El Encanto

Reviewed By: Leslie & Andy
It's my birthday year!  Every year is my birthday year.  When you need an excuse to celebrate, just remember it's your birthday year, too! But actually my real birthday was recently. Our neighbors, Steven and Shannon, wanted to celebrate with us so they thought to take us somewhere fun. I've always wanted to go to Casa Bonita for my birthday (a Denver landmark where the restaurant is designed like a village and they have guys cliff diving into a small pool while you eat). As a Colorado native, it's almost sacrilege that I have not yet witnessed the cliff diving circus that is Casa Bonita. One day... However, Arizona offers a restaurant chain with the same family friendly, unique feel--but the primary difference is the food is good at El Encanto, which is already a huge improvement over the speedo-wearing teenagers flailing off a foam "cliff" in my book.

Ambience: El Encanto restaurants are known for their water features. This one in particular has a, for lack of a better word, pond.  It is loaded with fish, ducks, and birds.  We were disappointed that we did not get to sit closer to the water, but there was actually nothing to see. There was no lighting on the pond so it looked a bit like a dark mass in the middle of the restaurant. As the focal point of the restaurant I would have expected it to be showcased even in the evening. The interior of the restaurant has nice Mexican tiles, wrought iron, and stucco all reminiscent of an old world Mexican cantina.  Some of it was in need of some TLC, but still had the "transported to another country" vibe they were going for.

Quality:  The food was great!  This is where El Encanto shines. Margaritas were spot on. Andy and I usually order margaritas on the rocks, no salt.  When you order margaritas with no salt, it tends to throw the bartender for a loop.  I think they get into auto-pilot when making margaritas and inevitably rim the glasses with salt, then remember you didn't want salt, and wipe the salt into your drink thus making for a salty margarita...bleh.  This was not the case at El Encanto!  The margs came out perfectly salted for Steven and Shannon and unsalted for Andy and I. Yea!  Also, the guacamole is fantastic! It came topped with cheese, tomatoes, and green onions witch really added to the overall deliciousness of the avocados. Chips and salsa also really good--served with three salsas: mild, medium, and hot. My tamales were very good. They were served on--not in--the corn husks which I appreciated.  I enjoy the authenticity of the corn husks while not having to stick my fingers in my hot food.  The sauces, green chili and mole, were also fantastic.  I loved my meal and I think the table fell silent as we all enjoyed our choices.

Service:  We had to subtract a star or maybe two for the greeting, or lack thereof, upon arrival. The hostesses do not do the restaurant justice, sadly, with their lackadaisical, unenthusiastic attitudes.  Not to mention we waited for over 45 minutes to be seated. When we asked if we could sit in the bar we were told the bar was not for waiting.  Others were seated in the bar right away, but alas, not us.  We waited...and waited... and just when we were hungry enough to eat our own arms, we were seated.  Thankfully! I only have two arms and typing would slow down immensely if I had to hunt and peck the keys.  Our server more than made up for our poor experience at the door.  He was friendly, efficient, quick to bring those margs, quick with chip and salsa refills, happy to suggest the delicious guac, and genuinely happy to be serving us that evening.  We quickly forgot about those grumpy hostesses...

Value:  We do not know the overall cost of dinner as Steven graciously stole the check before Andy could arm wrestle it away from him.  (Thanks for dinner, Steven!)  However, based on the menu prices and the quality of the food, I'd say it is a good value.  The plates are portioned as expected for Mexican food (huge) and the prices are average.  My tamales were $10.99 which seemed a fair price and the quality was beyond the ten dollar price expectation. We would go back, for sure. 

It appeared that El Encanto was still trying to navigate the nuances of food service during a pandemic. They had a banner at the back entrance that seemed like a "temporarily in business" sort of message and inside there were sections of the dining room where tables and chairs were stacked up and a bit messy.

All in all, we had a great time at El Encanto! Once you get past the gate-keepers the restaurant is truly a joy.  The ambience, with the water and wildlife, along with the great food and experienced service make for a unique place to celebrate.  We will definitely keep El Encanto in our pocket for times when we have a birthday to celebrate or the girls are in town and we want to take them somewhere fun that won't break the bank. Dinner was fantastic, but I must say the company and conversation made the evening a most enjoyable and memorable experience.