El Gordo — October 15, 2010

26 10 2010

El Gordo
8140 Highway 7
St. Louis Park 

Ever realize that local Mexican restaurants get terrible reviews? The problem is that everyone sets such high expectations. Aside from a can of brightly colored paint, these places aren’t investing in ambiance. And unlike their modern bistro counterparts, they aren’t boasting food fused with exotic cuisines or drinks made with tequilas from around the world. Fine with us – we aren’t there for those things. Our personal expectations for cheap Mexican spots are quite simple, and El Gordo casually met each one.

Expectation number one: Friendly, but not over-the-top, service
We’re not looking for waiters that tell their life story, but we also don’t want to sit unattended. Not a problem here. Our waiter could have easily been the manager. He greeted us with a smile, was polite and welcoming, but then left us to enjoy our meal. He offered no polite chatter, but we never felt ignored – a nice compromise.

Expectation number two: Complimentary chips and salsa
This has been hard to find in the Twin Cities, but El Gordo served ’em up right away. The chips weren’t as thin as most we’ve seen, but the thickness gave them extra crunch. As it should be, they weren’t there to hog the spotlight, but to feature the homemade salsa. Chunks of real tomato told us it wasn’t dumped from a can, and the level of heat was mild but pleasant. And, we weren’t charged extra when we asked for a second helping… (in our defense, the first dish was tiny!)

Expectation number three: Quick yet flavorful Mexican fare
We don’t expect gourmet, but we are sensitive to taste. El Gordo’s food sat smack in the middle of oh-my-gosh deliciousness and I’ll-never-eat-it-again disgust. Not bad when each item is less than two bucks. Jim tried his standard – a beef enchilada, taco and tostada – and I opted for a chicken taco and tamale. The kitchen didn’t skimp on meat, but also didn’t go overboard with cheese. The only questionable part was the “red sauce” that looked more like a barbecue topping and tasted somewhat sweet.

The major downer? Margaritas aren’t an option and El Gordo didn’t appear to have a liquor license – though the neon colors and bright lighting made our heads spin, even without a Corona or two.

El Gordo is no more than a typical Mexican restaurant plopped in the middle of suburbia. Come to think of it, neither were our favorite Mexican go-to spots in college – replicas of which we’d been actively seeking since we’d moved north. El Gordo was clean and the menu had a good list of options. While it won’t win any awards for its food or “date-night” potential, we knew what we were getting into when we sat down. All that mattered was that our craving for nothing-more-than-average Mexican food was adequately satisfied.

RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠
Service: ♠♠♠

Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠

Total bill, including tip: $18

El Gordo on Urbanspoon

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