MIDVALE The Torres family has been filling the bellies of the Salt Lake Valley's Mexican food lovers for decades. If you're curious how they've lasted so long in the unpredictable restaurant business, visit the family's Midvale eatery, El Farol, for Mexican that is hot, fresh, from-scratch and served with a smile.
We visited El Farol for a weekend dinner and were quickly led to a table in one of the several smaller spaces into which the large, clean and welcoming dining area is divided. Though there is no kids menu as such, there are tons of inexpensive single items from tamales to quesadillas that kids will enjoy. Ours did, anyway.
Incidentally, another enjoyable aspect to El Farol's menu is the family history and old photos that enliven its pages. Once you find something to eat, take a minute to read a little of the family's story. It's a simple one, but their pride in their heritage is heartwarming.
We started with a plate of six tortilla chips served like hors d'oeuvres, half simply covered with melted cheese, and the other half with bean dip and house-made pico de gallo. This, for me, was a fun change from the usual mountain of nacho goop, turning this classic Tex-Mex appetizer into something more considered. Besides, the melted cheese was nice and gooey, and the beans and pico rich and earthy.
We also had a cheese crisp a large flour tortilla fried to a puffy crispness with melted cheese, sliced tomatoes and a single olive on top.
For dinner, my husband had the steak fajitas, a superior presentation full of chewy steak and browned-soft peppers and onions, as well as a whole passel of fixings, including more of that tasty pico de gallo and a mound of deliciously fresh guacamole.
I was happy to see a "build-your-own-plate" option on the menu, because many Mexican restaurant combos leave out one of my favorites, the tamale. I chose a chicken enchilada, pork tamale in red chili sauce and a cheese-stuffed chili relleno.
The one less-than-stellar part of the meal was the relleno, which tasted good but was drenched in sauce that destroyed any crispiness on its fried crust. Everything else was uniformly yummy: the enchilada full of moist white chicken and smothered in a delicious, dark, bitter sauce; and the tamale a perfect balance between moist and tender cornmeal wrapper, and juicy pork filling.
My oldest daughter tried her first bite of tamale at El Farol and ate as much of mine as I would give her.
The kids shared quesadillas, simple but effective preparations consisting of cheese and tortilla, or chicken, cheese and tortilla; and crunched up their share of the baskets of chips our server left on the table, along with a nicely smoky salsa.
For dessert, we went for broke with the "chocolate thunder" cake, flan and sopaipillas with honey butter. The cake, many-layered and frosted with a rich, bittersweet ganache, may have been pre-made, but it was tasty. I also liked the flan, light and silky-textured with just a little caramel sauce.
But the real treat was the fantastic sopaipillas, aromatic, bready and crisp and flecked with cinnamon. You can get them with sugar or with honey, but I was glad we went for the honey butter, scooping dollops of it onto the bready deliciousness for a sweet finish to a great meal.Appetizers $2.50-$8.45, combos and plates $7.60-$12.69, single dishes $1.68-$6.65, sides and extras 65 cents-$6.45, desserts $1.69-$4.99.
Where: 115 W. 7200 South, Midvale
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks
Phone: 255-3742Wheelchair access: Easy
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: email@example.com