El Patio Cantina and Grill (Lakeville, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune South
April 11, 2007

We found the best Mexican food in the south metro.

The food isn't like the Mexican food you'll find on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Most of El Patio's dishes aren't overly spicy and generally don't include traditional seasonings such as cilantro. But the food is well made, the flavors are complex, and a lot of it is delicious.

El Patio offers the recognizable Mexican standards: tacos, burritos, enchiladas. They're available alone or in combination dinners, served with very good seasoned rice and pretty good refried beans. These dishes are a little ordinary. But move to the "Especialidades" and the "Seafood" portions of the menu, and you'll see where the restaurant really shines.

You can't go wrong with any dish containing shrimp. These are delicately cooked, fantastically fresh little morsels, not the rubbery, tough, old-tasting disappointments we've all had too often. They've got the least hint of spice to them and are marvelous. Try the chimichanga de cameron, topped with a tasty cheese sauce.

We loved the enchorizadas: four enchiladas of corn tortillas wrapped around homemade chorizo sausage and served with a light cheese sauce that was the perfect soothing counterpoint to the spice of the meat. Also wonderful was the spicy chile colorado, strips of steak cooked in dense and spicy red chile sauce served with tortillas.

El Patio serves fajitas, of course. We liked the fajitas rancheras, an amazing combination of everything: beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo and a lot of vegetables, all heaped on a sizzling skillet and served with a lot of accompaniments. It's a dazzling meal, not as heavily greasy as fajitas too often are, and the dish is easily enough for a couple. The double portions are even larger.

Most everyone leaves El Patio with a take-out box. The portions are that huge. But you can make a meal from the a la carte menu as well. We especially liked the tamales, which weren't too heavy, and the flautas, tortillas wrapped around your choice of meats and deep fried.

El Patio has a full bar, and serves delicious margaritas as well as Mexican and American beers. They have a 2-for-1 special Monday through Wednesday from 4-8 p.m.

Finally, we're happy to report that the rest of El Patio is as good as the food. The wait staff is friendly and attentive and actually cares that you have a good time. The food comes out quickly and arrives hot. And the prices are cheap for what you get; most entrees are under $10. Even the fajitas, enough to feed two, are only $12. Go to lakevilleliving.com, and you'll even find a 10 percent-off coupon.

The Twin Cities is filled with mediocre Mexican restaurants, and El Patio stands out as a delicious exception. Lakeville is lucky to have this local eatery that so obviously cares about its food -- how it looks and certainly how it tastes.

El Patio Cantina and Grill

Location: 17557 Glasgow Ave, Lakeville, MN 55044
Phone: 952-432-8811
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 11am-10:30pm; Sun: 11am-9pm
Atmosphere: Nice family restaurant
Service: Fast and friendly
Sound level: Lively
Recommended dishes: Fajitas, chimichanga de camaron, enchoriradas
Prices: Entrees $8–$12
Children: Basic children's menu available

earlier review: Willie's Wine Bar & Cuisine (Minneapolis, MN)
later review: Taiko (Mounds View, MN)
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