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News Restaurants

El Torito And Chevys Parent Company Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Fans of the full-service Mexican restaurants El Torito and Chevys may want to take a seat. Real Mex (RM Holdco LLC) is entering an Asset Purchase Agreement with an affiliate of Z Capital Group, LLC. This means that the company is planning to sell over its assets as it voluntarily files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Besides El Torito and Chevys, Real Mex owns a variety of chain restaurants, including Acapulco Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, El Paso Cantina, Who Song and Larry’s, and Las Brisas.

Essentially, reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows Real Mex to pass on some of their liabilities to Z Capital Group, according to Reuters.

You can rest easy for a bit, though, as for the time being Real Mex’s restaurants will still remain open to guests as if nothing has changed.

Bryan Lockwood, CEO of Real Mex, said in a statement:

“The support from Z Capital and Tennenbaum will help minimize any disruptions and ensure that the process is seamless for our guests, employees, and vendors. We’re looking forward to completing this transaction as swiftly as possible and emerging from Ch. 11 in a stronger financial position, poised for future growth.”

I remember frequenting El Torito’s Sunday brunch buffet and piling my plate with scrambled eggs, braised meats, sweet corn cakes, and a stack of waffles. Then, I’d wash the meal down with a hearty bowl of menudo. Honestly, it was heaven — making this news a little bittersweet.

Until things take a drastic turn, I’m definitely going to hit up El Torito’s Sunday brunch a few more times. That spread was sweet and you never know what the future holds.

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Adventures

A Look at El Torito’s New Comida Clásica Menu Including A Pasilla Red Mole Carne Asada

Steak

Back in September, El Torito stunned Foodbeast staff by offering a new, limited time ‘Flavors of Baja’ menu that not only tasted good, but seemed to finally break the stale mold of Chain Mexican Restaurant dining. This time El Torito is back at it again, successfully introducing more traditional Mexican flavors not typically seen at your average taco shop. The vehicle is through its new, carefully-crafted Comida Clásica menu that swayed toward the conservative but could boast tradicional roots without destroying the facade of “Mexican Flavors’ the American palette has been trained to love (for better or worse).

In a utopian world, established restaurants with Research and Menu Development budgets, similar to El Torito, would be able to take grandiose and most importantly aggressive steps to introduce new flavors and finally shift the American palette to Mexican cuisine outside of the Asada Taco, Carnitas Burrito and Cheese Enchilada. It’s true, the metropolitan palette in the US has already been shifting due to the success of mainstream ‘Mexican’ like Chipotle/Taco Bell and the Asian-Fusion popularity that took us all by storm (and is still delicious). But will that direction last? Would we want it to?

The Comida Clásica menu takes baby steps in the right direction toward new flavors based in Mexican cultural relevance. Case in point, the Enchiladas de Huitlacoche include a creamy almond Nogata sauce (typically popular during the holidays) and sautéed Huitlacoche, otherwise known as mushroom of the corn or corn smut. By itself, when boiled and sautéed, Huitlacoche could be described as having an intimidating taste, virtually unknown to everyday stateside flavors. However, when delivered through a popular menu item like the enchilada and combined with chicken, manchego cheese and roasted pepitas, the flavor and also therefore its chances for mainstream acceptance — come to life. Of all the dishes, the enchiladas took the most confident step into the unknown, for which I give the Real Mex Executive Team a ton of credit. Branding a new Huitlacoche menu item isn’t easy nor is executing it at 60+ restaurants.

One will start to feel the conservatism expressed through the remaining menu items: Queso Fundido Appetizer, Mahi Mahi Veracruz, Street Taco Trio and the Carne Asada con Mole Tradicional. Of the remaining items, the Carne Asada dish is worth a specific mention because of its attempt to present Mole in a new light. Mole Poblano is the most popularized type of sauce outside of Mexico. If you’ve had Mole in the past, and can’t remember what kind – odds are you ate a Poblano. The Comida Clásica menu twists that script by introducing a traditional Red Mole from the state of Guanajuato, a state smack-dab in the middle of the country. The Red Mole is less sweet than its Poblano counterpart, mainly because less chocolate is used. Red Mole also uses the Pasilla pepper versus the darker Mulatto chiles. For someone opposed to the sweetness of the Pablano, but still interested in Mole flavors — this Red Mole might be the perfect combination. The sauce still adds significant flavor to the seasoned asada without completely overpowering it.

