El Loro (Savage, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
We think Mexican food makes a great winter meal. Not the simple and minimalist dishes developed in the Mexican climate, but the heartier Tex-Mex style with lots of sauce and side dishes. The platter completely covered with food: that's what will get you through a cold day.
At El Loro, your meal starts off with a bowl of fresh hot corn chips with dip. The tomato salsa is tasty, but the white dip is not. Think ranch dressing with cumin, and not very good ranch dressing at that.
But don't let that slight hiccup dissuade you. El Loro has an extensive menu, and a lot of it is good.
Lunch is hearty, filling, and cheap. About $5 gets you any of eleven different combination plates. We liked the burritos and the enchiladas. The cheese quesadilla was bland, and the tamale was chewy and flavorless.
Dinner entrees are a mixed bag. Try the Chile Colorado. It's a plate of quick-fried beef tips in a flavored tomato sauce, and comes with rice, refried beans, and tortillas. We also liked the Chilaquiles Mexicanos, which is a plate of chicken chunks cooked with tortilla strips, served in a tomato-based sauce with cheese on top. Both dishes were rich, filling, and surprisingly cheap.
We recommend the tomatillo sauce served over the Enchiladas Verdes; it's flavorful and tasty. The brown mole sauce served over the Enchiladas Poblanas was not complex enough. It tasted thin. Somewhere in the middle is the standard red sauce that's served over the Enchiladas Rojas and so many other dishes. It's not great, but there's nothing wrong with it, either.
We tried the Steak Ranchero. This is a thin steak cooked with ranchero sauce and served with rice and beans. Nothing could disguise this poor cut of meat, and it was served well-done when we'd ordered it rare.
It's a long menu. You can order shrimp, beef, chicken, or sausage, or mixed fajitas. You can order one of several varieties of quesadilla. (We liked the quesadillas with chorizo sausage better than the ones with chicken or beef.) You can order a lunch of tacos, burritos, tamales, chalupas, and all the rest in any of thirty different combination platters. The plain but filling Meat Rice Soup will keep you warm all day and set you back just $3.00.
El Loro has a full bar, and offers a variety of domestic and Mexican beers. Their margaritas are only okay, but they're 16 ounces and only $4–$3 during lunch. The daiquiris are more expensive, and not as tasty. Avoid the wine.
Mixed reviews are the hardest for us to write. Some of these dishes are good, and some aren't. We can talk about the things we ordered on our visits, but for anything else you're on your own. But the food is hearty and filling, and the prices are low enough that it's okay to experiment.
And during the long Minnesota winter, hearty and filling is often what we're looking for.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc.