Whenever I'm in the mood for some hearty and consistent Mexican fare, Celia's is my go-to spot. Offering all the familiar favorites, Celia's is a fairly traditional Mexican restaurant, though a section of the menu is dedicated to some American dishes as well. This restaurant has a full bar in a separate section, which offers great Happy Hour specials every day, with cheap and tasty drinks, including a wide variety of margaritas and some unique variations. Appetizers during Happy Hour are a great deal as well, and you can enjoy all the chips and salsa you can eat. Maybe most importantly, the chips are hot, fresh, and super crunchy, and the salsa has great flavors and just the right amount of spice.
There are a few locations for Celia's restaurants, including two in San Mateo, but each is a little different and this is my favorite. Located just off the 101's Peninsula exit, the location is convenient and the service and food has always been good. The parking lot is small, but there is street parking all around.
504 Peninsula Avenue,
San Mateo, CA 94401,
Monday through Sunday: 12 pm – 10 pm
The restaurant is bright and painted in vibrant colors with vivid murals. The rooms are warmly lit with decorative metal lanterns. The restaurant is large with plenty of seating, but feels small and intimate because there are several divided rooms, and the bar area is completely separate from the dining area. The dining rooms are filled with carved wooden booths, that provide a bit of privacy for each party. Mariachi music plays softly through the speakers, or if you come on the right night, you'll experience the excitement of a live mariachi band. Overall, Celia's offers a casual, family friendly atmosphere.
The staff were friendly and polite, and pretty fast. We were seated immediately, and helped within minutes. The food came out fairly quickly, and our chips were replenished soon after they were finished. The server was attentive, and let us enjoy our meal. The only thing that took a while was waiting for the check, though that's sometimes a good thing for people who don't want to be rushed out of the restaurant.
Entrees at Celia's run anywhere from $8 to $16, with the majority of meals costing about $12 for some hefty portions. Celia's also offers small plates and a la carte items for around $4. Drinks are reasonably priced, and happy hour specials are a really good value.
Celia's Mexican food is delicious and incredibly filling. I've never left the place without being completely stuffed, a to-go box full of leftovers in tow. Let's start with the chips and salsa, which I've already mentioned above. The still-warm, thick and crispy chips are some of the best I've had, dusted with just enough salt and pairing perfectly with the salsa. The salsa at Celia's seems to change a little from time to time, sometimes chunky with tomatoes and onion, and other times smoother, and even sometimes with corn. What remains consistent is the freshness and that it's just spicy enough for everyone's palates.
The Sunday special was fajitas, so I went with the chicken fajitas. They came out smoking and sizzling, and included red and green bell peppers, onions, and carrots, grilled with savory chicken. The meal came with another plate of rice and beans, guacamole and sour cream to top the fajitas, and a tortilla warmer full of flour tortillas. The chicken and veggies had a great smoky flavor, with a delicious marinade for the chicken. It was a huge dish-- and I have enough left-overs for at least one other meal.
We also ordered a combo plate with crispy beef tacos, and sides of rice and beans. The beef in the tacos is incredibly flavorful and juicy. The tacos are topped with a combination of cheeses and some red sauce, and the combination is perfection. And finally, the beans – the single best food of all. The refried beans at Celia's are nothing short of amazing, though probably not very healthy. They're creamy and flavorful, and topped with two kinds of cheese. Celia's is always a solid meal, no matter what you order.Published On: Monday, September 30th, 2013