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El Pinto better ambiance than food or service

The fiesta appetizer platter at El Pinto
The fiesta appetizer platter at El Pinto
Sonja Dewing
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El Pinto has been visited by politicians and actors alike, and they sell their salsa all over the world.  However, as of last month I had yet to find a meal that I loved.   I still don't love El Pinto, but I finally found something there that my taste buds enjoy.

I decided to take some visiting family members to El Pinto, partly because of the amazing decor (There is a huge waterfall in the entry way), and partly because I was introducing my family to New Mexican food for the first time.  With such a big menu, I figured they could find something that would appeal to them.

I ordered the fiesta appetizer platter as my meal.  It's huge and is an appetizer made for 4 people, but I was pretty hungry.  The platter ($16.99) has chile con queso (spicy cheese dip) and chips, guacomole, and the red chile ribs.  The ribs had fantastic flavor and the meat was tender.   The ribs are grilled, marinated overnight in red chile, then baked. 

My relatives all enjoyed their meals which included a huge taco salad ($13.49) and the grilled salmon with a side of calabacitas (a slightly spice zucchini and corn dish).  The problem we experienced was our waitress was busy with other, large-sized groups so it took a long time to get drinks, give our order, and to get our meals.  Luckily the food did arrive hot.

Vegetarian options include the vegetarian burrito (lunch $8.99; dinner $12.49) with pinto beans and rice, smothered with cheese and choice of red or green. There is also the vegetarian combination plate ($14.29) two cheese enchiladas served with red or green chile, a chile rellano, pinto beans, and rice. 

I have been to El Pinto many times as I have relatives that love to go there, and I still don't know why they love it.  Personally, I suggest sticking to the small New Mexican restaurants, like Padilla's (no website, you can check out my review of Padilla's), La Salita's (1217 Eubank), or Little Anita's.  These restaurants don't have a huge waterfall in the foyer, but they have darn good food!

El Pinto, 10500 4th Street (north of Alameda), see map.  505-898-1771

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El Pinto on Urbanspoon


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