As a native New Mexican, I often crave some of the foods I grew up eating, such as tacos, beans and rice and spicy salsa. I realize that the southwest Mexican cuisine that is found in southern New Mexico can not be duplicated, but I can’t help but try and give my taste buds something to water about.
My husband and I decided to try El Mazatlan Authentic Mexican Restaurant located at 1525 Tullamore Street in Mankato. I didn’t set up any high hopes, but I at least wanted something tasty. I have been to a variety of places in Minneapolis and St. Paul when we lived in that area, that we thought were decent. I figured since there has been an influx of Hispanics in southern Minnesota over the past few years, there may be some hope for something good.
Prior reviews seemed hopeful, and after asking an Hispanic co-worker, I decided to choose this restaurant over Bonita Guadalajara in North Mankato and immediately bypassed the supposed-watered down Mexican Village on Madison Avenue in Mankato.
I was told El Mazatlan was the spiciest of the three. We arrived shortly after the restaurant opened on a Tuesday morning after 11 a.m. My first impression was the smell. It was a mixture of cleaning products and fried tortillas. The walls were painted brightly with neon green paint and Mexican music blared through the building.
The smell was a little nauseating, but we sat down at our booth and were serviced quickly, which was a plus. I was excited to hear that they offered Jarritos Mexican soda pop, and even in my favorite flavor, pina (pineapple).
We started with some guacamole as an appetizer, which looked a little thin and was filled mostly with onions. I don’t think it was freshly made. The chips and salsa arrived before that, and thought the salsa was very tasty. I could taste the fresh cilantro. However, there really wasn’t any spice to kick to you it. The chips were nice and crisp too.
For our main entrees, my husband chose a dish that included three chicken enchiladas each with a different sauce (red and green). He thought it was good, but lacked spice. He felt it was “watered down” for the locals who aren’t used to “real” Mexican food. I felt the same way about my entree, but wouldn’t call it good as he did. I got a combination plate that included a beef taco, a beef enchilada with red sauce and refried beans and rice. The taco was comparable to Taco Bell, and the enchilada was basically ground beef wrapped in a corn tortilla with tomato sauce. I didn’t much care for the flavor of the rice either. I did think the beans had a nice flavor to them. I had to force it all down.
My husband asked the waitress if they would spice up our food if we asked in the future, and she said yes. I don’t know if he offended her, but when it was time for dessert (we both decided we wanted dessert), the waitress returned with our check and said ,”have a nice day,” to say the least. So dessert was never offered and we didn’t object. We paid our bill, which came out to $23 plus a tip (affordability is another plus).
Over all, I would not return. While the restaurant has a nice large selection of menu items and the service was quick (we ordered and ate in less than a half hour I would say), the food just isn’t worth it, especially if you are used to more “authentic” cuisine.
Some amenities I noticed that might be a plus for future guests included handicapped accessible restrooms, baby changing tables in the restrooms, two flat-screen TVs in the main eating area, and a kids’ menu. While my husband and I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, I was told El Mazatlan makes good margaritas.