The restaurant is called El Rey Del Taco – translating to The Taco King – and it’s a bit of a misnomer. They do more than just tacos.
One could visit this Mendota eatery for three squares a day, and do it without breaking the bank. And while the food is most definitely Mexican, El Rey Del Taco specializes in the cuisine of Mexico City; discerning palates will pick up on subtle differences between other regional cuisines, such as those from Oaxaca and Michoacán.
The Mystery Diner, in this case, happens to have visited La Ciudad de México, and recalls a less-is-more approach to some of the dishes of the Mexican capital. Guacamole there is avocado, onion and lime juice folded just enough to accentuate the flavor of the avocado.
El Rey Del Taco follows a similar ethos. The Mystery Diner and a companion enjoyed a guacamole that, as you’d find in CDMX, was no-frills and refreshing.
The deceptively simple approach applied to the entrees, as well. The Mystery Diner tucked into lomo de res in salsa verde – sliced steak tossed in green sauce, with corn tortillas – and, for the dining companion, al pastor tacos. Both entrees were served with rice and beans, and on large, near-overflowing plates. You don’t come here to snack.
They have an interesting approach on dessert, which is complimentary – when they have it. The server said they typically offer a slice of tres leches cake or a dish of flan as a thank-you for dining there. Unfortunately, we arrived on a night when there were no such selections.
Even without the gratis dessert, it’s hard to complain about the value. Entrees are affordable, ranging in price from $8 to $12. Two entrees, two sodas and a side of guacamole came to $36 before gratuity for the excellent server. The entrees arrived after an acceptable 15 minutes, and the server did stop by to say the food would be ready shortly, which it was.
El Rey Del Taco isn’t exclusively a dinner option, by the way. The menu includes five breakfast selections, egg dishes priced at $7.99, and the weekends typically include specials such as tamales, carnitas, barbacoa and menudo served on fresh tortillas.
For parents still trying to wean their fussy children onto ethnic cuisine, there is a kids’ menu featuring can’t-miss fallback options such as hamburgers, chicken strips and grilled cheese. Beverages are limited to soft drinks; no alcohol is served.
For a couple years, El Rey Del Taco has been housed in what appears to be an old railroad waiting terminal. The music is kept at a restrained volume for ease of conversation.
The building is conveniently located in downtown Mendota near the train station, and has three outdoor tables and a ramp for easy access.
El Rey Del Taco’s hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: El Rey Del Taco
WHERE: 701 Main St., Mendota