Every now and again, a person has a “go-to” restaurant. This place won’t win awards for culinary excellence or service, but admitting this was the first step towards loving El Mariachi. The cantina is dependably average. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the place is open, given the shabby appearance surrounding the building. That said, I’m not the only online reviewer hot for the place! I’m feeling ruthless after looking at other reviews, since I like El Mariachi. (Note: Reviewer would give 4 stars, but consistency needs to happen before that level can be given with honesty.)
Service runs tepid. Order an adult beverage makes amigos, but the love lasts only as long as alcohol flows to the table. One loyal, repeat customer said they go for the food, not the service. Restaurant furnishings are sparse: basic booths and subdued decorations lack the usual flamboyant, artistic eye candy inspired by the streets of Mexico The dining area is kept clean.
El Mariachi pulls ahead with food. There’s no cold food served, except the salsa which is listed as “mild,” but most gringoes will find it spicier as compared to jarred grocery store refuse. Chips are served with said salsa. Chip quality ranges from right-out-of-the-fryer-crispy-perfection to when-did-the-oil-get-changed?
El Mariachi has the cheapest lunch in town: Speedy Gonzales. One taco, rice, and a passable beef enchilada with a mild red sauce make a nice lunch for under $5. Put some of the taco cheese on the rice! They have a lunch menu, but this reviewer sticks with Speedy, exception being a side of cheese enchiladas floating in salsa verde (which is awesome with carnitas on top).
One showcase dish is the Enchiladas Suizas. Chicken is shredded, rolled in corn tortillas, and bathed in salsa verde, cheese sauce, and crowned with chilly sour cream. Another accomplished specialty food is the Carnitas (chunks of pork deep fried in pig lard). Run Miss Piggy, run! Crisp outside, silken flesh inside, lounging in a shade of zesty verde. Now put that on a chip with some of the cheese sauce from the Suizas plate. Thank me later.
Drinks are Pepsi products. On the carry out menu they show Jarritos, but don’t list them as available to purchase on the same to go menu (they are). Kids love these Mexican sodas! Coming in a variety of flavors such as strawberry, guava, and pineapple, they are worth the splurge versus drinks such as Sierra Mist.
El Mariachi has a full bar. Cervezas are inexpensive, and I’d recommend asking for Dos Equis Amber. Skip the standard Dos Equis lager. For this reviewer few lagers, whether domestic or imports, are worth even cheap restaurant prices. Margaritas are standard issue. Bottom shelf tequila is the basis for less expensive restaurant margaritas, and El Mariachi uses Montezuma. The drink is passable but goes down rough. An eater may be torn between appreciating the extra liquor and wanting a well fashioned drink.
El Mariachi offers take out. Their website is complete with menus and specials (although not recently updated). For visitors, there is Comfort Inn literally next door. This is a major plus for visiting Tech fans who don’t have to fight downtown Blacksburg traffic- except after the game itself.
According to their brochure, they’ve been open 20 years. If El Mariachi pushes the envelope a bit harder they’ll keep Mexican aficionados happy for another generation.
3703 S Main St.
Blacksburg, VA 24060
540 951 7300