Editor's Note: El Toro Loco is now serving Margaritas.
El Toro Loco
2617 Poplar Avenue
"The Mad Cow!" is what Warren exclaims every time we drive past El Toro Loco, which is in Los Compadres' old spot. After a long day of yard work last Saturday, we decided to finally give the old Mad Cow a try.
It was about 7pm on a Saturday and we were concerned that they might be crowded. Los Compadres certainly would have been back in the day, thanks to their crazy strong margaritas and awesome patio. (El Toro Loco built up the former patio into a second dining room, lightened up the space, removed all cheesy Mexican wall hangings, and added "Starbuck's" lighting.) When we arrived, we were both happy and worried that it wasn't too crowded. There was definitely a decent crowd there, but it wasn't crowded.
We were seated in the expanded dining room and I was going to attribute the non-crowdedness to the fact that the restaurant was in essence twice as big now, but then I figured out what it was. No margaritas! I can only assume that one day they will have them, since they've added a bar to the new room, but for now it is just beer. (Buy one get one free, I might add.) Warren and I both ordered one and set about tackling the menu.
The monkeys (Satchel, 8, and Jiro, 5) can only sit in a Mexican restaurant for about 3.2 seconds before whining, "Where's the cheese dip?" Our waiter quickly brought over our beers, water for the monkeys, and eventually cheese dip. (The chips and salsa arrived the second we did.) While Satchel waited for the dip, he started scanning the menu. "Steak Deluxe," he said. "I want Steak Deluxe." I had successfully talked him out of a $26 ribeye on our trip to the Majestic Grille earlier in the week, so I said ok, even though it was $13 (which I consider pricey at a Mexican restuarant). Jiro, who doesn't read yet or really care what he eats, agreed to chicken wings with rice on the side.
Meanwhile, Warren and I were marvelling at the choices on the menu. It definitely isn't one of those places utilizing the "Standardized and Conveniently Numbered" Mexican menu. I was surprised to see salmon on the menu--that is definitely a first for me. I was seriously considering the shrimp chipotle burrito, but ultimately went for the fajita burrito with chicken due to the inclusion of guacamole and cheese sauce in the description. (I do appreciate the fact that they called it a shrimp burrito rather than shrimp taco. Ordering a taco that comes wrapped up like a burrito is one of my pet peeves. I'm looking at you, my darling Soul Fish!) Warren also waffled at the last minute. He actually veered from his usual order of carnitas and went for the castillas, which are ribs.
It wasn't until after we finished ordering that I realized they didn't actually have a kids menu. Weird, huh? I remember seeing a burger option and there were plenty of a la carte selections, so kids definitely have low priced options, but no actual kids meal.
While waiting for our dinner to arrive we snarfed down a second bowl of chips. (The chips were in a metal mixing bowl instead of a basket which I found mildly amusing.) They were warm and the salsa tasted nice and spicy. (I don't think it was made in house, but I could be wrong. It just tasted too much like other salsas in other Mexican restaurants to be house made.)
"I definitely don't want to be a waiter," Satchel announced. "Why?" we asked. "Too many chores," he replied.
Luckily one of those chores included bringing us giant plates of food. GIANT. Jiro's wings weren't actually giant though. They seemed quite petite next to our gargantuon servings. When I saw my burrito my first thought was, "Shit, I hope I don't eat all of that." Satchel's steak deluxe came with a good size "steak," shrimp, rice, beans, (frozen) veggie medley, and tortillas. I put "steak" in quotes because it certainly wasn't my idea of a steak, but Warren said a skinny t-bone is standard for Mexican restaurants. It looked like a pork chop more than a steak. Regardless, Satchel was thrilled and got right down to the business of eating it.
Warren's ribs looked good, but I didn't care for a bite. I had plenty of burrito to eat. Eventually, when I realized I was going to possibly finish it, I handed it over to Warren to polish off. Still I couldn't help munching on chips and Satchel shared a few of his shrimp with me, which was nice. They were quite good.
"What do shrimp eat?" he asked me. I was stumped. What do shrimp eat? This line of questioning unfortunately led to a discussion about how we all unknowingly eat grass whenever we eat cows because that's what cows eat. (At least it's what we HOPE they eat, right?)
The waiter came to check on us several times and he said, "Everything ok, amigo?" (Maybe he called me an amiga, I don't know.) I thought that was precious. (Look out Senor Dreamy!)
My new amigo brought the check out at my request. It was $48 which seemed a little shocking. For that kind of money, I'd much rather visit Senor Dreamy out in Germantown. I made a mental note for Warren and I to share entrees with the kids next time. Considering El Toro Loco's proximity to our house and the friendly, fast service, I'm sure we'll be back.
We never made it to the restrooms so I can't report on them, but I will say that there was a much appreciated absence of candy and toy machines in the foyer. I hope it stays that way!