Saturday, December 13, 2008

El Torito Grill

*****El Torito is closed************** (8/23/10)

Before I get into the meat of the review, so to speak, I want to apologize for some random technical problems I have been having this week. First, I apologize to any of you who may have had problems accessing my blog (particularly past reviews) and also to my email and feed subscribers, because for some inexplicable reason, feedburner decided to send out a review from months ago as if it were new (the L’explorateur review). I won’t bore you with the details (that I barely understand anyway), but as hubby says, when you are dealing with a lot of free products, you can’t expect perfection. Hopefully it will be back to normal and there will be no future problems, but if there are, I apologize in advance!

Ok, enough of that. This week, based on a recent recommendation from a friend who says that El Torito Grill is his favorite place to go for margaritas and guacamole, we thought we would give it a try with the kids. Let me say though, that hubby and I had been once before and been pretty underwhelmed. The first time, I had the lobster quesadilla and it was borderline horrible. I expected a quesadilla with some nice hunks of lobster, but what I got was tortillas with some weird mash that was faintly lobster colored and smelled more than a little suspect. (Hubby had the carnitas and quite liked them.) But I figured, maybe they had improved (and I would certainly not order that again, so maybe something else would be better).

We started with some Cadillac margaritas which were pretty good. They brought a shot of Grand Marnier on the side. Apparently you can either do the shot separately or have it poured into the drink (what we both did). I don’t think a margarita would taste right without it, and who really wants to do a shot of something like that? (Or maybe they want to prove to you that there is actually alcohol in the drink.) But, once the shot was in, it tasted good. So I thought, maybe we are off to a better start anyway (the first time I went, I had the house margarita and it was nothing to write home about). We ordered the tableside guacamole because my friend had recommended it, because we really like guacamole, and because we thought it would be entertaining for the kids. It was pretty disappointing on all fronts. First of all, there was no real show to it, and the whole process took like 2 minutes—I did notice at the other table in the room, occupied only by women, that their guacamole maker took a bit longer. But not ours. And the guac itself was very unexciting. I can, and do, make much better at home. It didn’t have much flavor or zip or any real freshness. Also, what is the deal with the chips? They tasted straight out of a grocery store bag (and not the good ones). They weren’t warm and they weren’t overly fresh. Oh, and an FYI, they only bring chips when you order the guacamole—when you are seated you are served warm flour tortillas with butter and a couple of salsas. The tortillas are much better, but something just screams for chips when you are eating guacamole.

Now, I tend to be an optimist when I am eating at a restaurant—I genuinely want to like places. And I was still keeping an open mind at this point. I ordered the shrimp and chicken taquitos for my main course and the shrimp ones weren’t bad, but the chicken ones were not great. They are served with tomatillo-avocado and red pepper dipping sauces. I don’t know what it was, but like I said, I was really trying to like it, but by the time we had finished, I was pretty sure we were never going back. Hubby had the shrimp fajitas and there was certainly nothing special about these either—again, the best thing about them were those same warm tortillas, which incidentally were my kids’ favorite part of the meal too—they ate more of those than anything.

This place bills itself as “upscale Mexican” which I guess it is based on the interior—it is definitely fancier inside than most Mexican restaurants. But based on the food, and the fact that this huge restaurant was nearly empty, I have a feeling this place’s days may be numbered. In fact, I am surprised in this economy it is still open now—the first time we went, which must have been over a year ago, the crowd was the same. And it doesn’t help that our bill was about 4 times what our regular Mexican restaurant costs.

The sad part of the whole thing is that this chain is owned by the same group that owns a West Coast chain of not-so-upscale Mexican restaurants called Chevy’s. Now, Chevy’s is nothing fancy, but the food is so much better—the chips and salsa are great and the guacamole that just came on the side of things was much better too. They pride themselves on fresh ingredients, and nothing from a can. They even had a special a couple times a year in which they served lobster fajitas and the lobster was damn good. And I think it would fly in this market a lot better than El Torito Grill. And believe it or not, this is the first El Torito Grill outside of California. Makes you wonder how they chose Indianapolis.

El Torito Grill
8650 Keystone Crossing
Indy 46240


  1. Wow, that sounds bad enough to make you want to eat at home for the next month.

    fyi - to switch the topic to good Mexican: went to the new Adobo Grill downtown for the first time last night, was really, really good. It's the same menu as the 82nd St location, but the kitchen now seems inspired - and what a difference that makes. Everything we had was perfectly executed, and then you have that spectacular room to cap it off. By far the best dining experience we've had downtown since we've moved to Indy.

  2. I agree with you on the review, as I've had a similar experience each time I've been to El Torito. And speaking of the Guacamole, what is with their addition of cheese to it? Very peculiar.

    As for why they chose Indy, the chain owned the prior restaurant, Keystone Grill, which was a slightly better than average seafood restaurant. After many years, that concept started to lose its luster and they changed it to another of their concepts, El Torito Grill.

  3. If you really want good upscale Mexican food I strongly recommend both Adobo Grill and El Sol de Tala. I would say that an argument for best upscale Mexican can be made for either restaurant. I am, however, a little partial to El Sol because it is locally owned and has been a stalwart of East Washington since the 70's I believe. Enjoy!