Old Mexico takes over a familiar spot on Route 13 in Ithaca’s southwest

This week, we’re checking out Old Mexico Restaurant and Cantina on Route 13 in Ithaca’s southwest. This family-owned Mexican restaurant and cantina offers Mexican fare such as tacos and burritos, fajitas, soups and salads, seafood, vegetarian fare, and a full bar with generous margaritas.

This building was Manos Diner for many years, and it’s had a thorough facelift. (One biggie: the rest rooms have been spruced up quite a bit.) It’s now a comfortable family restaurant serving simple but tasty Mexican food. The old diner counter is gone, but the bar, which used to be the Ichabod Lounge side, is still there. Nothing fancy here — but it’s not supposed to be.

One of each? Enchiladas with salsa verde, enchilada sauce, and a great mole. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

One of each? Enchiladas with salsa verde, enchilada sauce, and a great mole. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

We’re always happy to see when a Mexican eatery provides chips and salsa on the house, and the salsa here comes in cute carafes for the table, so you can pour your share into a dipping dish. A nachos appetizer didn’t feel worth nearly , but everything else seems reasonably priced.

Dinner combos offer a sampling of taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada, tamale, and so on. A trio of enchiladas offers shredded chicken or ground or shredded beef topped with an excellent mole, salsa verde, or enchilada sauce.

The Shrimp Yucatan offers flavorful grilled shrimp with vegetables, rice, and guacamole salad, and it’s an especially good deal at lunchtime.

Shrimp Yucatan, just $9 for lunch. Photo courtesy of Joe Scaglione III.

Shrimp Yucatan, just $9 for lunch. Photo courtesy of Joe Scaglione III.

Much of the food is vegetarian or vegan where traditional Mexican dishes wouldn’t be — the rice is cooked without chicken broth and the beans without pork, for example. (Do confirm with your server that what you’re ordering is vegetarian or vegan if you need it to be.)

The Aguirre family owns a similar restaurant in the Providence area, and started out here with a combination of local staff and staff from their Agaves Mexican Grill location in Rhode Island that’s already familiar with the menu. Everyone at Old Mexico is friendly and happy to be here, though the service is sometimes confused. On one visit, we figured out after we ate and looked at the menu again that the waitress had set the wrong combo plate in front of each of us. We enjoyed our meals anyway, but serving the wrong food to a customer can be dangerous.

When all is said and done, we’re happy they’re here, too. We’re always happy to see simple, affordable eateries in town.

Plan on spending $5-10 on lunch or $10-20 on dinner. Find Old Mexico at 357 Elmira Road or oldmexicoithaca.com, or call 607-379-6178 and tell them you heard about them here.

For more, follow 14850 Dining on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.