South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 226-0105, elmexicanorestaurant.com.
Serving lunch 11-3 daily, dinner 3-10 daily. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $11 (tacos platter) to $20.50 (Mexican-style
wary of noting trends inarea eateries, but can’t help but
note that this is Saratoga’s fifth Mexican restaurant. The
city’s Hispanic population swells during track season, but
these restaurants are year-round operations. So I draw no
conclusions, but hope that this south-of-the-border-inspired
efflorescence keeps the standards high for all concerned.
There’s certainly little to complain about based on my recent
visit to El Mexicano, which occupies the former South Broadway
home of Chianti (and a fast-food joint before that). Brighter
and more spacious than its predecessor, El Mexicano is the
second so-named place opened and operated by the Vazquez family,
who hail from the mid-Mexican town of San Pedro Ocotlán.
After working for many years near New York City, they opened
their own restaurant in Hudson Falls, adding the Saratoga
location about a year ago. Gabino Vazquez, one of the owners,
is also responsible for the colorful wall murals throughout
the restaurant, illustrating scenes from his native country’s
There are dining areas indoors and out, but we chose the former
in pursuit of cooler air. We were served the requisite chips
and salsa as we looked over the dinner menu, which has as
its most familiar grouping a series of seven combination platters
($14-$15) that give you a taco, chimichanga and burrito or
a taco, enchilada and tamale or a taco, burrito and enchilada
or . . . you get the picture. Each comes with rice and beans.
The magic word that caught my eye was mole. That’s
a thick, dark sauce made from ground peppers and seeds and
finished with unsweetened chocolate, a labor-intensive item
that appears all too rarely on area Mexican menus. Enchiladas
mole poblano ($15) are chicken-filled corn tortillas topped
with the sauce in question, and it proved to be that elusive
ménage à trois of bitter and sweet and rich. It’s presented
nicely, if predictably, on a plate with its expected companions:
soupy beans and tomato-hued rice. The menu promises that nothing
is spicy unless so requested, and so I requested it. And,
of course, I have nothing to compare it to, but it was still
not terribly adventurous.
But when I initially mentioned my desire for more heat, a
server brought me a pair of little bottles, each a habanero
pepper-based salsa. For good measure, they threw in a dish
of chopped jalapeños.
The starters include the usual fare of nachos, quesadillas
(three) and guacamole ($8 apiece), with less-common stuff
like shrimp ceviche (a for-two portion, $10.50), chilaquiles
(fried tortilla strips covered with your choice of toppings,
$10), and the one I selected, queso derretido con chorizo
($8), a dish of melted Oaxacan cheese with sausage swimming
therein and a side of soft tortillas with which to navigate
the stuff. It was fondue-like in its intensity, and I sampled
it over the ray-gun glare of my daughter, who now studies
the fat and carbohydrate contents of everything she eats and
has decided to extend this study Dadward.
Three soups include black bean, chicken and meatball ($6 apiece).
The non-combo platters explore different ingredients. You
can get chicken or pork in the preparation of your choice,
for instance, and several preparations of shrimp.
If you want to leave the taco-burrito-enchilada world behind,
a couple of dozen dinner specials await, all priced in the
$20 range, featuring preparations of beef, shrimp, chicken
and pork. Sarape is described as a shell steak sautéed
in garlic and topped with refried beans; the fiesta de
camarones gives you shrimp in three styles (grilled, breaded,
served in a white sauce); nino envueltos stuffs steak
with cheese and bacon and won’t be on my daughter’s diet anytime
soon. She had the pollo poblano, which stuffs sautéed
chicken into a couple of big sweet poblano peppers and tops
them with tomato sauce and cheese, rice and beans on either
side. She marshaled her portion and suggested I do the same
Service was very attentive. A succession of waiters strolled
the length of the room, always checking tables, which is a
rarity among area restaurants. And there were some nice touches
offered, like the complimentary appetizer of a small cheese
quesadilla and the surprise dessert (we otherwise wouldn’t
have ordered any) of a sweet chimichanga that I munched under
the glower of the across-the-table Argus.
Each of the area’s Mexican restaurants has a different-enough
menu and personality to satisfy your various shades of Mexican-meal
craving. El Mexicano is low-key and low-priced, and serves
high-quality food within its well-defined range, thus serving
a useful purpose in Saratoga’s downtown.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s 11th
annual fundraising event, “A Little Bit of Jazz
& More,” will take place from 5:30 to 8 today
(Thursday, April 29) in the Fenimore Gallery at
Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady).
The “more” part of the proceedings includes a
cornucopia of food, including a carving station
with turkey breast and roast beef, a pasta station,
an hors d’oeuvres display and, if you don’t want
to fetch your food, circulating trays with even
more hors d’oeuvres, including sesame chicken,
a Mediterranean artichoke tart, shrimp Wellington,
spanakopita and more. There will be complimentary
beer and wine and Chocolates by Lindt. The jazz
part is a performance by Colleen Pratt and Friends.
The event includes a benefit drawing with a choice
of a $500 gift card at either Town TV or Empress
Travel, and gift baskets sponsored by the Schenectady
Day Nursery Board of Directors. Reservations are
$50 per person or $100 for honorary committee
status, and may be made by calling Jim Kalohn
at 894-6305. . . . Remember to pass your scraps