- 1960 Grand Ave., Suite 19, West Des Moines, IA, 50265
- Overall User Rating:
- (16 ratings)
- 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
I often observe that, around here, anyway, the better the food is at a Mexican restaurant, the less likely you are to find a really good margarita. Especially at small, fresh-and-simple spots, these Tex-Mex-popularized drinks just aren’t the focus.
When I stopped into El Rey Burritos at lunch, I spotted a line-up of premium tequilas on the counter of the stylized beach-bar hut; snooping around, I saw no evidence of prefab margaritas bubbling in margarita machines. Clearly, further investigation was needed — preferably at dinner with a few friends.
Ambience: A popular West Des Moines burrito place for more than a decade, El Rey recently moved from one strip-mall location to another strip-mall location up the street. In its earlier digs, the restaurant was a simple, tidy, good-natured little spot; now, it’s a simple, tidy, good-natured large spot, with an added bonus of plenty of cushioned booth seating.
Menu: Find tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, chile rellenos, carne asada (broiled skirt steaks), tostados and quesadillas. Specialties include burritos (of course) as well as seafood soup, shrimp soup and, on Saturdays and Sundays, traditional Menudo soup.
The Margaritas: At $6.95, Mi Mexico’s “Originale” margaritas are still the best in town, but El Rey’s may just be the best $3.99 margaritas in town. Made with a house-blended recipe of juices, sweet and sour mix, tequila and triple sec, they’re bright and fresh, with a sweet-tart swirl well intact.
Best Bites: For starters, say “yes” to the super-fresh guacamole and the luscious fondue-like cheese dip.
Burritos indeed reign here; we chose the steak filling, and diced bits of flavorful meat came rolled up with sour cream, refried beans, onions, crisp lettuce, tomato and cheese. Spiraled in a toasty-crisp, totally fresh flour tortilla, the meal-in-a-wrap brought a contrast of smoothness and crunch, creaminess and kick — especially when amped up with one of the two salsas that also come to the table: a mean-green tomatillo take and a pleasantly smoky-bitter, fiery-red version.
Also of Note: The Sopa de Mariscos brought a rustic bowl of seafood (including) mussels, small shrimp and imitation crabmeat, with vegetables in a tomato-based broth. The garnishes — fresh avocado, an onion-cilantro dice and limes — offered the bracing dose of freshness the somewhat plain dish needed.
Chicken fajitas were fine if not remarkable; as for the cheese-stuffed chile relleno, in spite of a mushy coating, I ate every gooey-cheesy bite.