1520 South Dayton Place
Ames, IA 50010-6438
Chips and Salsa (Appetizer free)
Cheese Quesadilla (Chloe)
Fajita Quesadilla (Tress)
Two Diet Cokes and a kids milk
$29 (Tax and tip included)
Grade: 1 Spoon, 1 Knife
We have been by this fare at least twice a week for the last five years or so, having never made it in to see what it’s all about. A couple friends of ours swore up and down it was the best ever! As it turned out these we meet these friends at el Azteca to take care of a few business items.
Ambiance: Previous posts have noted that there have been many Mexican entrepreneurs that will buy a restaurant building that went out of business (Family Tables, Pizza Hut, in this case an old old Happy Chef) and transform it into a successful authentic Mexican resturante. El Azteca is no exception, as folks visiting who have been to a Happy Chef at one point in their lives will recognize the building design and some hints as to what the building was originally built for. Aside from that, the building was jazzed up in the a typical Latin American fashion that made you feel as though you took a step south of the border. We showed up a opening time, and the musica was blaring, but it was turned down within a few minutes. There were colored incandescent light bulbs throughout the dining area that probably would have enhanced the experience had we been there in the evening hours.
Menu/Price: Most Mexican fares have relatively inexpensive lunch menus or combos that can get you in and out for less than $7. For whatever reason, the lunch menu does not exist on the weekends at el Azteca. You can still get combo meals at a moderate price, but we decided to try a specialized dinner as the price was not much more. Expect about $10 a person taking this route, but there is plenty to choose from. I am a bit of a Chipotle fan so I went that route. Tress and Chloe got similar items that they always get at each Mexican restaurant we go to. The menu’s were bound in a nice leather that felt like an oversized new wallet, just thought I would through that in there.
Meal: Chips and salsa were pretty standard and pretty mediocre. They were not bad by any means, they just was not anything to get excited about even after adding massive amounts of salt (not recommended for folks on a low sodium diet… just sayin’). The rice and beans that came with both of our dishes we’re also mediocre. Chloe’s quesadilla must have been good because she gobbled it up pretty quickly, but at the same time maybe she was hungry. Normally I try a bit of her’s to make sure it’s good but she took to it before I could. However it looked good! I did not try any of Tress’s either as it also looked good but, I was mostly focused on my chipotle chicken that defiantly had a chipotle sauce on it with great flavor but it was drowning whatever spices might have been on the chicken. I am thinking I got more sauce than is supposed to be there. What I don’t know is if the sauce is always like this, because it was like a cream soup being poured over the chicken. Don’t miss read any of this as it was bad sauce, it was great. There was just a lot left over.
Service: Since we we’re the first customers in the door for the day we had really good service. I did like the appearance that the wait staff had as they were in a nice shirt and nice slacks. I think the host (who seated us and processed our bill) was in a tie as well. The one thing that kind of bugged me that was not a big deal in any way was it was implied that I knew Spanish. I know enough to be dangerous, but normally I let others know this by braving the circumstances. Our waiter started in Spanish with me right off the bat! I don’t recall that ever happening elsewhere.
Overall: I honestly think that over time after some move visits they might graduate to a 1 Fork 1 Spoon rating, and I do believe we will visit again (probably sooner than a year). However if we don’t, my gut says 1 Spoon, 1 Knife as I had high expectations based off of our friends comments.