The argument against Casual Dining-Mexican Restaurants as being the least innovative of all types of Mexican Restaurants, including Food Trucks, Fast Food, QSR, Casual Dining and Fine Dining categories, starts to make a lot of sense when you consider the innovation that’s taken place over the last 5 years. With the likes of the Kogi Truck, Taco Bell (see Doritos Locos Tacos), and other Mexican-fusion restaurants setting the standard, Casual Dining-Mexican Restaurants have fallen behind. Heck, even the packaged food industry introduced the standing soft taco to mix things up a bit.
So it’s no coincidence that as members of a food-news publication, none of the FOODBEAST editorial staff could remember the last time they entered or covered a story for a Casual Dining-Mexican restaurant. But that may be about to change.
El Torito’s debut of its limited-time ‘Flavors of Baja’ menu that includes, Seafood Ceviche Tacos, Jalapeño Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp and Carnitas en Tablita, successfully introduced new and traditional flavors that can finally attract the millennial audience it desperately needs. In fact, because of El Torito’s association with Real Mex Restaurants that owns a total number of 122 Mexican-Casual Restaurants across the country including Chevy’s, Acapulco, El Torito Grill and other smaller brands, this impressive menu may set the tone for the entire category – meaning more innovative limited time offerings (LTOs). That’s good news for the millennial consumer, giving them new (and darn delicious) reasons to come back through the doors.
The Flavors of Baja Menu also includes three cocktails, The Los Cabos Margarita, Baja Mule, Skinny Mango Cadillac Margarita, and two other menu offerings, Mexicali Enchiladas and Baja-Beer-Battered Halibut Tacos. Here’s the rundown.
Mini Seafood Ceviche Tacos: Crab, Shrimp & Halibut, $9.99 (pictured above) – This is the menu item that pulled us into the tasting due to the fact that we had never seen this executed. The crab ceviche includes red jalapeño, fennel and ginger aioli. The shrimp ceviche includes jicama, green apple, serrano chiles and guacamole. The halibut ceviche includes tomatoes, onions, cilantro and avocado. The best part may have been the perfectly flaky tortillas that are half-cooked and then deep-fried for a hard shell look, pastry-esque feel.
Jalapeño Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, $17.99 – We’ve seen a number of bacon-wrapped-everythings, but wrapping wild Mexican Shrimp (hearty, 2-bite size) with a Jalapeño, Manchego Cheese AND BACON?!?! We like where your head’s at El Torito. Six of these bad boys are served atop a banana leaf with Baja White Rice (Mexican Rice Pilaf) and sautéed vegetables.
Beer Battered Baja Halibut Tacos, $14.99 – I know what you’re thinking, another fish taco. But this item surprised us the most and instantly became one of our favorites. The tacos are topped with ginger aioli, cabbage, caramelized onions, avocado and served with baja white rice.
Carnitas en Tablita, $15.49 – Served atop a Mexican platter, the pork in this dish was fantastic. And that’s coming from a guy who smoked pork shoulder for 8 hours on Sunday, just for the start of the NFL season. Healthy portion size for 1, but could also potentially feed 2 smaller, non-foodbeasts.
Baja Mule, $8.99 – To be honest, we were a bit confused about this item. The cocktail includes Russian Standard Vodka, Strawberry, and Ginger Beer. Uhhh…. Why is this called the Baja Mule? Tasty, and waitstaff communicated that this was the local top seller.
The Flavors of Baja menu is available at 57 of the 58 El Torito locations (odd) and is available until October 21, 2013. More menu details and nutritional information is available at www.ElTorito.com.