We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“We were shocked, it was *that* fresh and delicious”
Review of El Chico Cafe

El Chico Cafe
Ranked #29 of 82 Restaurants in Mountain Home
Price range: $10 - $15
Cuisines: Mexican, Bar
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Large groups
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Description: We are open late and can easily accommodate large groups. We have ample parking (boats, buses, RV's welcome)and have a great kids menu selection (Mac and Cheese, chicken strips, burgers, etc.) and a many American items to please everyone in the group. We have a full bar with the best margaritas in town. We hope you'll join us!El Chico Cafe provides an upscale dining experience, serving top-quality Mexican food favorites with fresh, new specialties of today. Conveniently located on Hwy 412/62 bypass in front of Home Depot and across from WalMart Supercenter.A Mexican food tradition since 1940 has grown into more than 75 restaurants, including more than 25 franchise locations. The El Chico story began when Adelaida Cuellar's homemade tamales drew huge crowds at a small county fair in 1926. Her sons opened a cafe in Dallas,following their mother's recipes for enchiladas with chile con carnesauce. Today, El Chico is still serving top-quality Mexican food favorites with fresh new specialties of today.
Reviewed January 24, 2013

My husband and I have traveled the world over many times and lived in many different countries as well as various US states, we're hard-core "foodies" who have dined in some of the finest (and worst!) restaurants on the planet, and I would just like to say that the lunch we had today at El Chico in Mountain Home, Arkansas was truly outstanding.
We've unfortunately had some very bad luck with restaurants all over both Baxter and Marion Counties, and eventually learned what most of the locals know: if you want to eat wonderful food it's better to take the time to prepare them yourself at home then risk putting something unsavory and generally tasteless into your mouth from a restaurant around here that costs twice as much as it would to make it at home. Yet we needed to go to Home Depot around lunch time and after picking up some essential building supplies, we were pretty hungry. The closest place to eat: El Chico Cafe, just across the parking lot from Home Depot.
We'd passed it dozens of times since moving to this area 18 months ago, and habitually avoided it under the assumption that it would be just as bad as a few other Mexican restaurants that we've tried locally. But today we were desperately hungry after falling down on time management (hey, we really needed rebar ASAP to complete a project before sunset) and therefore cautiously ventured into El Chico. Right away it was a pleasant surprise with the very professional decor, clean carpets, large flatscreen TVs in the bar area set to close-captioning so not to interrupt conversations, a friendly hostess who asked if we'd like a table or a booth by the window, so after running around Home Depot it was very nice.
Then upon hearing that we'd never been to El Chico before, our server James politely claimed that they make all of their recipes from scratch and suggested that we try their guacamole, which he would prepare for us tableside. The guacamole photo on the menu did look delicious, but we opted for a Cabo shrimp cocktail shooter instead... to be followed with a sampler of five different styles of enchiladas and an order of beef skirt steak fajitas.
Now, the first test for any Mexican cafe always starts with the chips and especially the salsa. The salsa was somewhat mild (personally I like it a lot hotter but heat can always be adjusted to accommodate personal preferences) and tasted very fresh indeed, that salsa certainly didn't come out of a can. There are many versions of tortilla chips, these were thin and clearly fried, but also crisp plus not overly salted or greasy.
The Cabo shrimp cocktail shooter then arrived first and it was simply awesome! Unlike most establishments that try to get away with mixing catsup and horseradish for their cocktail sauce, somebody inside the El Chico kitchen had really gone the distance by flavoring their sauce with the perfect amount of fresh cilantro and chopped onion to merely compliment the plump cold shrimp. Cilantro can be pretty powerful stuff (my husband generally avoids it while I love it), while it ended up being no more than a tasty accent to the shrimp cocktail today, subtle and very good. The only fix to the very positive Cabo shrimp shooter experience could have been an optional order of minced Jalapeno peppers on the side, which I didn't think of at the time (my husband doesn't like things as hot as I do so El Chico was right in not increasing the heat in their base recipe, it was strictly my bad for not asking for Jalapenos to adjust an otherwise perfect appetizer to my own personal tastes).
Our plates arrived before we were even finished discussing the shrimp cocktail, great timing since it's never good to wait forever between an appetizer and the main course. It was great to see that every one of the enchiladas on my plate was sitting up straight and fluffy in the row between the rice and refried beans, no flat "road-kill" deflated enchiladas with overbaked tortillas that automatically turn to mush in a sea of nasty canned cheese sauce as so common in most Mexican restaurants in America.
Now, I'll admit that I initially was skeptical about the idea of having baked guacamole on my enchilada sampler plate. In my mind, avocados should never be heated or cooked, they should only be served cold in salads or dip or just by themselves. But, the guacamole enchilada sample really worked for me! Bright fresh avocado flavor with slightly lemony notes, excellently seasoned without being overpowering, and as it turns out serving it hot instead of cold didn't mean mushy or discolored at all.
There were a lot of flavor contrasts on my plate that I thought would probably clash, but that didn't happen after all. The spicy beef stood on it's own, while the chicken enchilada next door proved to have very tender chicken breast chunks inside without any gristle. I'm not sure exactly what the other two enchilada samples were and they seem to share the same mole-style sauce, but at that point I didn't care about the details since it was all really delicious.
Finally, my husband Gordon handed over a forkful of his steak fajita. The skirt steak was tender and a bit smokey in a nice way, and although apparently grilled one would think it came off a wood-chip barbeque somewhere outside.
BOTTOM LINE: this was the very best restaurant meal we've had in our 18 months of living here in Arkansas, we've missed having very fine foods in restaurants since our arrival but were extremely impressed with El Chico! The service, food, cleanliness, and overall ambiance were very well worth every penny, and the next time that we need some re-bar, nuts, bolts, and assorted building from Home Depot we'll certainly be glad to make the dreaded trek "all the way over there" with a lot more enthusiasm - since next time, we'll have another lunch at the El Chico Cafe to really look forward to!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank ChrisFCucullu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review
Reviews (107)
There are newer reviews for El Chico Cafe
See the most recent reviews
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
Language

94 - 98 of 107 reviews

Reviewed September 28, 2012

Food and surroundings good. Average for the usual Mexican places to eat. Just couldn't believe they didn't serve Dr.Pepper or at least Mr. Pibb!!! We ordered guacamole and the waitress brought all of the ingredients tableside for mixing the ingredients. ( When they bring food out to prepare in the dining area, the manager should have the servers wear disposable gloves.) It was very good. We had the chicken enchilada with sour cream sauce on top with rice and beans. The waitress was very sweet, keeping the hot chips coming and keeping our glasses filled.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank lkysmyl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 28, 2012

Excellent service, delicious food, great timing. Four day business event with breakfast, lunch, refreshments served.

1  Thank Joshua G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 4, 2012

I recently went here with a business colleague. I am used to having really good mexican food being from Texas. El Chico didn't disappoint. Fairly authentic in my opinion. The blanco queso was good for a starter. I went with the 3 taco dinner and had 1 brisket and 2 beef fajita. The beef fajita were by far the better. Beans were good and the rice was average. Not home, but a nice alternative when away.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank TexasTrecker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 14, 2012

Great Margaritas...food not so much. The manager kept coming around and talking to everyone. I saw him way more than our waitress.

Thank Tara C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed El Chico Cafe also viewed

Mountain Home, AR
Mountain Home, AR
 
Mountain Home, AR
 

Been to El Chico Cafe? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing