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El Charro

El Charro Lincoln Ne

located a block south of 9th and O street

Mexican food places can be found all over Lincoln. They range from drive thru’s to sit down restaurants. Differences are also found in the styles offered from place to place. I have done a couple of months testing different Mexican eateries, and I always keep coming back to El Charro. Many popular places have Americanized their meals for the bland American palate, not El Charro. I will fill you in on what makes this place worth visiting again and again, including: the food, atmosphere, drinks, and service.

For a good restaurant it should all be about the food. For El Charro this is where they truly shine. The menu consists of the traditional Mexican fare you can find in any restaurant with a Mexican theme. From enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, to tostadas, nothing stands out of the ordinary. With many reliable selections and combination plates, you are sure to find something to satisfy your taste buds. Although you are able to order those familiar entrées, you will be pleasantly surprised by the rich complex flavors that their offerings provide.

Authentic is the central theme here, and it tastes like your Mexican grandmother prepared it for you. All of the food is made from scratch, with an attention to creating complex flavorful tastes. Even the refried beans are made with chilies, spices, and other vegetables mixed in to create a rounded flavor. Often places have basic salsa’s that are just tomato flavored, slightly spiced, watery concoctions. El Charro’s salsa is a mild, thick, cilantro filled taste extravaganza. One of my favorite meals is the enchiladas charras. I usually go with the chicken, although you can choose from beef and cheese as well. The enchiladas are wrapped with soft corn tortillas, filled with tender meat, and topped with a rich red sauce that has onions, chilies, and tomato chunks mixed right in. With the expected sides of refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, and above ordinary fried rice, you will be satisfied. Not often will I even waste my tummy space on fried rice, yet El Charro’s is well above average. A few extra ingredients and moist fluffy rice add an unexpected amount of flavor to this usually bland side, making it deserving of your tummy real estate. Even the usually spicy choices do not try to over power the flavor that good spices can bring. An example of this is the chili rellenos. A bell pepper filled with cheese and other fillings, fried in an egg batter, and covered with a rich, dark, and spicy sauce. It has the heat that you would expect, with out making you reach for your water. The food is so well made that you forget about the lack of atmosphere.

Once you step in to the restaurant, you might think twice before sticking around for a meal. They have not made much effort in the decorating department. White walls, tables and booths make everything very bright. The walls have a few very cheesy looking pictures and decorations. The restrooms are a little nicer and rather large to accommodate the large bar area. Even their menus are just laminated paper with a non creative design. The meager appearance does have one good advantage, it keeps the prices low. Other than just being a restaurant, El Charro has other amenities to entice you.
Looking for a night out on the town? You will find food, as well as entertainment here. An almost resort like bar greets you on the side opposite the restaurant. The bar is like a beach hut, made out of bamboo with a thatch roof. If you are in the mood to dance, they have a stage for bands and a large dance floor. Pool tables, video games, and seating will make you feel comfortable hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere and staff.

Although Mexican food can be a little pricey at some restaurants, you do not always get the quality you pay for. Here the prices are reasonable if not downright cheap. And the portions and quality will never make you feel ripped off. The only thing that disappointed me in the value department, were the margaritas. Most chain’s and well established places really push their huge premium margaritas that deliver a lot of alcoholic punch as well. The margaritas here are rather small and not that impressive, so if you are looking to “get your groove on” I would head somewhere else. At least the drinks are served with a smile.

The service here is just enough to keep you happy. This is a family venture and the whole family pitches in to serve you. Even the owner’s children help with cleaning tables. All of the server’s are bilingual to make ordering easy. During busy times they are a little under staffed which can be annoying, especially at lunch. The food is served rather quickly though, and refills of chips, salsa, and drinks are usually taken care of before you have to ask. Alajandra, one of the owners, served tables right up to the day before giving birth to their new baby boy, and was back within a week. Needles to say they are here to serve you well.

If you are looking for authentic Mexican food as well as a fun environment, I would highly recommend El Charro. You will be treated and fed well by a great family that makes your dining experience enjoyable as well as affordable. Once you look past the plain environment, you will be pleasantly surprised.

El Charro Lincoln Ne

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