When I go to the Twin Cities, I like to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomington. Just down the street from the hotel, I've noticed a sign for a Mexican restaurant - but I didn't really see a restaurant. It turns out that the restaurant was embedded in the ground floor of the Southgate Office Plaza at 5001 W. American Blvd. (see map) One night on a recent trip to the Twin Cities I decided to give El Loro a try.
It turns out that there are a number of El Loro (which means the parrot in Spanish) Mexican Restaurants in the area. However, not all of them are owned by the same person. In fact, there are two different El Loro ownership groups in the Twin Cities. There is the original El Loro in suburban Burnsville that begat three other restaurants and is owned by Alex and Marcos Gomez. The Gomez brothers also have stakes in local restaurants El Toro and El Azteca. The El Loro that I visited is part of a six location chain that is owned by franchisee Rueben Arellano.
I got into El Loro around 8 p.m. this particular evening. The bar area looks like it may have been a sports bar at one point in time. There were flat panel televisions all through the well lit room with a large rectangular bar situated in the center. They also have an outdoor patio area, but it was raining that particular evening so no one was seated out there.
I was guided to the dining area off to the side of the bar area, shown to expansive booth and given a menu to look through. My server came over to greet me and I ordered a margarita on the rocks. "Small, medium or large," he asked me. Well, large, of course!
A basket of chips accompanied by a large bowl of thick salsa was brought to my table once I settled in as I was looking through the menu. A small bowl of what appeared to be a cojita queso dip came with the chips. However, it turned out to be something along the lines of a sour cream sauce with some herbs mixed in. It was sort of like a ranch dressing, but only more thick. I don't think I've had anything like that served to me at a Mexican restaurant before. While the salsa was very good, I was a little apprehensive of the sour cream concoction.
The margarita, well, it was a BIG-ASSED margarita! I had to put a sauce bottle by the side of the glass to show the size of the thing. It was your basic margarita with the mix and all. Good enough for what I needed that evening.
The food at this El Loro was your standard Mexican fare - fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, and tacos in various forms and varieties. They did have grilled fish tacos on the menu and I almost pulled the trigger on those, given that I'm a sucker for good fish tacos. But something else that I saw on the menu caught my eye.
I ended up getting the enchiladas verdes - three corn tortillas filled with shredded machaca beef with a tomatillo sauce on top. Guacamole, chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce were on the side along with a bed of Mexican rice. Normally, most Mexican restaurants serve refried beans with an entree like this. This didn't have refried beans, which was more than fine with me.
The enchiladas were very good. The beef was tender and had a nice Mexican seasoning. The salsa verde was delicious with the corn tortillas and beef. They weren't big, but that was also fine with me. The guacamole was pretty salty for me. But that didn't detract from what was a pretty good Mexican dinner that particular evening.
While I can't say that the El Loro I ate at was the best Mexican food I've had, it was serviceable enough. The enchilada verdes were well above average and very tasty. The service I received was good and the huge margarita - probably a half-pitcher if you measured it out - was a pretty good value. I can't find much to complain about my visit to El Loro. The experience was far from disappointing.