Let's just get one thing out of the way up front – I am not the biggest fan of suburban tacos. I know it probably comes off like I'm a Mexican food elitist or something. It's just that I'm really particular about my Mexican. However, I have been to El Charro Restaurante Mexicano on more than one occasion. And it's been delicious every time. Why and how? I'd love to say you could point to one specific reason – maybe it's the jalapenos they use, maybe they refry their beans three times, do they use Kobe beef in their shredded beef tacos? One thing does not make for a successful restaurant – especially one that specializes in a cuisine that can so easily go wrong.
Delia Martin and her husband opened the original El Charro, very nearby the current Fraser "headquarters" location, back in 1971 (the current Fraser location has been open since 1993). Delia's father was a professional chef and her mother was both Mexican as well as a fantastic cook (great combination, by the way). She grew up surrounded by fantastic foods. And, just as she learned culinary superbness from her family, she has incorporated that into El Charro. And not just her own family, either. Sure, her grandson Eddie has a huge hand in the current and future endeavors of the company. But the entire staff – from cooks to wait staff – are personally invested in this endeavor. In fact, they have generations of family members who have worked for them. One of their main cooks has been around for over 20 years. These are all things that point to the fact that, besides having delicious food, they are amongst the few folks running an establishment the right way. And judging by their loyal customer base, it's kind of a no-brainer.
Now on to the food! The thing that has to be mentioned above all else when considering the food at El Charro are their taco shells. These aren't the unnaturally yellow, hard shell Ortego monstrosities. These are a hybrid of a soft tortilla and a hard shell, uniquely puffy and just plain delicious. They could fill these things with toxic waste and I'd still try to throw three of them down my fat gullet. But my money is on the shredded beef. You can tell it's fresh beef, as it tastes exactly like seasoned, shredded beef is supposed to. They're exquisite. I would also recommend throwing a dollup or two of their fantastic guacamole on there as well (which is also a fantastic appetizer, alongside their awesome cheese fondue – melted cheese, wine and jalapeno with sliced strips of their unique puffy taco shells).
The beautiful thing about El Charro is that is the least pretentious and intimidating establishment I've been to in years. It has all the tried-and-true Mexican dishes that you know and love, so whoever you are, you'll find something delicious on the menu. But it also has adventurous drinks and apps and entrees too. Try their sangria, it's house-made and delicious. Or maybe a frozen Swirl, their combo of sangria and margarita. They also just introduced a hot commodity in the alcohol department – the Beerita (as if the name wasn't obvious, it's a margarita with a beer stuck upside down in it, a ridiculously delicious and novel concept).
So, if you're not convinced by El Charro's awesome menu and fantastic drink offerings, the least you can do is support the fantastic work ethic, integrity and love with which they've built this slew of fine Mexican restaurants (there are currently four locations, for the record – Saint Clair Shores, the new location in Troy, Macomb and the main branch in Fraser). And in light of this being another fantabulous Decks & Patios issue of ours, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out their beautiful and intimate patio area. Go forth and enjoy! | RDW