Jul 26, 2014

South of the Border Flavors at El Mexican Restaurant

Patch samples the empanadas, burrito and caprese salad at Glenview's newest mexican restaurant.

South of the Border Flavors at El Mexican Restaurant

Shortly after Patch covered El Mexican's late-November opening, commenters wrote about their experiences trying the small restaurant's food. 

J.P. wrote she would come back because of El's steak tacos. Kathryn Eisen called it the best food she has ever had. You heard it here first, folks. 

I had a few meals at the storefront restaurant at 2528 Waukegan Rd. in Glenview over several visits after the opening. I tried the vegetarian burrito, caprese salad, beef and pork empanadas. I have also added the restaurant to Foursquare, which basically means I plan to go back often. 

The first dish I tried at El was a vegi burrito, my typical go-to meal when eating at a taqueria. Most of my taqueria visits happen late at night, somewhere in Chicago, after a beer or wine tasting, at which time almost anything tastes good. But El's burrito was different. 

Eloin Amador, El's co-founder and chef, adds fried tofu and a sweet, Mexican zucchini to the vegi burrito. Combined with refried beans, pico de gallo, avocado and cheese, El's burritos are big, a little sloppy and full of flavors. You won't get a bland, beans and rice wrap here.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three dishes came from the caprese salad — a combination of sliced tomato, nopales, avocado, queso fresco and green onions, served with a tangy jalapeno-cilantro dressing. 

The serving is generous and filling, but because it's a cold salad the dish is oddly refreshing. You'll still want a glass of water handy to wash down the jalapeno-cilantro dressing, and don't be surprised by the mild creaminess from the cheese topping. It's a satisfying side salad if you want to compliment a meaty dish.

Eventually I realized I hadn't tried any meat dishes, made with ingredients from sustainable, Midwest farms, so I paid El another visit for a taste of their epanadas. These warm, doughy pockets are pretty simple — meat and dough served under a bed of lettuce and cheese — perfect for kids who might not be interested in El's more exotic flavors or big enough to finish a burrito. 

Two or three of these would make a good meal based on appetite, or try one for a simple appetizer before a bigger meal. 

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