Sunday, April 11, 2010

El Potro

When Jeff and I bought our house in Alabaster we were thrilled to discover Two Pesos a mere 3 minute drive from the house. The food was good, cheap, and the place was never very busy. We ate there several times and were generally quite pleased with it. Then, a mere two weeks after we moved and were becoming highly addicted they closed. We were not at all pleased.

Then, about a month ago, a banner went up under the old sign - "coming soon - El Potro mexican restaurant". On the one hand we were quite excited because we thought maybe the same people were opening up under another name and no longer wanted to be associated with the Two Pesos in Pelham. On the other we were a little leary because, although the food was good, the service was not. It wasn't horrible but we did a lot more sitting and waiting, especially for drink refills, than either of us was really happy with. We watched anxiously as a new sign went up and waited for the "coming soon" banner to be replaced with one that said "now open".

Today, our patience was rewarded. On our way out to run errands we noticed the "Now Open" banner and cars in the parking lot. Well, we didn't stop but were excited at the prospect of their being open. We continued about our business, but on the way home the pull was too strong and we had to stop.

We could tell right away that this wasn't a Two Pesos remix and were very excited. The staff was very friendly and efficient. All the servers wore black pants and white golf shirts. Call me crazy, but the appearance of the staff really does play an important part in the whole dining experience. Nobody was sitting at the bar or hanging out in the back just talking and ignoring you if you aren't at "their" table - everyone pitched in getting drinks, more chips, bringing food, etc. It was quite nice!

The food was really tasty! Jeff ordered the Nachos Supremos and I got the Enchiladas Suizas lunch special. Jeff actually ordered a full order of the nachos and only got a half. Thankfully, they only charged for a half and he was very full and happy when he finished anyway so it really worked out for the best. I guess I should have paid closer attention when I was reading the menu because I guess I just assume "chicken" and "green sauce" when I see Enchiladas Suizas on a menu. I did notice the phrase "special sauce" in the description and just moved right along to the fact that it came with both rice and beans. I'm normally not a bean person, but Jeff likes them and it was a new place so I just got them and let Jeff try them. No sense being difficult the first time out! Getting the food out took a bit longer than I would have anticipated, but it was well worth the wait (and when I say longer than I expected, it took about 10 minutes, not a bad wait at all, I'm just used to "instant gratification" Mexican!)

I immediately saw chicken peeking out of the end of one enchilada and green sauce over the top of what seemed like cheese sauce (this must be what they meant by "special sauce"), so I dug in. I was about halfway through my first enchilada when I realized that it didn't have any meat in it, just cheese! Hmm, well I have encountered this in the past. And I didn't really recall seeing the word "chicken" in the description. Oh well, I guess that's what happens when you assume. But there was no mistaking the fact that there was chicken peeking out of one of them. Hmmm. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn't what I was expecting.

I'll admit, I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of my middle enchilada. I had already gobbled up my cheese one (which was very good, by the way) and could clearly see the chicken in the other, so that left two options - beans or beef. Now beans I would have just given to Jeff. But I kind of figured it wouldn't be beans. I was thinking beef. More specifically, ground beef. I don't know why, but ground beef in tacos or most anything else just doesn't do much for me. I figured I could try it and if I didn't like it, pass it off to Jeff and make a note to ask for an extra cheese one next time. So rather than peek, I just cut my next bite. But as I was cutting I was greeted by a sight I was not quite prepared for - SHREDDED beef! My heart did a little happy dance and I couldn't help it and started to grin from ear to ear. Jeff looked at me like I was nuts and just said "What?" and I told him with glee that my enchilada had shredded beef in it. He just rolled his eyes and went back to his nachos. He was not nearly as excited as I was.

I must say, the shredded beef enchilada was the highlight of my lunch. It had lots of great flavor in the meat and was very tender. I was thrilled! Although I know about shredded beef in mexican cuisine, this was my first time to actually try it and I was quite impressed. The other highlight of the visit was the service. Even as they took our plates away, they were offering us more chips. Normally, if we want to sit and chat after we've finished eating we have to BEG for more chips and still get dirty looks for not leaving their precious table before our last bite is even swallowed. I really love that they didn't try to rush us, were attentive, and really did try to give us the best possible service.

Another thing that really intrigued me was their menu. Sure, there are the typical mexican restaurant foods. But there are a few things that you just don't see every day. The first is the fajita baked potato. It makes sense - fajita meat and veggies on top of a baked potato, covered in cheese sauce, and served with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole.
Another one that has me slightly curious and also a little scared is the hawaiian fajitas - pretty standard fajitas, except that it includes pineapple chunks and shredded cheese. We may try that eventually.

But not next time. Next time I will be enjoying two shredded beef quesadillas and a very large margarita!

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