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Jul 16, 2010 07:28 AM

El Tapatio, Merrimack

I've been twice now to the new(ish) Mexican place in Pennichuck Square plaza on 101A. Both times, I've left full and impressed.

The first time, I went for dinner and ordered the carne asada. I hadn't had it before and wasn't sure what to expect, but was more than pleasantly surprised: two huge pieces of steak with beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo on the side, along with a stack of fresh, warm tortillas. There was so much food, I had enough leftovers for a full meal at home the next day! DH had a burrito combo platter and was happy with it. I like their refried beans better than any other I've had; they're more of a puree, and the flavor is incredible.

DH and I both had margaritas, and be forewarned if you're driving: they're strong! And they don't taste like it, so the alcohol really creeps up on you.

We went back for lunch this week and I got a chicken quesadilla with a side order of refried beans; DH got an enchilada plate. With two Cokes and an iced tea, the bill came to $18 before tip. Very, very reasonably priced lunch, and dinner was the same. Service was great both times (slightly better at lunch when they weren't as busy as with our dinner visit). I'm glad that they're getting the business, though, and hope they stick around. It's nice to have another Mexican option in the area.

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  1. I recently tried them and absolutely loved the food - both my dish of chili rellenos and my companion's dish of chicken with vegetables (don't recall the name). The flavor was wonderful. Menu seemed similar to La Caretta's, but I now like this place more.

    1. I also recently went to Tapatio with my family for the first time. It was much larger and well-decorated than I first expected. One look at the menu and I realized that it was the same as the other larger Mexican restaurants found in most places these days (i.e. La Carretta)...not necessarily a bad thing. It's nice to know when you go in these places you know what you're getting; cheap, fast, good tasting Mexican food. Sometimes the menus can be a bit overwhelming. With two young kids, I couldn't be bothered to really read the menu (and we had no drink menu). I am starting to feel like these restaurants are the Mexican equivalent of Chinese restaurants, standard menu, standard decor, and when it comes to the food, it's consistent, but not always unique or interesting. I guess for me at this point, after having tried Tacos Colima and a few taco trucks, I'm just looking for something beyond this style of ethnic restaurant.

      All in all, it was a good meal, we didn't feel like we wasted our money, and we didn't have to cook and clean after a long, hot day.

      16 Replies
      1. re: solargarlic

        I've been to El Tapatio twice & think it's great - I've gone on Friday nights about 8:30 & there was no wait. No need for a drink menu solargarlic - like you said, it's your "typical" Mexican food / drink so you can pretty much guess what's on the menu. And, the printing on the menu is HORRIBLE - they used a small, thin font on a dark background - & the restaurant has low light - so it's kinda hard to read - especially if you were trying to look after 2 kids at the same time! But, it is fresh, inexpensive, & served quickly (which a LOT of places can't seem to do right).
        The only thing I'd "warn" you about on the drink menu is the iced tea - the 1st time I was there they said they had no sweet tea so I didn't order one. They next time I went, they did have the sweet tea on the menu & I asked about it & they did say they served it both sweetened & unsweetened. The sweet tea is kinda like Southern sweet tea - VERY sweet. You may want to do half sweetened / half unsweetened if you order it.
        They do have a couple of things I haven't seen on a typical Mexican menu, so we gave those a shot. I had the El Molcajete, which is for 2 & has an assortment of beef, chicken, shrimp & chorizo in a chipotle cheese sauce - very good. The second time, I got the Chori Pollo, which was grilled chicken topped with chorizo & cheese sauce - also very good since the chorizo had a nice kick to it. Hubby got the Burrito Grande, & it was a HUGE burito.
        Flan was OK - very eggy & not too sweet. Will probably try the fried ice cream next time we go since it's only about a 10 minute walk (if we don't feel like driving) from the house & I can see this in our regular rotation.

