Last night Omar and I went out to dinner and I had a hankering for Mexican Food. Although we typically just go to El Patio, since it is just across the street, and great food & service (check out my prior post here) I was really craving the fluffy tacos from El Charro. Feeling lazy however, I did not feel like driving all the way to Fraser to eat. By the time Omar gets home from work and we get to eat, it is almost 8 p.m. I did not feel like the adventure of a Fraser road trip.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was an El Charro now right in our own back yard!! The old Arby’s at 16 1/2 and Rochester was converted to an El Charro, turns out in 2011! Where have I been? Geeze, I guess I haven’t been paying attention.
So, yes I cheated on El Patio and we tried El Charro for comparison. Compare I shall do. First, the restaurant is clean, fairly small, and does have the feel of the old Arby’s. Even kept its drive through if anyone wants a carry out! The immediate difference is the wait staff (and presumably kitchen staff) are all young college looking kids. Not like the authentic Mexican waiters at El Patio, with their thick Spanish accents.
They brought out a small basket of chips. Just chips, nothing special. El Patio wins hands down on the chips portion of this comparison. El Patio brings out heaping baskets of warm, crisp salty chips. El Charro I thinks dumps some out of a store bought bag, not sure, but that is what it appeared to be.
They brought out two kinds of salsa’s, both medium. Just different consistencies. When asked for hotter they brought out two more. A red hot salsa that Omar said was “pretty hot” and a green tomatillo sauce, that has a nice flavor and heat. (FYI: The tomatillo, also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly salsa verde. Here is a picture – you probably saw them at the store and wondered what they were.) In my opinion, El Charro has my vote for best salsa.
We both ordered the combo platter that included their famous soft, fluffy, corn taco, a meat and bean tostada, enchilada, burrito, rich and beans. We of course both started with the taco. The taco itself is so interesting. Kind of a cross of corn bread, corn tortilla and a cider mill doughnut. I say the latter since it has that crispy fried outside, and tender, soft inside. The shell makes the taco. The meat and toppings inside are really not the star, and are just barely seasoned. As Omar always says, Mexican food is really not very exciting. Seasoned meat, some beans and some things to hold them. The rest of the combo platter really is like most other places. The food is plentiful for sure, as we both took both enchilada and burrito, along with the rice and beans home for lunch today. Once you get beyond the taco, frankly, El Patio is superior. The food and atmosphere are both more authentic and it is actually cheaper.
Bottom line, I would go again, especially when craving that taco which I sometimes do. But in most cases, I will just stick with El Patio, which is my opinion is the clear winner.