Where Cliché Meets Satisfaction
By Ashley Bennett
Aztlan Tacos & Grill shows all the signs of a great Mexican restaurant
Let’s roll through a few great restaurant clichés: many of the best restaurants are hole-in-the-walls, some of the best only have a single location and a majority of them are old and located in a shopping center where I picture someone getting assaulted (which is mainly paranoia rather than fact). Just like Aztlan Tacos & Grill, the best part of any restaurants meeting this criteria (which is a good handful but certainly not all of them) is they are damn good.
In one shopping center, among a few other random stores, there is one eye-catching neon sign exclaiming “TACOS + GRILL.” Before approaching, all you know is that you’ll find “tacos” and a “grill” here. Other than that, dusk leaves this little shopping center dimly lit. It isn’t until I venture inside that I begin to relax because Aztlan is clean, bright and modern. Before ordering, I’m eyeing the well stocked bar offering the chilled flavors of green and hot salsas.
I decided to sample a bit of the main Mexican dishes to put this place to the test . . . and you can never go wrong with doing so by ordering nachos. It’s almost as if the fate of the whole menu rests on whether or not this Mexican restaurant can rightly pull off the mess of ingredients. Aztlan’s Nachos weren’t half bad, with an ample amount of chicken bits covering the chips, and topped off with a half-serving of guacamole and sour cream (in turn, covering the entirety of chips and chicken). As for small plates, the handmade corn tortillas turn the Steak Tacos I received into a delicious addition to my meal. These street tacos have only a little lettuce but compensate for that with a great gob of guac, turning a handful of steak into a well-supplied and juicy meal decision.
In size, the Cali Burrito on the other hand is quite the beast. It may not be the biggest burrito in SoCal but it certainly houses a decent hunk of goods. The carne asada is a hearty counterpoint to the gooey marriage of melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream. I have to say, though, that out of everything I tried the Quesadilla proved itself to be the best. It was extremely simple; tortillas housing cheese and chicken, but sometimes the complication of too many ingredients can ruin a good dish. Crunchy outside with a soft, gooey inside leaves this quesadilla in my perfect. Best of all it somehow escaped being overly oiled and greased during its inception. Any restaurant that knows how to hold off on the oil and butter is good in my book. Add a quick and freshly made $1.50 Dulce de Leche Churro and you’ve got a sweet ending to a satisfying meal.
Ultimately Aztlan’s prices are more than your average taco stop but here you’ll get great taste and not suffer the casualties of a messy and uncared for meal. Not to mention that along the classics of Mexican cuisine, Aztlan has a couple of dishes that include the use of nopales. It’s something I spotted only upon leaving, and it’s both the newness of that discovery and the wholesome traditional meals that will keep me going back.
Aztlan Tacos & Grill, 29280 Central Ave., Lake Elsinore, (951) 471-0440. Mon-Thurs, 8:30am-9pm. Fri-Sat, 8am-10pm. Sun, 8am-9pm. AE, D, MC, V.