A Margarita Night Face-off
I decided to check out the new El Cuscatleco II way up north on Roxboro (5110 N. Roxboro St.). I am a big fan of El Cuscatleco, reviewed by our summer posters, here, and especially their Monday margarita special. This is a point-by-point comparison of the two locations.
Point 1: Location
II is in a strip mall. The decor is very bright, new, and cheerful, with lots of murals and Latin American paraphernalia hanging on the walls. The atmosphere is hard to describe, but it reminds me of what is called a “family restaurant” in the Midwest…lots of neutral colors and comfortable booths.
Decor at El Cuscatleco II
Point II: Staff
At El Cuscatleco, the staff tends not to speak very good English. In fact, they have always identified the one Spanish-speaking member of my party and spoken to that person. I’d generally describe the service there as courteous and a little shy.
At II, the staff was extremely attentive and cordial, and they definitely spoke English.
Point III: The Clientele
Usually, the only language I hear other customers at El Cuscatleco speaking is Spanish. This is more noticable at El Cuscatleco because the tables are a little closer together, creating a more intimate feeling with just about everyone else in the restaurant.
The crowd at II spoke English almost exclusively. We even heard someone at another table beckon the waiter over to ask what some random Spanish phrase meant. That was kind of weird.
Point IV: Margarita Night
The margaritas at El Cuscatleco are $1.50. Yes, I said ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS on Mondays. They are kind of small, but that is no problem because it’s more fun to have two and it still only costs you $3.
The Monday margaritas at II are $2.50 and considerably larger. We could not figure out whether they were weaker, though we decided that they probably were not when we got up to leave. The waiter urged us to continue ordering more, correctly noting what an awesome deal it was.
Point V: The Food
El Cuscatleco has fantastic food. I’ve loved everything I have eaten there. In particular, they do a great job with Central American standbys like eggs and steak with fried plaintains.
Steak and eggs…and a yummy shrimp dish in the background. Steamy-hot, thick corn tortillas accompanied all these dishes.
Eggs, beans, and plaintains
I only tried two things at II, a shrimp/scallop/snapper dish in a garlic-bell pepper sauce and carne guizada, a beef stew. So far, El Cuscatleco is the clear standout. The seafood dish at II was a little bland, especially the scallops. The meat in the stew was somewhat tough, but the flavor was good.
I have hinted at this a little, but I got the feeling that II is a bit gringoized. There is a children’s menu including chicken fingers, and they offer fried ice cream, for example. However, all doubt I had about gringoization was removed when our waiter brought us flour tortillas without asking whether we might prefer corn. It seems that these are not normally even on hand; when I asked for corn tortillas, he (very kindly) ran off to the kitchen and had the cook make us some. He returned a few minutes later with 2 very fresh, hot, and delicious corn tortillas. These were very clearly handmade, and were thick, just as I’d expect from a Central American chef. We agreed that they might be the best part of the meal. Mmm…
Seafood dish at II
And the winner is…
My personal preference is for El Cuscatleco. However, II is still new, I only tried two dishes, and it would be hard to beat El Cuscatleco the First on the food front. II also gets lots of points for the large margaritas and the staff’s obvious efforts to make customers happy.