Tuesday, February 10, 2009

El Azteco - The Great Old Standby

This blog has gone far too long without a mention of El Azteco. "El Az" as it is often called, has been in East Lansing for almost as long as I can remember (and I won't give away my age by telling you how long that is). And although this restaurant has moved and expanded, it has not changed. The food is still messy and a little inconsistent, but tasty as all get out and very filling for a reasonable price.

The tortillas and chips are fresh, and salsa only comes in hot. If you want something a little milder (or even if you don't) order up a bowl of their cheese dip, which is a light, creamy combo of sour cream, cottage cheese, regular chees and green onions.

My favorite meal is a la carte: a Guacamole Tostada, Chicken Taco and Rice. The Guac Tostada is a fried tortilla platter, slathered with hot beans and melted cheese, then covered with guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes. It's messy and difficult to eat, but OHHHH it's good. The chicken taco is made with pulled chicken meat, stewed in a medium colorado sauce. (Watch out, it's hand made, and sometimes you might find a bone in it.) Soft corn tortilla, lettuce and tomato.

The rice is really good, but vegetarians should watch out -- it's made with chicken broth. Otherwise, non-meat items are suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarians. (Vegans would be better off heading for Altus.)

El Azteco is also famous for its enchiladas, which come in many varieties. My favorite is the Enchiladas de Jocoque -- which are filled with a creamy cheese mixture much like the cheese dip, and soaked in spicy red sauce. Other's prefer the Blue Corn Enchiladas, which I think come with their Chili Verde. (A Chili Verde Burrito is also a special item here.)

Other special dishes are the Botana, which is something like a cross between nachos and a guacamole tostada - a plate of chips slathered with hot beans and cheese, then piled high with guacamole, lettuce and tomato. And then there is the Topopo Salad, which has all of the above plus chicken and peas and other things. This one tends to be piled so high, it's like a hay stack.

The East Lansing location has a rooftop patio which is open in good weather, and there is a second location downtown, which has more of a local working class bar atmosphere.

(And to all those who hit my blog from Google searches on "el az taco" or "elaz taco" those are local slang names for the place. This is the restauant you are looking for: The Aztec, El Azteco.)

El Azteco, 225 Ann Street, East Lansing. (517) 351-9111 El Azteco, 1016 W Saginaw St., Lansing. (517) 485-4589


ben said...

The last time I was there (the East Lansing location, about a month ago), a friend and I split a plate of tacos and the pollo pipian fajitas. When it all came to the table, I mentioned to the waitress that she'd forgotten the peanut sauce, and she said that they weren't serving it anymore. Can anyone confirm this? It's a shame if it's true... that was the key to that dish.

Greg said...

I have just returned from the East Lansing place. It's true, Ben. They don't serve the peanut sauce anymore. I'm bummed. That was their best "non-salsa" dish they had on the menu.