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El Palomar, Monterey

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A quick search revealed no reports that I could find on this spot in Monterey....hubby and I were in the neighborhood (Abrego near Munras, edge of Downtown), hungry, and the patio was very appealing in the sun....too appealing it turns out, once he realized that all the patio tables were in direct sunlight, so we ended up moving inside, where the large, pleasant dining room is very airy with high ceilings (a former warehouse of sometime perhaps?) and lots of skylights...

Verdict: ok, certainly not great, but if you order well you can have a good meal here. Bonus points for free, easy parking, soothing atmosphere, and no wait or crowds on a day when places close to the wharf and water were impossibly crazy.

Top shelf margaritas: eh. Cuervo Gold and cuervo mix, can make much better at home with just a little effort, and the same with no effort at all. As hubby said, 'These taste like the margaritas I used to make'. OTOH they are only $6.50, and packed a fair amount of punch.

Chips and salsa: chips were strictly from a bag, but the salsa was expertly done and very tasty (if not particularly hot).

Tilapia fajitas: special of the day: not my favorite fish but being in Monterey reminds us of the need to stick to sustainable seafood, so glad to see it offered:

http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch...

and besides, the ingredients were all very fresh and well-prepared and the fish wasn't overcooked. Serving was easily enough for two, served with rice and beans, a bit of simple (as it should be) guacamole, cabbage and corn tortillas. Particular and lots of bonus points for the tortillas: our server told us they are made in house, and they are a clue that someone in the kitchen knows what they are doing: delicious, perfect thickness, griddled nicely. We ordered an extra side order and I gobbled them down with the salsa. Server promptly brought more salsa when he saw was I was up to...

Chile Relleno de queso: made with a fresh, genuine poblano chile, more bonus points for that. Unfortunately, the batter was too thick, and rather tasteless. No sauce on top, just a bit of sauteed onion and tomato, which actually would have been fine with a good batter or some substance to the cheese stuffing...but as it was the dish, other than the chile itself, was bland and boring. Rice and beans were nothing to write home, or to CH, about.

Service was friendly and very efficient but a little over eager to upsell ('would Madame like some ceviche with that'; 'how about a side of guacamole', 'can I interest you in dessert?' )etc etc...and actually I would have liked to have tried the ceviche, but they only have one size, something like $14 a serving, so no.

The menu is fairly basic, with an emphasis on seafood and particularly on shrimp and prawn dishes. There are a few less common items, including pozole. Given the quality of the tortillas, if I go back I'd try the huevos rancheros or enchiladas, or stick with fajitas. For those who like them, prawn fajitas might be a good bet.

Total for lunch was about $50, so definitely pricey, though not out of line with the touristy trappings, and that included three margaritas (I wouldn't have drunk more than one, but hubby did: it was that type of weather out and he knew I would drive home....

)

Overall impression: except for the mix in the margaritas and the bagged chips, ingredients are of high quality and fresh; food aims to be a lighter, healthier style of Tex-Mex than found at some similar places, and that would hold a certain appeal for many folks. Also, would be a good spot for a group given the size.

Bottom line: I wasn't crazy about it (though I loved the tortillas) but hubby enjoyed it. The second margarita probably didn't hurt...

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El Palomar of Monterey
724 Abrego St, Monterey, CA 93940

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