Restaurant review: Chiles Mexican Grill gives Naples something to smile about
When I opened the door to my third-floor apartment, the delivery man from Chiles Mexican Grill smiled and handed the bag over with a twinkle in his eye. He nodded politely, tipped his hat and turned to leave — that same smile still on his face.
I got the impression he knew something I didn't.
I shrugged it off, took my bag inside and got to work.
One by one, I unboxed each item. As a restaurant critic, it's my job to take pictures before I get to touch even a morsel of food. An old friend once told me: The camera eats first.
The first box held tacos. I admired their crisp, golden shells and snapped my photo. Then, I took a bite and felt a smile of my own spread across my face. The al pastor was tender, flavorful, magnificent. Small bits of pineapple intertwined with cubes of pork, adding a vibrant acidity to the salty meat.
I put the tacos aside, vowing to come back to them when my camera was full.
Next, I unleashed the burrito a la Chiles. For $12.99, this monster burrito could feed four kindergartners or one very hungry JLB. After my first bite, I realized this was no monster, it was a "Beauty and the Beast" situation, except the burrito was the beauty and I was the drooling beast.
A sign of a good burrito is the amount of cheese-stretch incurred from the first hot bite. Reader, I can assure you the cheese-stretch was immaculate. Juicy steak, sauteed peppers, rice and beans rounded out this beauty, to make it truly scrumptious.
Chiles Mexican Grill opened June 1 in the plaza on the northwest corner of Collier Boulevard and Pine Ridge Road near Golden Gate Estates in Naples. The restaurant is a family business run by Claudia Rubio, who also owns the popular Golden Gate ice cream shop Antojitos y Mas.
Rubio and her family are from Colombia and regularly offer Colombian specials at Chiles, along with Caribbean and Central/South American favorites. Think sancocho de cola, sopa de mondongo, Colombian empanadas with crisp, masa-dough shells, even homey, Nicaraguan-style fritangas.
"The inspiration behind (the restaurant) was that we are family, and we want to try to have a better future. We just try to do that for ourselves," Rubio told the Naples Daily News in July.
That familial love is evident in Chiles' food. Every dish is prepared like a homemade meal, and tastes like an abuela made it in her own kitchen.
The restaurant's ceviche is another nod to South America and Rubio's family's roots. Huge in portion and low in price (only $12.99), the dish offers perfectly lime-laced corvina, red onion, cilantro and jalapeno, which make for a tantalizing combination with just the right balance of spice, tang and chill.
Everything about this place, from the quality of the food to the generosity of the pricing, makes customers feel like family. As does the free, in-house delivery, which is perfect for the COVID-conscious or good-old-fashioned homebodies. Chiles also offers dine-in seating, as well as takeout.
I thought back to that delivery man and his smile. He handed the bag over with such confident joy. He must have known then what I know now: Chiles Mexican Grill is something to smile about.
Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Follow the critic at facebook.com/jeanleboeufswfl or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram.
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Chiles Mexican Grill
4075 Pine Ridge Road, No. 3, Naples
- Price: $$-$$$
- Web: facebook.com/chilesmexicangrill2020
- Call: 239-300-6084
- Hours: noon-9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday
- Etc.: Weekly Colombian and Latin American meal specials; free in-house delivery available to a broad swath of Collier County
- Guacamole, $6.50
- Camarones al ajillos, $9.99
- Wings, $10.99
- Fajitas, $14.99
- Pollo chipotle, $13.99
- Enchiladas, $12.99
What the symbols mean
- $ - Average entree is under $10
- $$ - $10-$15
- $$$ - $15-$20
- $$$$ - $20-$25
- $$$$$ - $25 and up