El Tequila (Apple Valley, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
There are two basic styles of Mexican restaurant.
One is the more traditional variety. Think of small perfect tacos consisting of nothing but grilled pork and cilantro folded into a corn tortilla.
The other style is sometimes called Tex-Mex: tacos filled with plenty of meat and cheese, served with rice and beans and sour cream and some iceberg lettuce. Expect every square inch of the large plate to be covered with food.
El Tequila in Apple Valley is a Tex-Mex place.
The combination plates provide nearly every possible permutation of enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, chalupas and more. We found the combinaciones pequeñas (small combinations) to be huge plates, and the combinaciones grandes only a bit larger.
There's nothing special to recommend any of these dishes, but there's nothing wrong with them either. Remember, though, this is Tex-Mex. Don't order a tamale expecting to get cornmeal wrapped in a corn husk. These tamales are unwrapped in the kitchen and smothered in cheese and sauce before serving.
We really liked their chile relleno, which is a green chili pepper stuffed with beef and cheese and then lightly battered and fried. It's not nearly as hot as you might think, and it's very flavorful.
More interesting are the daily specials, which might be pork in a tomato pepper sauce, chicken in a mushroom sauce, or shrimp and rice. The broiled skirt steak we tried was a huge portion of good fresh beef with some onions and peppers served with the requisite refried beans.
Avoid the chicken en mole. Mole is a traditional Mexican chocolate sauce. It's not sweet, and can be rich, complex and fabulous. Unfortunately, the version served here is bland and odd-tasting.
El Tequila serves two interesting shrimp dishes.
The first is camarones Guadalajara, which is shrimp wrapped in bacon and served with grilled onions and bell peppers. It is tasty, but even better is the camarones a la Diabla.
That means shrimp of the devil, meaning in a hot pepper sauce. The server will ask whether you want it hot or medium. We ordered it hot, and it was scorchingly wonderful. Like almost everything else, this dish is served with rice and beans; these help cut the heat.
Although the restaurant is not open for breakfast, it offers two traditional breakfast dishes. Our favorite is chorizo con huevos, which is scrambled eggs mixed with Mexican sausage. The other is the more traditional huevos rancheros, eggs over easy covered in spicy red sauce. Both come, of course, with rice and beans.
There are some desserts. We liked the sopapilla, which is a fried tortilla topped with sugar, cinnamon, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Like so many family-owned restaurants in the southern suburbs, El Tequila is in a strip mall. The restaurant is small, but brightly colored and brightly lit. And there is another restaurant with the same name, owners, and menu, farther south, in Northfield.
Location: 7538 149th St. W. Apple Valley, 952-432-1567
Atmosphere: Brightly lit
Service: Friendly and efficient
Sound level: Not too noisy
Alcohol: No, despite the name
Prices: Entrees $7 $10
Children: Small $3.75 children's menu
Handicapped access: Yes
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