Northwest Herald

Mystery Diner in Algonquin: El Fuego a relaxed spot for tasty Mexican food

El Fuego Tacos and Burritos in Algonquin offers a variety of traditional Mexican cuisine.

Even in a strip center, El Fuego Tacos & Burritos in Algonquin stands out.

I took a trip there on a Thursday for lunch. Reviews for the place were strong, with the menu offering a wide range of tacos, burritos, appetizers, nachos, tostadas, flautas and plates for full dinners.

The restaurant on the inside is lively, with a compact dining room that can seat dozens. The walls are painted a deep orange and decorated with Spanish and Mexican-influenced art.

For my lunch, I ordered chips and salsa ($3.45) with a side of guacamole ($2) to start things out. As my main course, I selected a chicken taco bowl ($8.25), along with a beef burrito ($8.25) to snack on a little later.

To my surprise, the burrito was much more than a snack. The portions offered by the restaurant were large, and I ended up taking more home than I had anticipated.

While the portions are a little small, both the salsa and the guacamole pair well together for a great appetizer. You can even use them on your main course.

The salsa had a medium heat and was tasty. Rotating it with the guacamole was a great pairing. For those dining with a friend, it’s definitely a good thing to share, although you may each want your own chips and dips, so you have enough salsa and spiced avocado to add to your other dishes.

The taco bowl had an assortment of offerings. From the chicken to lettuce and tomato, topped off with tortilla strips and all put together in a hard-shell corn tortilla bowl, it acted as the main part of my lunch. I also was able to use some of the salsa and guacamole, which added to the flavor, and almost made it like a fajita bowl.

I took a few bites of the burrito at the restaurant, but given its size, I ended up having it for dinner later that night. Cut into two pieces, you could immediately see what it had in it – juicy beef marinated with a sauce, as well as lettuce and tomato.

The beef burrito was enough to take home and have as a separate meal. Cut into even portions, you can see what you're getting immediately.

The couple bites I took for lunch were succulent, and were a favorite part of the dining experience. It was more than enough as a second meal, too.

In addition to the restaurant’s tacos and burritos, which come with your choice of meat or even as a vegetarian option, El Fuego serves quesadillas ($4.95), nachos (starting at $4.50), huaraches ($8.25) and smaller options like tostadas ($3.75). They also serve full entrees, and feature many items in kid portions.

Some of their sides are rice and beans ($2.50). For an interesting twist on the drinks menu, you can get horchata ($2.75), a favorite for its creamy, cinnamon flavor.

The chicken taco bowl, topped off with some salsa and guacamole.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: El Fuego Tacos & Burritos

WHERE: 132 S. Randall Road, Algonquin

PHONE: 224-678-9200

INFORMATION: www.elfuegogrill.com