While the affable red exterior easily lures hungry passersby, the old building’s main entrance is a bit confusing with an adjacent street-facing exit-only door—but your friends’ attempts at entering through a knob-less door will make for good table-side conversation. The interior is somewhere in between grandma’s house with fake plants sitting upon randomly placed shelves and an old cantina filled with strings of chili-shaped lights and beer flags—also good for conversation, but not much else. Boasting in the entry way are the recognitions received by the restaurant through its many years of operation along with magazines and advertisements, taking away roughly from the homey feel that lured you in to begin with.
But after being quickly seated (as there’s rarely a wait) at the reasonably sized table better described as a booth, fears of a bad experience are calmed as the cozy feeling sets back in and the twinkling chili lights remind you of Christmas. The place is fairly quiet and not nearly half full on a Wednesday night at dinner time with people almost constantly coming and going. The staff is eager to serve, quickly bringing waters and drinks and constantly checking in to see if “you’re ready yet,” but don’t be fooled because once you order, the server is off and on to the next big thing . . . or table.
The menu has many traditional and predictable Mexican dishes to offer at generous prices—note a three-item combo plate for roughly $10. Among the items offered a la carte and as a combo plate (which comes with beans, rice and your choice of soup or salad) are tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, flautas, tamales and burritos. The most recommended dish from the friendly staff was the albondigas soup, which did not disappoint. Not overly seasoned and at just the right temperature, the soup was a great starter especially compared to the salad, which was nothing special. Chips and salsa are also available starters and were also nothing out of the ordinary.
But, what taste buds the soup enticed quickly were disappointed at the arrival of the main dishes. The rice looked and tasted bland and the guacamole seemed to be mixed with sour cream and did not taste fresh at all. While the shredded beef tamale tasted homemade, it also tasted like the shredded beef burrito, shredded beef taco and shredded beef flauta. What’s the difference? The shredded beef was good—almost great or as great as shredded beef can be—but a burrito and taco shouldn’t taste the same. Despite the flavor, each dish was well proportioned; had the meal offered a taste beside bland and shredded beef, each plate had the potential of being finished . . . unless you like bland and shredded beef.
And just when the bad experience fears begin to build up again, the bill arrives and a calming wave washes over you as you realize your check for a party of five totaled under $50 and they accept major credit cards.
In an area where not much else stands, it makes sense why residents would continue to come to the rollercoaster of a restaurant. El Kiosco, with its convenience and quick service, may not serve the tastiest cuisine you’ve ever had, but the bumpy ride does make for good conversation at a reasonable price. Perhaps the ugly duckling just hasn’t fully blossomed yet.
El Kiosco, 916 S. Riverside Avenue, Rialto, (909) 820-0198. Open 11AM-9PM, except Fridays, 11AM-9:30PM. D, MC, V.