A friend and I recently had dinner there prior to attending a performance at Golden 1 Center which is close nearby.
I had purchased a Groupon for El Rey soon after the establishment opened – for $22. The Groupon was for a meal for two – an appetizer, four taco’s, and a Choco Taco (to be shared) for dessert.
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Since the performance at Golden 1 Center started at 7:30 p.m. we arrived at El Rey around 5:30 p.m. It was early enough that we were seated within minutes. The restaurant is good-sized, with regular-height tables and high-tops, as well as colorful benches along the walls. When I looked around a bit later the establishment was filling up fast. As patrons fill El Rey the noise volume increased substantially.
To start off we ordered the $3 tomatillo salsa and tortilla chips – no free chips and salsa here. Also offered on the menu are tortilla chips with a trio of salsas for $7. There are a number of types of salsa to choose from, but $4 for two additional salsas?
The tortilla chips were unusually thick and darker than most – but that did not stop us from digging in. I found the tomatillo salsa too hot (spicy) for my taste, but my friend enjoyed it.
The menu states that the tortillas and chips are locally made by La Esperanza and that all sauces are made in-house from scratch.
My friend ordered a mango margarita ($9) and I decided on a bottle of Dos Equis ($5). She was pleased with her margarita as it was not overly sweet.
We munched on chips while we looked over the appetizer list and the types of tacos offered. The tacos range in price from $4 – $4.95 each. I settled on the California Steak taco and the Blackened Rockfish taco. My friend chose the Rojo Mole Beef taco and the Smoked Carnitas taco.
For our appetizer we ordered the Queso Fundido appetizer ($11) which is described as being made with “a trio of roasted peppers, four cheeses, and house-made chorizo – all bubbling in a cast iron skillet”. The dish was overdone (not quite burnt) and it was difficult to try to scrape up the cheese from the bottom of the skillet where it had settled in a thick layer. If I had paid $11 for the Queso Fundido I would not have been very happy. I might try this dish again at a future date and hope for a better outcome.
Our tacos were served in a taco holder on a tray, which made it very convenient, and we both enjoyed them. I thought that the price per taco seemed high – but my friend disagreed given the ingredients.
Next up was dessert – the Choco Taco ($9). A waffle taco shell is filled with Gunther’s chocolate-swirl ice cream, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with roasted peanuts. The Choco Taco was as hard as a rock – as if it had just then been taken out of the freezer. We were determined, however, to try our dessert so we each attacked the Choco Taco with our spoons. We were able to enjoy several bites before it was time to head over to Golden 1 Center for our show.
Judging by the more or less mass exodus of many of us around the same time it was obvious we were all taking advantage of El Rey’s proximity to the Golden 1 Center.
After the performance we walked past El Rey on our way back to our cars. There was a line outside waiting to get in. El Rey turns into a nightclub with a DJ later in the evening. Evening hours vary – on some nights El Rey closes at 12:00 p.m. – and on other nights the lights are on until 2:00 a.m.
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Question: Have you tried the food/drinks at El Rey? What has been your experience?