Sunday, December 11, 2011

El Jardin

Location: 3335 N Clark
Cost: About $20 per person with drinks

When thanksgiving break comes around, lots of my old friends start rolling back in to town. Black Wednesday is always a big get together with my college friends like I'm sure it is for many other people. The plan was to get things started with dinner. The main issue is that my friends are a bunch of schmucks that usually wait until 8 PM the night of to make dinner plans. The only person willing to organize anything lives in Lakeview which is how Safron, Jeremy, Jitty, Laura, Jessie, Ricky, Landon, Kyle, Bacalar, other Jeff, and I ended up at El Jardin for dinner.

Note the link is to the cafe which is a half a block north of the restaurant that we went to. I'm pretty positive they've got the same menu online which is really the key information in this case.

El Jardin is this pretty large Mexican restaurant right near the corner of Clark and Roscoe. They've got a bar area, a dining room, and what seems like a really fun patio which obviously wasn't open this late in the year. We had a reservation, but we would've been fine without it. I don't think the crowds really pile up or anything even on the weekends. It should be noted that street parking in that part of town can be a real pain, but luckily it's pretty accessible by public transit.

Our waitress did alright although our food took a really long time. She did put up with a lot of indecisiveness on our part though. The cost is really cheap. Most everything is under $10 for entrees that are way larger than you need, and margaritas were $7. The one horrible deal of the night was the small side of guacamole for $6.

The Food
First of all, you can tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant by the chips and dip they put out. These cool, stale chips with mushy, moderately bland salsa set the tone for a meal that didn't really pick up. We all had margaritas while waiting for our food as well. They were strong enough, but there wasn't a good balance. Mine was way too sour. They have a full bar, and Jeremy decided to go that way for his calories rather than ordering any food. In retrospect it was a pretty good call.

The House Margarita

We did a nice job of spanning the menu, ordering the Fish Tacos, the Chimichangas, the Carne Asada, the Chicken Quesadillas, and the Enchiladas. The waitress said the fish taco was the most popular item. It was dry and without any hint of acidity. The chimichangas platter, as well as most any other dish using the dry pulled chicken, was rather unappetizing. Plus, the fried tortilla was in much too large a proportion relative to the filling ingredients. The quesadillas came out mushy, and that pretty much put an end to the dish. I didn't try the carne asada or the enchiladas, but the vast amount of food left on the plate at meals end said it all. Oh, I shouldn't forget to mention the overpriced side of guac again that was rather watery and just not flavorful in the least.

The Carne Asada

The Chicken Chimichangas

The Chicken Enchiladas

The Chicken Quesadillas

The Guacamole

 The Fish Tacos

It's a seldom occurrence that there's such uniform agreement among my friends on how poor a meal was. It says a lot that most of these guys went to Blue Agave the next week and thought it was way better. The only saving grace was how large and inexpensive the entrees were. I'm usually the most consistent member of the clean plate club but not this time. I'm giving them 1 out of 5 Pearls.

El Jardin on Urbanspoon


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