double shot in my margarita. It would have been like drinking tequila on the rocks!"
It was getting close to closing time, so they got our food out to us in a hurry. The tacos were soft flour tortillas with beef and what appeared to be potatoes mixed in. They were topped with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and anejo cheese. I took a bite and realized that, yes, it was small chopped potatoes in with the beef. The beef had some strange seasoning, as well. I couldn't quite put my finger on what exactly was in the beef, but it was - well - different. I'm not certain that I liked it all that much. I was suddenly wishing that I'd gone with my first impulse and gotten the pork carnitas tacos.
Cindy said her beef and bean burrito was "OK". She said, "This is pretty basic and quite honestly that's all I really wanted this evening."
But everything was reasonably priced, including the margaritas. With a tip for our very helpful waitress, the bill came to just over $20 bucks. I'm not overly certain that I liked La Flama as much as I do some of the other good Mexican restaurants in the Moline area. But a lot of people must like it as they had a good crowd up to closing time on that Sunday night. And the place is doing great business since they moved to their new location. I may have to go back and try their carnitas taco at some point. Then I can determine if I really like the place or not.