Thought it might be fun to try a restaurant review for a change, so here goes…
*UPDATE Feb 2018: Since this was written, El Taco Macho has gone to a more traditional Mexican dinner menu, with full meals including sides. Needless to say, the prices have increased to reflect the dinner combo. While the food is still excellent, much of El Taco Macho’s charm was the “al a carte” street vendor approach to their menu. Many times I just want a great taco, street corn, and a beer- and that El Taco Macho is, sadly, no more…
Little more than a window, a doorway, and a sign in a nondescript strip of stores, the name, El Taco Macho, grabbed my attention well before place opened for business. Turns out the restaurant is as cool as the name implies, and their “Authentic Street Cuisine” is even better. We have no shortage of tasty Mexican dining to choose from in the Painesville/ Mentor area- so it’s a bit unusual for an eatery to set itself apart so quickly. El Taco Macho made our list of favorites with our first visit, and we found ourselves visiting to try something new every couple of weeks. For the first few months, we shared the place with enough diners to stay busy, but there was never a wait for a table. Then word (deservedly) got around, and our quiet favorite became boisterous and busy overnight!
I’ve only been to Mexico for an afternoon, so I have no idea how “authentic” El Taco Macho’s street fair really is. A few experienced travelers I’ve spoken to tell me it’s spot on, so I’m going to go with it. The vibe is that of a small outdoor cantina (though the interior is MUCH bigger than it looks!) on a warm summer night- which can be particularly nice in the middle of a NEOhio winter. There are booths up front, but the close tables toward the back can be more fun- great food and a cerveza or two quickly lead strangers to being neighbors. The wood/ metal/ stone décor, walls covered in various lucha libre mascaras, and the smells of spices and cooking create the ambiance. If one heads for the corner table in the bar (all the way to the rear), all that’s missing are stars above to make the illusion real for me. Of course, a fab place to hang is always better with food, right?
Fresh chips and salsa are always the start, and I’d recommend the salsa sampler. The basic house salsa is great, but the guacasalsa and mango salsa are fantastic. Ever picky DaringDaughter tells me the queso is some of the best she’s had, and we all love the street corn. We’ve never had a meal at ETM that wasn’t fabulous, but favorites include the ceviche, the baja fish tacos, hongos, and the camaron (shrimp) enchiladas. Initially I was reluctant to try the tortas, since it seemed odd to order a sandwich in a Mexican restaurant, but the torta especial is a big handful and simply amazing! As a regular stop, I’d like to try everything on the menu (though the HUGE El Macho burrito may be a nonstarter, unless I share!), and thus far nothing has disappointed. Top it all with a draft Negra Modelo (when not on the bike), and you have the perfect meal, at prices better than reasonable. I probably don’t want the management to catch on to this, but the price to food ratio makes some meals seem downright CHEAP! Through the meal, the staff are friendly and attentive (and never overly so) even on the busiest nights and at their most harried. Impressive!
If you like Mexican fare and are looking for a fun and welcoming place to eat, El Taco Macho in Painesville is hard to beat. Dinner on the weekends may require waiting, but I promise it will be worth it. Enjoy!