Wichita is lucky to have numerous local options when one is craving Mexican food. Those many restaurant options can roughly be broken into two categories: traditional and Tex-Mex. At the more traditional places you will find simple tacos, tortas, rich chile sauces, chunky homemade salsa, and fresh tortillas. At Tex-Mex places you get your taco covered with cheese and lettuce, lots of ground beef, enchiladas smothered in sauce, and more cheese. Both of them have their place and offer equally delicious fare.
El Mexico Cafe, located on Seneca just south of Pawnee, is a straight up old school Tex-Mex joint. The inside of the restaurant has plenty of seating in two dining areas, but doesn’t really have the feel of your typical Mexican restaurant. Instead of telenovelas on TV you get college basketball(which I’m not complaining about). The music being piped in was unique as well, as it was the first time I have listened to Jim Croce while eating at a Mexican restaurant.
The menu is a greatest hits of the Tex-Mex cuisine with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and monterreys all featured. While we decided what order, chips and two bottles of salsa were quickly brought out to us. The salsa at El Mexico is the smooth and thin variety with oregano being the dominant flavor. It was decent, but nothing all that amazing. They do sell it by the pint if it’s your cup of tea though.
On our visit we ordered the Seneca Sampler which consisted of a cheese enchilada with chile con carne, chile verde, a taco, and rice and beans. We also ordered the Mexican Plate which included two cheese enchiladas, a taco, and rice and beans. Our son got one of his favorites, a bean burrito. Despite being fairly busy, our food came out after only a short wait. The enchiladas certainly lived up
to their billing of being smothered. They were swimming in beefy and cheesy chile con carne. The chile based sauce was typical of what you would find at many places had good chile flavor. The enchilada itself featured plenty of melted cheese rolled into a corn tortilla. The pork chile verde should have been called chile rojo, because it was red not green like a typical VERDE sauce should be. I’m not sure if there was some mistake or if that if how they serve their verde sauce. Color aside, it was an average dish. The chunks of pork were small and not as tender as other places, while the sauce itself lacked the complex flavors that a chile verde should have. The fried tacos were good, but there was an inordinate amount of shredded Velveeta cheese sprinkled on top. I found substituting some the cheese for salsa helped balance out the taco. The rice and beans that came with our meal were decent, but nothing spectacular. Our son devoured about half of the bean burrito and the other half ended up on his face or the floor. I always feel bad for whoever has to bus our table at restaurants.
The service at El Mexico was some of the best I have had in quite some time. Our server was very friendly and quick to refill chips and drinks. If you are a fan of Americanized Mexican food El Mexico can offer you a fix in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. They also have $4.99 margarita specials and have won several Wichita Eagle Reader’s Choice awards, some of which I would beg to differ with.