I've been to El Sol twice - for the first and the last time. Walking in on a Wednesday night around 8pm, we find the restaurant almost empty. With bad lighting and two other couples scattered among the myriad of tables, we find our dining destination almost depressing and briefly flirt with the idea of going elsewhere. But, we've heard good things about El Sol - and there are plenty of stickers on its front windows testifying to its greatness, so we order some drinks and start flipping through the menu.
If you read reviews about El Sol, the one consistent criticism is the slow service. But since the place is basically empty, we don't have a problem. The booze thankfully arrives in a hurry. I keep it simple with a cold Sol but across the table my dinner date opts for something a bit more adventurous. Made with a Corona, Clamato, Tabasco and bar mix, the Chabela Baja is a frilly concoction that might best be described as a not-quite refreshing bloody caesar with beer. There are sweet undertones (too much bar mix) and the early verdict is it's not something he would order again.
It's a good thing we have drinks though because we're less than overwhelmed with the menu. The ambiance of El Sol is cheap and cheerful (except not that cheerful) but the menu doesn't line up. Prices here are in the same league as Milagro with most entrees hovering around the $20 mark. For the same amount of money we could be having an amazing dinner down on Queen at Tomi Kro. Or, um, Milagro.
Anyway, we press on and decide to split an order of guacamole. At $9.95 it's on the small side but tastes good enough. It's chunkier than most places and seasoned well with spots of colour from some diced red peppers. To add to our tortilla haul, our waiter also brings some complimentary salsa and chips which are excellent.
For mains, I order the pozole (one of the cheaper options at $14.95). It's listed as a house specialty and is described as prehispanic soup made with corn grain, served with chips. What I get is a huge serving of what is essentially a twist on beef soup. There are chunks of bland maiz (not corn), cilantro, radish and shreds of spiced-up beef. That's pretty much it. I end up having a stomach ache for the next two days. Oh, what I'd have given for a simple bowl of $6 pho.
My compadre across the table didn't have much better luck. He's still not sure if he was served the right dish. What he thought he ordered was Tacos Nortenas which the menu described as two corn tortillas filled with choice of meat or veggie but what he got was an overflowing plate of chicken, onions, tomato, lettuce, rice and refried bean piled on top of flat corn tortillas. He generously described it as a wholesome dish that ate like a warm salad.
Warm salad of not, if was enough to feed two, if not three people. And given that I ate for 20 minutes and still barely made a dent in my soup I'd say El Sol's problem (well, one of them anyway) is that they serve too much food. Yeah, I never thought I'd actually say that about a place but El Sol would do itself and its customers a favour by lowering prices and portion sizes to make eating there a bit more affordable. It's a casual place, and like one of my faves Tacos El Asador in Koreatown - you should be able to go in there and get some good Mexican grub for under $10.