El Mariachi February 2015 Spotlight Review
Imagine yourself at 15 years old. What were you doing? Me? Well, I was a child of the 90’s. I was either begrudgingly doing homework or putting off my homework and playing video games instead. Whatever I was doing, it was very different from what Alfredo Castro, owner of El Mariachi, was doing at age 15. Alfredo grew up in Puerta Del Monte, Guanajuato. If you are like me, you have no idea where that is. To save you the google search: Puerta Del Monte is about four hours east (and a bit north) of
Mexico City. In even simpler terms, it is a mainly rural town in central Mexico.
At age 15, Alfredo decided he wanted to make a better life for himself and his future family. So he packed his bags and moved to the Quad Cities. He had some family that lived in the area, but still, it was a bold move for a teenager. Alfredo’s first job was at a Holiday Inn. Then he started working for John Deere. He also spent some time in the construction business. The whole time, Alfredo’s dream was to open his own restaurant and be his own boss. The dream began to come true when, twenty-four years ago, Alfredo and his wife Virginia, bought a concession stand. They began to work various events, festivals and fairs. For twelve years, while they both had full time jobs, they worked long hours and weekends running the concession stand.
Before too long, Alfredo and Virginia gained a reputation and customers began to clamor for them to open a restaurant. It took twelve years of running the concession stand, but twelve years ago, they opened their restaurant in the building it is in today. El Mariachi has had twenty-four years of business so far, twelve as a concession stand and twelve as a restaurant. Twenty-four years and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Since they first opened their doors for business, they have had the same four cooks. A fifth cook came along six years ago. The consistent staff has allowed their dishes to go relatively unchanged since they were first served, which I think is why the restuarant has been so successful.
It is an understatement to say that over the years, El Mariachi has gained a faithful fan base. They even have paintings on the wall of some of their most loyal customers, who have dined there weekly, for years. They do a lot of catering business, providing food for work parties and special events. Virginia told me of a story when they catered a work party for 800 people. A lunch catering, no less, so they had to start at 4 in the morning. Virginia also recently won an award for the Latina Business Owner of the Year, for the Quad Cities. It is safe to say, the people in the Quad Cities love their El Mariachi.
I remember the first time I went to El Mariachi, it was about ten years ago. At the time, I was working a few blocks up the hill and I went to El Mariachi for their Wednesday all you can eat taco buffet. (Now, they have a buffet almost every day of the week.) I began going there at least once a month for the buffet. It wasn’t until the last few years that I began to explore the rest of their menu. They have some specialty dishes that are authentic as they are delicious. Their pork riblets (costillas, as they refer to them) are amazing as well as a dish they call Chile Negro. Chile Negro consists of slow cooked, tender, juicy, pork that is smothered in a smoky chipotle mole sauce.
But we are getting too technical here. We’ve skipped past the basics. Their salsas are off the chain. As always I was partial to their salsa verde, but their other salsas were great too. I have a friend, or a consultant rather, named Erny. Erny is over 60 years old, handsome, and was born in Mexico. I will talk with him off and on about authentic Mexican food and ask his opinion. When we first launched the site three months ago, he told me that in his opinion, El Mariachi had the most authentic food in the Quad Cities. Erny didn’t stop there with his raving review; he also said that they have the best rice and beans in the Quad Cities. So if you don't want to listen to a 26 year old white boy, listen to Erny!
What Jake and I love about El Mariachi, is that they are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t try to impress anybody with fancy menus, hip décor or trendy recipes. They serve down to earth meals that make you feel like you are eating at your grandmas house. One menu item we love is a breakfast dish that has melted cheese and eggs served on chips, with beans and potatoes. It is such a simple concept, served in a no frills manner and it is absolutely delicious. I have eaten at every Mexican restaurant in the Quad Cities, all the while I have been on a hunt for some good lengua. El Mariachi, by and large, has the best lengua in the Quad Cities. They cook it slow and low, overnight, giving it a tender and juicy taste almost like barbacoa.
If you want a fantastic meal at a fantastic price, El Mariachi is the place for you. At El Mariachi, you'll find down home cooking at it's best. When you go, take a moment to consider what you were doing at age 15 and be thankful that Alfredo packed up, took the risk and moved to the Quad Cities.
Costillas, beans & rice
Chile Negro, beans & rice
Chorizo & Eggs