El Azteca Mexican restaurant in Inver Grove Heights opened to mixed reviews during the summer of 2015, most of them, unfortunately, negative. Slow service. Mediocre food. The list of complaints was long. In fact, our own first impression wasn’t great, and we dubbed El Azteca just another average Mexican restaurant.
But a few months ago we went back for a second time over lunch and things were improved. The Azteca shrimp salad and lunch chicken chimichanga were both good. And now, it’s the summer of 2016, and we recently went back for a third time.
Boom! It was on.
Below we give five reasons why we feel every Inver Grove Heights resident, or frustrated El Azteca customer, should give El Azteca Mexican restaurant in Inver Grove Heights another chance:
1. Service: The first time we went there the service was slow, we were ignored, and our orders were mixed up. When we told the server we got the wrong order he laughed. When we asked for a soda refill, he didn’t come back. None of that has happened the second and third time. In fact, the service has been on point. There appears to be more servers on staff, and they all have more experience or better training, a better knowledge of the menu, and work hard. And that makes for a better experience. In an article that discussed Red Savoy pizza looking for franchisees in Inver Grove Heights, Jeff Thames, Director of Franchise Sales for Savoy Pizza, described how eating is emotional. It’s true. If your service is good, your experience is going to be better. The service has improved, greatly.
2. Speaking of that salsa: The salsa is now what you would expect from a Mexican restaurant. Authentic, freshly made. Just like it’s supposed to be, not what seemed like lukewarm tomato sauce when the restaurant first opened. We’re not sure what they did then – maybe they borrowed salsa from TC Taco when they first opened? But what they are doing now, they are doing right. Good chips and salsa are a must for any Mexican restaurant and they finally got it right at El Azteca.
3. Happy hour specials: Two-for-one margarita’s from 2- 6 p.m. For $8, total. Yep. Big, tasty, margarita’s at a cost of $4 each during happy hour. It takes only one and you’ll start to feel happy. After the second, you’ll be feeling great. There is a small but solid variety of beer on tap (Dos Equis and Coors Light among them), bottled beer, hard liquor/mixed drinks available, and a nice bar area to eat some apps and drink some taps. The bar in fact, could be a lot of fun with the right people around it.
4. The food: Ultimately, every customer wants good food. And each of the last two times, it has been above average to excellent. We recently had these three items (pictures of all three are below):
Grilled jumbo shrimp chopped with onions and covered with melted Mexican cheese – $9.99
Analysis: This appetizer was not even close to what we expected when we ordered it – but it was delicious. Think cheese sauce, with diced shrimp. It almost looked like soup. But we loaded up on chips and treated it like a dip, and it was a fantastic combination. This would be a perfect appetizer for a Sunday Funday watching Minnesota Vikings football, and we can’t wait to order this to go come football season, and put it in a small crock pot. Give it a try.
Pasta de Chipotle con Camaron
Pan seared linguini with shrimp, chipotle, roasted corn sauce, cilantro and queso fresco – $14.99
Analysis: Plenty of nice-sized shrimp (we counted 12) highlight this Mexican pasta dish. You better like cilantro though, because there is a lot of it. Too much in our opinion, and we would ask for less next time. This dish is almost like a cheesy shrimp mac and cheese over linguini, with a little spice and lots of cilantro. It tastes good reheated too, because we just ate the leftovers.
El Paisano Pollo
Grilled chicken breast, four jumbo shrimp, mushrooms, onions, and peppers topped with cheese sauce. Served with rice, beans and flour tortillas – $15.99
Analysis: The largest flattened grilled chicken breast we’ve ever seen, smothered with jumbo shrimp (good size), and all the sauce and fixings. It’s fantastic. The rice and beans were done right too – something that wasn’t the case the first two times. Two people could almost split this, especially after eating chips and salsa, and an appetizer. Reheats well – and we just finished those leftovers too.
5. We left wanting to go back for more: We left stuffed and still had leftovers. All three items we tried were outside the basic tex-mex items that a Mexican restaurant must make right to be successful. But the more authentic Mexican dishes we tried passed the test. We were full, happy and content knowing we finally had a local Mexican restaurant that did things right. We will be back.
The only negative we’ve had is that the food is very salty and you balloon up like you do after hitting up your favorite Inver Grove Heights Asian restaurant.
But overall, we found our return trips to El Azteca to be much improved and encourage Inver Grove Heights residents to give El Azteca a second chance. We did, and it worked out well. We hope it does for you too.
El Azteca is located at 5816 Blaine Ave E, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076