Friday, July 18, 2008

El Azteca in Clarksville

I don't know a single Californian who thinks decent Mexican food exists east of Denver. But there are several locally-owned restaurants with a good mix of Tex-Mex and more-refined Mexican dishes.

El Azteca in Clarksville is a great choice. Inside, the dining room and bar are each outfitted with tile, art and solid, casual tables. This is a real restaurant, not a chain where they're just melting bags of shredded cheese over chips or tortillas.

On the Tex-Mex side, I had a combination taco lunch at El Azteca's bar -- generous helpings of grilled beef in one and al pastor pork in the other for just $9. El Azteca excels because of what it offers on the plate around the meats. Chopped cilantro and large dollops of guacamole on the tacos. Yellow rice and refried beans on the side. A plastic cup of tomatillo salsa. I still love the weekend ceviche special at La Palapa Too, but the rice and beans at El Azteca have just that much more flavor, that much more to separate them from a Chili's or a shopping center chain.

I still haven't tried the Mexican specialities like Chicken Mole and Rainbow Trout A La Mantequilla. I also haven't exhausted the array of HoCo Mexican restaurants. But El Azteca wins my loyalty because everything was delicious -- from the warmed chips to the marinated pork. At dinner, the Tex-Mex runs $12 a person, and the classier Mexican specials run $15-16. That's a fair price for good food served in a nice place.

For Mexican groceries -- including a butcher and corn tortillas made on site -- you have to visit Lily's Mexican Market. Or click for a working list of the best restaurants in Howard County.

El Azteca
12210 Clarksville Pike (Rte 108)
Clarksville, MD 21029

NEAR: This is on Rte 108 just north of Rte 32. From northern Columbia, take Rte 108 south until you pass the River Hill Garden Center on the left. Then watch for El Azteca on the right. From southern Columbia or Rte 29, take Rte 32 West and exit on Rte 108 north. El Azteca is on the left after the Jiffy Lube.

El Azteca on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

A friend and I just had a lovely brunch there today. Love the bar area and intimate space. The salsa was fab. Refried beans were yummy ... though not something to make a vegetarian happy. Perhaps it came to mind as an option because of your recent post, HowChow. Keep up the great work! I really enjoy your blog.

DAS said...

I think El Azteca is probably the best Mexican restaurant, certainly better than La Palapa and Mi Casa (it's been awhile since I was at Zapata's and I've yet to visit El Nayar). Food is much less gloppy and has more separate and fresher flavors than the HoCo average. The place is packed, but the servers keep things moving.

Alison said...

My husband and I had dinner at El Azteca tonight. We had to wait for a table, but that's to be expected on a Friday night. Once we were seated, or server was friendly, efficient, and attentive.

Honestly though, the food was just so-so. The tortilla chips tasted a lot like Tostitos Gold, just warmed up. The salsa was ok, but was sort of bland. We had a stuffed jalapeno appetizer that was probably the highlight of the meal. For our meal, my husband got a combination of some sort and I had tacos al carbon. To me, all of it tasted pretty much like what you'd get at Don Pablos or some similar chain. Very bland and pre-fab tasting. Maybe I'm spoiled because I've had the opportunity to eat at Mexican restaurants along the border in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, but El Azteca really didn't do it for me.

Team Swoll said...

I'm not even a carnivore but if you get a chance to go back & you like steak, bacon & chorizo then the "Tacos De Alambre" is the only way to go!! wash it down with their specialty "Horny" Margarita and all will be well!!

Junior Barnes said...

I had the xangos there today. If you can fit it in your diet, I highly recommend it. Xangos is cheesecake rolled in a pastry shell and deep fried with chocolate or strawberry topping. Yum!! :)