For more than 70 years, El Patio has been serving up Mexican dishes at various locations around town. Since 1952 the restaurant has been in its current location, an old house just off Ingersoll.
El Patio is something of a Des Moines institution. It’s also a throwback to a time when there wasn’t a Mexican restaurant on every corner. When El Patio opened, Mexican food was more of a novelty, and the restaurant’s look still reflects that a bit. “Authentic” isn’t the word, but El Patio definitely has a southwestern ambience. Most importantly, you feel like you’re dining in someone’s home.
On a Friday night the restaurant was busy, but the patio was packed. It’s not a huge patio, but the restaurant makes good use of the space, allowing a number of customers to dine al fresco, or at least in the open room closest to the patio.
We started the meal with margaritas (blue for me, original for my wife) and a cheese crisp to split. The margaritas were delicious, while the cheese crisp needed a bit more crispness. The edges were crispy, but the cheese-covered portions were a little limp.
I ordered the Kahuna burrito, which comes stuffed with a wonderfully smoky, slow-roasted pork. The burrito is topped with a green chili sauce and cheese and served with rice and beans. The pork was very tender and flavorful. The chili sauce was the perfect complement to the burrito, and kept me from reaching for the salsa bowl or adding any hot sauce.
My wife ordered the chicken flautas, which were very large and had all the crunch we had hoped for from the cheese crisp. Plenty of times I’ve ordered flautas and left the restaurant still hungry, but El Patio’s version provides a complete meal.
Today there are a number of options for Mexican in the Ingersoll area, but El Patio was there first and is still doing it right. For longtime residents of Des Moines it’s a fun trip down memory lane with great food to boot.
Kahuna burrito .... $9.50
Chicken flautas .... $8.75
Cheese crisp ......... $4.75
Margarita ............. $3.75
Blue margarita ..... $4.75
Total with tax and tip: $39.40
Find it: 611 37th St.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday