Restaurant Spotlight: Cyclone Anaya’s

341spotlightThe Texas-based chain Cyclone Anaya’s made the long trek to Northern Virginia with the opening of its Mosaic District location this fall, adding the Mexican cuisine of its founder and namesake to the dining offerings at the Merrifield retail destination.

The family-run business, founded by former professional wrestler Cyclone Anaya, has been in operation for more than 40 years, and in that time has expanded to include a handful of locations in the Lone Star State. But the spot that opened in Mosaic District is the business’ first venture outside of Texas.

On a relatively compact menu, Cyclone Anaya’s covers all of the Tex-Mex bases. Margaritas? This restaurant serves up more than a dozen varieties, frozen or on the rocks, in standard or jumbo 21-ounce sizes. Any meal here starts with some gratis tortilla chips, ready to be dunked into a smooth, nicely spicy salsa. For appetizers, one might order some guacamole or chile con queso to accompany those chips, or some quesadillas stuffed with the diner’s choice of meat. Nachos top the list, served in a half order ($9) and a full order ($13), and offer a surprising take on the classic snack food. Here, each individual chip is coated in a refried bean spread and melted over with an ample layer of cheese, with meat (beef or chicken) added to each. Guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, and some pickled jalapeno peppers are served on the side. It’s a great idea for those with qualms about topping disparity, but takes some of the fun out of digging into a towering heap of nachos. A separate style of nachos here is made with jumbo lump crabmeat, one of several seafood dishes to make the menu. The lobster-stuffed enchiladas, a popular house specialty, is another.

Listed among the Cyclone’s Favorites menu section are the Fish Tacos ($13.50). Three of the tacos, each with a small amount of chopped pieces of grilled fish wrapped inside a soft tortilla, are served to an order. Pico de gallo and bits of avocado are added to the mix, and a side of shredded red cabbage can top the tacos too, but those flavors are lost to the flavor of the fish. A cilantro-lime vinaigrette is served on the side to be poured over the tacos to add a bright, tangy taste. Yellow cilantro rice and a black bean soup with a kick of background heat round out the platter.

Tex-Mex combos, grilled meat platters, soups and salads, and a quartet of enchiladas are listed on the menu, in addition to entrees highlighted as Cyclone’s Favorites and House Specialties. The Pollo Jalisco ($16) has become a favorite among the House Specialties. Here, a massive chicken breast, sauteed in cilantro butter, is coated in mushrooms and a much-needed chipotle-and-chardonnay cream sauce. The sauce – sweet and creamy with a little heat, with the wine flavor certainly present – works to flavor a thick chicken breast that brings little to the dish in terms of taste. Slices of grilled squash, avocado, and a big scoop each of vegetable-dotted rice and savory refried beans, join the chicken on the plate.

Betsy’s Tamales ($12), another dish among Cyclone’s Favorites, offers three of the husk-wrapped delicacies. The dense dough conceals pieces of meat, but the meaty taste in the dish comes from a helping of chile con carne that it’s topped with, whose flavor is boosted by melted cheese. Again, rice and beans are added to the platter.

The desserts, the menu touts, are made fresh in-house each day. The Dessert Sampler ($12) serves a small portion of three of the house desserts, so that one might try the flan, heavy with cinnamon flavor; a drenched slice of whipped-cream frosted tres leches cake; or the buttery, flaky baked sopapillas pastries with some honey.

Cyclone Anaya’s is a fine option for when a Tex-Mex craving hits at Mosaic District, but its offerings fall short of matching its steep prices.

Cyclone Anaya’s is located at 2911 District Ave., Merrifield. For more information, call 703-992-9227  or visit cycloneanaya.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 1 a.m.; and Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.