Overall the menu still impresses even if my personal hope would be to see a more aggressive set of food options. Still, I have come to terms with how a new menu item’s success is still dictated by its sales (for the most part). And boy, us Americans — we’re a tough crowd to please.

Check out the photos and menu descriptions of the full Comida Clásica menu below including its featured cocktails: the Margarita Toreada and the Fire Chata. Photos by Peter Pham.

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Queso Fundito Appetizer

Queso

El Torito’s Queso Fundito uses a hybrid of Chihuahua and Manchego Cheeses as the primary ingredient. Chihuahua Cheese was originally brought to Mexico by European Mennonites and can be compared to a mild cheddar. Manchego, originally from Spain, traditionally is a white, sheep-milk cheese but has since been adapted to a cow cheese here in North America. The combination of these cheeses, lean chorizo, sautéed mushrooms, and a roasted pepper salsa proved to be more than worthwhile.

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Enchiladas de Huitalacoche

Enchiladas

As previously mentioned, if there’s one menu item you should try — it should be these enchiladas. Similar to many contemporary independent restaurants El Torito also found a good way to implement the ever-popular squash blossoms that sit at the bottom of the plate. Try this dish for the almond Nogata sauce and most likely your first bite of sautéed huitalacoche.

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Street Taco Trio

Taco-Trio

This entree serves a variety set of tacos on corn tortillas including steak, grilled chicken breast and carnitas. The pickled nopalitos add an interesting flavor but the real standout is the side dish. The tacos are served with a restaurant adaptation of esquite de maiz, similar to a Mexican creamed corn. At stands off the highways in Mexico, one can buy the street version of this food: sliced corn off the grill thrown into a cup with lime juice, hot sauce and mayonnaise. The El Torito version has been classed up, but you’ll get the idea.

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Mahi Mahi Veracruz

Fish

Loreto Alacala, Manager of Training and Development at El Torito, specifically noted the seafood rivalry between two coastal states of Mexico — Veracruz v. Sinaloa. The Mahi Mahi Veracruz ironically combines a Pacific fish that could technically be caught in Sinaloa with the Veracruz culinary style by using roasted vegetables, citrus and tomatoes. Perhaps this was a subconscious decision by Alcala that ends up politically pleasing countryman from both states. The fish itself is light and refreshing, but I’m going to guess most patrons don’t frequent El Torito for it’s lighter fare.

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Margarita Toreada and Fire Chata Cocktails

Margerita

Horchata

The Margarita Toreada includes Maestro Dobel Tequila, sweet & sour and jalapeño toreado chiles. The Fire Chata brings similar heat with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and Rum Horchata.

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Loreto Alcala, Training & Development – El Torito

Chef

No, Mr. Alcala isn’t on the LTO menu, but his worldly expertise and graceful manner in which he communicates should be properly noted. El Torito, he’s a keeper. And the crew is excited to get our hands on his new Mexico City LTO menu.

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Restaurants

First Look: El Torito’s Flavors of Baja Menu Including Ceviche Tacos and Jalapeño Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

El Torito Baja Menu Ceviche Tacos

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.

Jalepeno Bacon Wrapped Wild Mexican Shrimp El Torito Flavors of Baja Menu

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 El Torito Flavors of Baja Menu

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 el torito

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.

el torito baja mule

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.

Categories
Restaurants

Parent Company of El Torito, Chevys and Acapulco Files for Bankruptcy

Real Mex Restaurants, Inc and all of its subsidiaries have announced that it will be filing for bankruptcy.  The corporation has announced that, under Chapter 11, they will go through a restructuring and reorganization of their properties.

Upon court approval, Real Mex will be receiving a commitment from General Electric Capital Corporation in the form of $49 million in debtor in possession (DIP).

The restaurants under Real Mex (El Torito, Chevys, Acapulco…) will not be affected by the restructuring. The process will be expected to finish within the first quarter of 2012.

(via: Restaurant News)

Categories
News

El Torito New $3 Happy Hour

El Torito is jumping hard on the happy hour game! Every weekday from 2pm-8pm El Torito is serving $3 drinks! Their original gold margaritas, domestic drafts, well drinks and wine are all a part of the happy hour special in the cantina! They also have  food specials to go along with your drinks!