Watch out, Papas and Beer! New players are in town!
Two Mexican restaurants opened recently; Elena’s Mexican Grill (So Asheville/Arden) and Sol Y Luna (Hendersonville/Laurel Park – review coming soon).
Elena’s is new, but owned by the same people that own El Rebozo (2270 Hendersonville Rd, near DQ) and Casa Torres (336 Rockwood Rd Ste 109,Â near Arden Cracker Barrel). I’ve eaten at El Rebozo (it was good), but not Casa Torres.
Rarely at a Mexican restaurant are you surprised by quality and price – unless either are awful. As a friend of mine likes to say, “they all taste the same to me”.
Elena’s Grill caused me to sit up and take notice. So much so, I asked friends to try Elena’s to see if my experience was a fluke. No fluke! They reported back that it was at least as good as Papas. I’ve been back two times and am convinced it’s at least as good or better than Papas. Don’t get me wrong, I love Papas, but Elena’s is great food and service and quite a different experience; quiet, relaxed pace and roomier. They also have some menu dishes you can’t get at Papas.
PIC loves enchiladas, so he ordered the Enchiladas Supreme on “Special” for $7.50. Normally it’s $8.95. Four enchiladas; one chicken, one beef, one bean and one cheese. All four were topped with enchilada sauce, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and chopped tomato.
He reported the enchilada sauce was very good, as were the enchiladas . . . except for the beef version. It was filled with ground beef, not shredded, which he would have preferred. As for the all important enchilada sauce, it was a pretty mild, so if you like yours with some kick, ask your server to see if they can spice it up a bit.
In the mood to try something different, I ordered one of Elena’s Especialidades, Brochetas ($11.95). Two skewers (“shish kebab” on the menu) filled with grilled shrimp, onions, bell peppers and pineapple were served on aÂ sizzling pan. Really, it was two skewers on the pan, topped with more of what was on the skewers plus cheese. In all, there were a dozen grilled shrimp.
Served along with the skewers was aÂ separateÂ plate of rice, beans and salad plus a couple warm tortillas. The menu only mentioned rice and salad? I’m not sure if the server made a mistake or if they’re always going to serve Brochetas this way.
This dish was fabulous! I just couldn’t believe how nicely the shrimp AND veggies were cooked. No overcooked veggies or undercooked shrimp. Â The shrimp had a good “grilled” flavor.
We decided to split an order of Flan for dessert. It wasn’t on the menu, but when I asked, they said they did have it. This flan presentation was a first for me: piled with whipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon, drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a cherry. It was pretty good, but I also like flan plain.
Elena’s also has one of the best complimentaryÂ Salsa Bars around.
Our server was very friendly, but not quite as attentive as he could have been. Hopefully this improves as they get more traffic.
Elena’s interior is more or less typical. There are two distinct dining areas. The one they use most often evokes an outdoor patio (typical). It’s clean and well maintained.
As I said, I had asked friends to check out Elena’s to be sure they were really as good as I thought they were. One of those double-checks was a stop for a mid-afternoonÂ snack. Wanting a SpinachÂ BurritoÂ (not on the menu), my friend ordered a Spring Burrito, hold the shrimp and add extra spinach. All the vegetables were cooked perfectly: mushrooms, zucchini,Â asparagus, onions and spinach. We were particularly impressed with the asparagus – no woody bits, not over or under cooked.
This same friend and her husband went to Elena’s another time for dinner. She ordered the same burrito. The only difference was they made it with tomatoes and without mushrooms. Must have been what was on hand? All veggies were cooked nicely again, but there were a couple slightly woody bits of asparagus. Her husband ordered a Chicken and Beef (shredded) Burrito, which he thought was excellent.
All this leaves me wondering, who’s in the kitchen?
Stop by before they get busy!
Elena’s Mexican Grill
2424 Hendersonville Rd./Hwy US25
Arden, NC 28704
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