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Archive for Thursday, November 27, 1997

EL MEZCAL OFFERS WINNING COMBINATION

November 27, 1997

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A new, family-owned restaurant serves up Southwest flavor.

I ventured over to the newly opened El Mezcal restaurant last week, wondering whether I would find another fast-food joint or maybe one of those unauthentic franchises with waiters named Chad who can't even pronounce "chalupa" let alone explain what it is.

Let's just say I was not in an optimistic mood.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that El Mezcal is a first-rate, family-owned restaurant that serves up excellent Tex-Mex cuisine.

The restaurant, located at 1819 W. 23rd, features a high ceiling and lots of windows, giving it a bright and open atmosphere. Colorful sombreros and decorations adorn the walls, and festive Spanish music filters through the sound system.

In the center of the dining room, a small fountain bubbles over, creating a village plaza effect.

Waiters, all dressed alike in black pants and white shirts, scurry about, delivering hot platters while wearing oven mittens on their hands.

As my wife and I sat pondering the menus, we both noticed that conversations wafting over from other tables all seemed to include comments about how good the food was. That was a positive sign.

My wife ordered tacos and a chile rellano, which is a breaded and fried bell chile pepper stuffed with cheese and meat. I ordered my favorite, the beef chimichanga, which is a deep-fried flour tortilla stuffed with chunks of beef and topped with cheese sauce, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo and lettuce.

As we ate, it became evident that the cooking staff has experience on its side. The food preparation was excellent. It is easy to cook the flavor out of Mexican dishes, but our meals were delicious.

One interesting bit of information is how El Mezcal's cooks prepare the usual sides of beans and rice. Unlike other restaurants they do not microwave the side dishes, so the end result is a smooth texture and richer taste.

Our service was also excellent. Our polite waiter visited our table so frequently that we thought he might be some shirttail relative.

Lunchtime diners have several meal options, which are priced at a very reasonable $4.99. El Mezcal also offers several special plates, including Beef Steak Ranchero, Enchiladas Supremas and Fajitas Jalisco (beef, chicken and shrimp served with sauteed onions) along with numerous combination plates. All are priced between $6.49 and $8.49.

The restaurant has a bar to provide the margarita, daiquiri or beer of your choice.

The staff of El Mezcal won me over with the cuisine and the service. Plan to visit soon. They will win you over, too.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to biles@ljworld.com.

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