Last night I went for dinner with the lovely AliAss. I haven't seen her for a super long time so I was really excited.
For me, the worst part of meeting up with people for dinner is always choosing what restaurant to go to. Always the game of "what do you feel like", "I don't care, you pick", "wherever is fine". To avoid this, and because I know how Ali feels about Excel, I created a spreadsheet. Math! On the X axis the type of venue: Casual, Hipster or Hole in the Wall. On the Y axis the cuisine: Exotic or North American. Then I divided it up to New restaurants that I haven't been to but want to try, and tried and true restaurants. The third chart was our standby of Pho, her place or mine (the Green Bamboo in Burnaby. Seriously awesome Pho). For example: Tried/Exotic/Hole in the Wall: Sha Lin Noodles. Great way to pick the restaurant. I am going to keep the chart in the car. That is where we have the worst time trying to remember restaurants to eat in.
She chose: New/Exotic/Hole in the Wall: El Barrio. Turns out it was new for me but she had been there in the past. Mexican is always a good choice for me. I have driven by El Barrio on Hastings for some time and it looked cool. The reviews for it are fairly positive. I love a Hole in the Wall.
It was: Okay. They have a small stage in the back because they seem to have entertainment nights with bands, open mics etc. We came on Spanish Movie night which consisted of playing a Spanish movie on TV that was set up right behind our table. Fun, but loud. The restaurant is really set up well for large groups with communal tables that could sit around 8-10. It was a bit more expensive than I had expected with the mains being between $13-17. Very nice selection on the menu. Most items had the option of meats (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp) or a veggie option. Our waiter was either new or really timid.
I had the (from the menu description) Torta Ahogada. Choice of Beef, chicken, por or vegetarian, topped with your choice of salsas roja, verde or mole, topped with our cheese blend drizzled with crema fresca served with salad curtido and potatoes. $13.95
After many changes, I chose the combo Chicken Mole. I appreciate the options, but sometimes I think it better to just offer one.
The good: the mole and chicken tasted fantastic. I love a good mole, and this was good. The sauce in the spoon was spicy and had quite a heat.
The bad: mine was obviously done way before AliAss' and was sitting under the heat lamp too long. The sauce had cooked onto the plate and the cheese and crema fresca were hardened. The salad was just the box mix topped with pickled cabbage. Not even any dressing. The potatoes were deep fried hash browns.
Aliass had: Pollo on Chipotle- A grilled chicken breast topped with our home made chipotle sauce, served with tortilla crisps. $15.95
She said it tasted great and the black beans and veggies on the bottom were really good. I was a bit jealous.
Would I go back? Maybe if La Taqueria or Las Banditas were full.