El Toro Mexican Grill appears to be a member of a chain, one of 19 restaurants whose core menu is based on a set of Tex Mex dishes, whose names are unique to Atlanta, that simply do not change from restaurant to restaurant (other examples include Fronteras and Poblanos).  The existence of the common Atlanta Tex Mex can be recognized by the dish called a “Speedy Gonzales” (taco, enchilada, and rice or beans).  And I can say, after some years in Houston, Texas, going to school here, and eating occasionally at Houston’s Mexican restaurants, I never once heard of a “Speedy with beans”. Not once.

So, having identified the cuisine, is this a good thing? Well, the best thing that can be said about it is that it’s filling and inexpensive, and not all that bad. It’s not really the acme of Tex Mex, but neither is it the abyss either. So, if the high end of border cuisine is a restaurant like Ninfa’s on Navigation, in Houston, or perhaps Posados in Bossier City, Louisiana, or Pappasitos wherever the Pappas family stakes a claim, this restaurant is living in the comfortable middle. And it’s not a bad place to be, the middle. When your entrees begin at $6.75 and many are under $8.00, then someone with a limited budget and a largish family might be able to afford to eat there.

This particular location is new, occupying a place at the corner of Pleasant Hill and Club Drive, in a building that used to contain a Japanese restaurant, which failed, and then Gaucho’s Grill II, an Argentinian steak house, which also failed. It’s a nice location, easy to access, and I had some hope that this restaurant would turn out all right.

A brief taste test suggests it will. I tried the Enchiladas Supreme (identical dish can be found at Poblanos), and my daughter tried their sopapillas (which looked suspiciously like chips drizzled with cinnamon, as opposed to the New Mexican style sopapillas I grew up with). The best of the enchiladas was their chicken. I couldn’t be sure if they flavored their chicken the way Frontera’s does.

The restaurant was pretty full considering that they just opened, and Hispanics dominated the restaurant. The waitress was very nice, and told us that two weeks from now (now being April 7, 2009), they would be having a half price off special, probably on a Saturday. Might be worth looking forward to, for those in Snellville. If you like this kind of food, stop off as you drive down Pleasant Hill road sometime.

El Toro Mexican Grill
1492 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, Georgia, 30096

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