Since many scores on reviews are somewhat arbitrary, I’m always looking for ways to quantify my score, giving myself and my opinion a little more objectivity. Luckily, I think I’ve found it: leftovers. When I go to restaurants I often find myself leaving with a foam container full of the mishmash of appetizer and entree that I wasn’t able to finish under the false pretense that I’ll heat it up and cook it later. Eventually I rediscover it, disgusted, and throw it away in hopes that the ghost of meals past will haunt my kitchen no longer. After my trip to Dona Timo’s La Cascada Mexican Restaurant I once again found myself saddled with a box of beans, rice and some carne asada. However, in a break with my typical modus operandi, I reheated my leftovers excitedly, and am now eating them while writing this review. If you’re not jealous, you should be, because Dona Timo’s is damn delicious.
I found myself walking down University Avenue in Downtown Riverside, past Back to the Grind and Pixels, two of downtown’s most popular hangouts, when I finally stumbled upon Dona Timo’s. It appeared relatively lackluster at first, with a very small foyer and the only life around the building emanating from a few strings of white Christmas lights strung around the entrance. Stepping inside, I realized that the small interior was merely an illusion, as Dona Timo’s has an entire rear dining area with around a dozen booths, many filled with beaming patrons digging into impressively large plates of food.
The interior is a combination of quaint and kitsch, with the unpolished brickwork of the wall clashing with the bright, pastel-colored booths and tables, their red, blue and bright yellow surfaces reflecting the cool light of the overhead lamps. The walls were adorned with what appeared to be 10 years of garage sale merchandise: fishing poles, landscape paintings, giant novelty fish and Aztec-reminiscent stone carvings. While such garishness would be out of place in an upscale establishment, it fit in with the relaxed atmosphere of the patrons and staff, their giggles and muffled conversations blending with the quiet din of mariachi music being played over the sound system.
After our server brought us menus, we ordered two large horchatas while we pondered the innumerable options listed before us. There are probably over 100 distinct entrees and combinations offered at Dona Timo’s, with prices ranging from a few dollars to “market price” for some of the seafood options, with most plates falling in the $10-12 range. I eventually settled on the carne asada plate with flour tortillas while my companion chose the enchilada and taco combination. After we ordered, our server brought us the plate of chips and salsa and our large horchatas, which were delivered in huge tumblers that held over a liter of the delicious white drink. The horchata was cold, delicious and tasted homemade. As we ate, a steady trickle of people continued arriving, filling up the other booths.
The food arrived after about 15 minutes, still sizzling on the large plates I had seen when we walked in. There was an abundance of beans and rice on both plates, with my plate roughly half-full of sizzling carne asada. You could easily feed two to three light eaters with one plate of food from Dona Timo’s, and since everything is offered to go it could be a viable takeout option if you ever find yourself hungry and downtown. Everything tasted fresh and authentic, including the carne asada, which was smoky and savory. Dona Timo’s went the extra mile with their quality and abundance. We spent the next 20 minutes hovering over our plates, the sound of chewing occasionally punctuated by a comment of how this and that tasted.
The bill came out to under $30 for the two of us, and our server was kind enough to offer us a handful of melt-away mints as we headed out into the dimly lit street, a pound of leftovers stored in a foam container in my hand. While certainly not the best or worst food in Riverside, I can legitimately recommend Dona Timo’s La Cascada Mexican Restaurant for its quality and quantity. My meal was both filling and satisfying, which are key when it comes to restaurants. While some foodies may hold higher standards, I wholeheartedly recommend it to those of you whose only experience with Mexican food is Del Taco and Taco Bell: It’ll blow your mind.