Two Palate Dining: El Fresco Mexican Grill
She Said: El Fresco Mexican Grill
I love gift cards! They are so much fun. We got a gift card this past Christmas and we finally used it last week. We got to pick from a few different restaurants and we selected El Fresco Mexican Grill. I love Mexican food! We’ve had a hard time finding a good Mexican restaurant, so I was hopeful this could become our go to Mexican restaurant.
El Fresco is a fairly small but not tiny restaurant. The restaurant was very clean which was nice. The décor is mostly oilcloth tablecloths and the windows to the shopping center that dominate the space. They played great Mexican music, which made me happy the whole time we were eating. Everyone we encountered who worked at the restaurant was friendly and helpful. It’s definitely not a good place for a romantic dinner or deep conversation (it’s a little loud). But, I could see how it would be a fun lunch or dinner place.
One of my favorite things about eating at Mexican restaurants is the chips and salsa that is inevitably served! I love salsa! I was pleased with their salsa bar. Their mild salsa was a tasty, thin tomato sauce. But, my favorite salsa was the medium option, a yummy and almost vinegar tasting tomatillo salsa. It was so wonderful. The chips were warm and not too salty. I really enjoyed the salsa experience. It was my first time eating a tomatillo salsa (I’ve obviously eaten a lot more Mexican-American food than traditional Mexican food). I was very excited for the main course to arrive after enjoying the salsa so much.
Unfortunately, I was really unhappy with my meal. I ordered the #1 combination, which is an enchilada and a taco. I was able to get both in chicken because I don’t eat ground beef. I really like enchiladas but this one was a big disappointment. The only reason that I ate so much of this plate of food was because I was hungry (and the plate was 60% full when it was taken away). My enchilada was spongy, and the cheese was generic and heavy. I didn’t like the sauce either; it was kind of hot but without taste. I hated the rice (it was too hard). I hated the beans (they were bland, had no seasoning and were bitter). I was hoping that the hard taco would salvage things. I really love hard shell tacos! But, the taco wasn’t good either. They put cheese on top and I wasn’t expecting cheese on top of my taco. I actually don’t eat uncooked cheddar cheese. So, I had to pick cheese off and I lost a lot of the lettuce in the process. The seemingly canned tomatoes that were served in the taco where really overwhelming and ruined my enjoyment of the taco.
When you arrive at El Fresco you place your order at the counter and then take your food to go or select a seat and they serve your food to you. I did have the small complaint that because we ordered dessert when we paid for our meal we did have to prompt them to bring out our dessert. But, the dessert arrived shortly after we made an inquiry about it. And let me tell you, this dessert was amazing! I had always wanted to try fried ice cream and it was awesome! I loved it. The ice cream was sweet and creamy with a crispy outer shell that was deliciously spiced with cinnamon. The chocolate sauce drizzled across the top really added a richness to the crispy cinnamon shell. And the deep-fried tortilla shell that this amazing concoction was served in was so yummy too. It added another great, light crispy texture and a very mellow flavor. When you got a bite with a mixture of ice cream, crispy shell, tortilla and chocolate it was delicious it was almost scary.
I also have to complain that this food gave me wicked heartburn. My stomach started hurting almost as soon as I stood up from the table. I won’t be going back for an entrée but I would visit them again for dessert!
Chips and Salsa- 8
#1 Combination- A chicken enchilada and a chicken taco- 0
Fried Ice Cream- 9
Overall Experience- 2
He Said El Fresco
We never would have tried this place if we hadn’t had a gift card. We visited their website, and had been looking for a good Mexican restaurant in the area for a long time, so we thought we’d give it a try. This elbows on the table family restaurant is very no frills. When you first walk in, you place your order for a posted menu, and are given a basket of tortilla chips. I love tortilla chips at Mexican restaurants. You then can serve yourself from their salsa bar. You have your choice of mild, medium and hot. We weren’t feeling extra adventurous, so we tried the mild and the medium. The mild was a red salsa that was spicy. The medium was a green salsa that could easily be called hot. They were both very fresh and everything you’d want in a salsa. I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the heat that the hot would have. My only complaint about the salsa is the size of the containers at the salsa bar. They were so small that you couldn’t get a chip in them. Also, since we were sharing, we went through it pretty quick. Salsa is not ketchup, and as a restaurant they should have been prepared for this.
I ordered the burrito and enchilada combo platter served with Spanish rice and pinto beans. I took the recommendation of our order taker and went with the chicken enchilada and seasoned beef burrito. The whole thing was overall enjoyable, but not without its flaws. I liked the flavor of the Spanish rice, but the beans were bland. The chicken enchilada was very tasty. The sauce had a good bite, and the tortilla was nice and crunchy. The chicken didn’t have very much flavor on its own, but it melded well with the rest of the enchilada. Next time, I’ll probably order pollo asada. The grilled chicken probably has more flavor. There’s also seasoned chicken available that could be delicious, based on the beef.
The beef burrito was my favorite part of the platter. The beef was wonderfully spiced! It was a different experience than I expected. This burrito consisted of beef, and tortilla, with melted cheese over the top. There weren’t any beans or rice in the burrito probably because they already were on the platter, but there appears to be a way to order a more traditional burrito if you so chose.
The best part of the whole meal was the fried ice cream. The French vanilla ice cream wouldn’t have been anything special on its own, but the frying method really added a special sweet crunch that was really amazing. Put together with cinammon, chocolate, and the taco shell/bread bowl and you have a winning dessert. I’d go back again tomorrow, just for this fried ice cream.
Fried Ice Cream-9
Overall Experience- 6