On the heels of this week’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, you’ve probably had your fill of rice and beans.
Or, maybe not. It seems Americans never tire of the cuisine from our neighbors to the south.
These days, diners can find Mexican food on the most mainstream menus from the ubiquitous nachos to the dolled-up burrito given the trendy tag of a “wrap.”
I’m always on the watch for a Mexican restaurant that distinguishes itself somehow and a colleague told me about a place on Sunset Hill since new owners took over last summer because they did a good job with seafood dishes. (He should know good Mexican, he said, because he’s from California.)
My first trip to El Sol de Mexico was promising.
The lunch menu is inexpensive, with most meals ringing in around $5. My chicken enchiladas were topped with a tangy salsa verde. The green sauce gets its piquant edge from tomatillos.
The chunks of white meat stuffed in the tortilla were moist and flavorful and worked in perfect harmony with the verde sauce.
I appreciated the dollop of zesty Mexican-style cole slaw served with the rice and beans and made a mental note to order a side of it my next trip.
Which I did, but it never came. At dinner, the place was jumping and our server helped explain the rush when the first thing out of her mouth was “Will you be using your Entertainment card tonight?”
Still, despite the capacity crowd, we got our drinks and our meals quickly enough.
I ordered the sauteed prawns and asked for them cooked extra spicy. Even though the dish was still too tame, I enjoyed the plump, nicely cooked shellfish. They were sauteed with green peppers and onions, reminding me of a fajita without the sizzling, popping presentation. I couldn’t finish the generous portion. It was probably a good thing the server forgot to deliver the side of slaw I ordered.
The other seafood selection I sampled was the snow crab enchiladas. They were topped with a velvety white sauce and had an incredibly rich flavor.
So far, so good.
The next visit was a disaster, however.
There was a huge table that captivated the attention of the lone waitress at a recent lunch.
I congratulated myself on being so understanding and patient when it took more than 20 minutes to get a glass of water. During my wait, I had time to soak up the atmosphere and found on close inspection, the furnishings pretty tattered, chairs held together with duct tape. There were staples hanging out of the wall where decorations had once been. The plants look as though they could use some water.
When that overworked waitress finally brought the food, it was disappointing. A chile relleno was nothing more than a bland omelette wrapped around a canned Anaheim pepper. The shredded beef chimichanga was overcooked. Even the chips were stale.
I’ll chalk it up to an off-day.
The whole experience reinforced the importance of consistency.
Any restaurant can have a bad day, but discriminating diners rarely give a place a second chance once they’ve been burned.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: El Sol de Mexico 1520 S. Rustle, 455-5134 Days/hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily Prices: lunch, $5; dinner $7-$12 Smoking: non-smoking section Reservations: yes Credit cards: AE. D, MC, V Personal checks: yes