        1. re: southie_chick

          Ha, that is so funny that you mention the small print, I was thinking the same thing! I guess they tried to cram all their items in a few pages. I did notice the Molcajete, but I would save a more expensive item like that for a night when I know I can sit and enjoy it. Most times when we eat out late with the kids, it's all about speed, and El Tapatio is great for that! I would have liked to just check out the drink menu, I'm always interested in seeing if a place has any interesting beers on the menu. But you're right, otherwise, no need to see what kind of margarita to order!

          1. re: solargarlic

            FYI, my hubby & I split the Molcajete - it didn't look like much but that (& an order of rice .......... & a margarita for the hubby) was more than enough for the two of us, & it only came to about $40. You could spluge on a babysitter with those prices so you & the wife could enjoy a nite out! ; )

            1. re: southie_chick

              Hey, that is a good idea...and I am the wife, lol. Was it the beer comment that confused you? ;)

              1. re: solargarlic

                Sorry SG, looooooong day. Sometimes I forget I'm the wife too! ; )

        2. re: solargarlic

          I agree with you on the generic feeling. I wish we'd get some interesting Mexican around here. It's sad that I would rather go back to Chipotle than go back to El Tapatio.

          1. re: SuperGrover

            I do love Chipotle as well, and I especially like that they are willing to share where there ingredients are coming from. It's a bonus that the Nashua one serves alcohol too.

            Have you tried Tacos Colima yet? They have basic, but authentic Mexican food. Once I saw the lengua tacos on the menu I knew it was the real deal. They are right near Clocktower in Nashua.

            1. re: solargarlic

              How would you compare El Tapatio to Tacos Colima? I love the tacos at TC for their freshly made corn tortillas. Is El Tapatio anything special?

              1. re: ecwashere7

                I definitely prefer Tacos Colima. Everything just seems fresher plus they have homemade chips.

                1. re: ecwashere7

                  Aside from the Mexican flavors, there is no comparison. El Tapatio is not anything special, it's that in-between of Chili's/On The Border vs. authentic, i.e. Colima. If you've been to La Carretta, you already know what Tapatio is like :). If you're in a pinch to eat out and are in the mood for Mexican, great...if you're looking for more adventurous, best quality, it would be found elsewhere.

                  1. re: solargarlic

                    I was thinking over the past few days of how I'd compare the two, and I agree with your assessment, Solar. I guess the reason I'm happy with what El Tapatio has to offer is that it's far better than Amigo's in the Milford oval, which previously was the closest Mexican to me and whose quality has steadily declined over the past couple of years. I do love Tacos Colima, but they're not as easy for me to get to for a weekend dinner. However, this thread is making me realize that I need to get back there for lunch tomorrow and have more of their fabulous guacamole. ..

                    1. re: Tante

                      That's funny that you mention Amigos, I'm also close to it, but I have only tried in once. My husband got take out just to try and it was pretty much what we expected...not very good, and nowhere near the quality of La Carretta. Really, just looking at the Amigos menu made me think it would not be very good. I am wondering if expanding to Merrimack is going to hurt their food quality even more. I hope you get back to, and enjoy Tacos Colima soon! As for my husband and I, we will pretty much save our eating out Mexican for when we go to CT and can go to the taco trucks in New

                      1. re: solargarlic

                        I thought I read on a previous thead that there was a taco truck out of Manchester that was also had another truck coming to Nashua. Thought it got good reviews - anyone know if it's still around?

                        1. re: southie_chick

                          The Nashua taco truck has been here for a couple years, located next to the apartment building at 75 Pine St. between W. Hollis and Ledge - Not a great location but good stuff! I give a slight edge to Tacos Colima because they offer more and the homemade tortillas are amazing. I love both!

            2. re: solargarlic

              I'm totally with you. The food is not great quality (excepting the fresh tortilla chips which were wonderful). It's all too generic and not at all "autentico" as they bill themselves unless they mean authentic Mexican equivalent (well put) of Chinese Resturants which are usually not worth it to me either... It wasn't awful; just not very good and NOT authenitic whatsoever.

            3. Never again...

              I has the displeasure to eat at El Tapatio last weekend and was highly disappointed by both the front and back of the house. I ordered the Mole Poblano which traditionally is a breast of chicken served with a mole sauce on top.

              Now just in case someone says, what does he know about mole, my wife is 1/2 Mexican and I have eaten in some of the best all over the US and Mexico.

              When I got it, it was CHOPPED CHICKEN and the saltiest mole I have ever had. When I complained to the waiter, I basically got a too bad, and no one else approached us to ask what is wrong. The mole was so salty, that I was not able to eat any of it and I was still billed for it.

              This is definitely a STAY AWAY...

              2 Replies
              1. re: wedeln

                I won't be staying away, because I love their chili rellenos and some other items I've tasted were also good. Authentic Mexican - no. But on par with good NHMex if that's what you've got a hankerin' for..... and I often do.

                1. re: Dave B

                  I'm with you...I particularly love their refried beans, and everything I've had has been good and fresh, so I'll keep going back for good NH-style TexMex. Better than any chain around, even if not authentic Mexican (still love Tacos Colima in Nashua, but can't get there as much as I'd like). Sorry you had a bad experience, wedeln.

              2. If you are ever out the way of the Monadnock Region at the dinner hour...try Cantine in Peterborough. Unique menu with many opportunities to mix and match meats and sauces and a great bar/margarita menu. On the pricier side for Mexican, but a great date night destination. My wife and I are the type to normally sit at the bar and eat, and we had excellent service from the bar staff the evening we went. Their refried beans are fresh and the guacamole is made to order so it is extremely fresh and not mushy and bitter/bland like so many other Mexican options.

                1. Havent had a bad plate or experience yet, and live in Merrimack, so have frequented it many times so far.

                  I'm not big on Mexican (can take it or leave it), but was always a fan of La Caretta in S. Nashua. This is basically it's stepbrother restaurant, as it was opened by a waiter from the Nashua location (and his family), so the recipes and menu are just slightly different.

                  The mid/top shelf Jamaican style margueritas are the best, and strong pour.

                  I've had the mole chicken and it never came with shredded chicken (?) and the dual chicken burritos w/ mole and the fish tacos are what bring me back.

                  Saves the drive to the often overcrowded La Caretta. Seeing people mention Chipoltes and Chilis is laughable, both crap chains (Chiplotes owned by McDonalds) crippled by the economy into a 'circling the drain' mode.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: ctroutman

                    Chipotle is not owned by McD's. They invested in Chipotle early when they were expanding and then divested in 2006 to concentrate on their own brand. I go to Chipotle for fast food, it's not my Mexican restaurant preference by any means...the Chili's ref. was to say that Tapatio was better than that, but still not really authentic. Good enough when I don't want the drive to Nashua.

                    I had no idea it was started by a LC employee, the menu makes much more sense now. Thanks for that info.

                    1. re: solargarlic

                      youre spot on about the Chipolte's..I had read it a few years back on a website and never really looked recently to see they sold off any interest.

                      with that said, I have been to Chipolte's in the south end, was good, not great. The 6 chips in a bag with limejuice for 3-4 dollars was almost too funny.ahhh, capitalism

                      1. re: ctroutman

                        MY point about Chipotles was that even though it was just OK El Tapatio was even worse.

                        1. re: ctroutman

                          As soon as I heard about that I had to Google it...I couldn't imagine how they were a part of Food Inc. yet owned by McD's.

                          We went to the Newton Chipotle yesterday and it was one of the worst burritos I've ever had. If it were my first Chipotle experience, I wouldn't go back. The bag of chips is ridiculous, but $6.50 for a burrito that I will eat for 2 days is ok by me.

                          1. re: solargarlic

                            I do like the barbacoa tacos but that's about it. Those burritos are a heart attack in a tortilla.

                            1. re: SuperGrover

                              I love the Barbacoa too, when my husband and I are together we get one of those and a least medium on the sauce and corn on the Barb. The worst part of the Newton one was that the Barb was not as spicy as I was used to....can you imagine a Chipotle burrito NOT spicy???!!!! so disappointed.