3491 Poplar Ave
Memphis, TN 38111
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El Chico

Neighborhoods: Joffre Area Ciivic Association
Cuisine: Mexican, American, Bar

El Chico is a Mexican, American, and Bar restaurant where most Menuism users came for fun with friends, paid less than $10, and tipped more than 18%.

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 Chuckey, TN
 

Standard mexican food with a few gems, but kind of dirty.

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EDITED Sept 14, 2010

The El Chico located at 3491 Poplar Ave, Memphis TN 38111 closed down and has been replaced by another Mexican restaurant called La Hacienda.

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This is a 2.5 star restaurant that’s rounded up to a 3.

El Chico’s is a small (under 100 franchises) sit-down restaurant chain in the southeastern US. I’ve only been to the Memphis location at the Poplar-Highland intersection, so can’t speak for other locations within the chain. However, the Poplar-Highland establishment is a decent enough Mexican restaurant and bar.

My first trip to El Chico’s was after class with a bunch of archaeology grad students to get margaritas. For those that don’t know, academics that do rural field research (archaeologists, biologists, geologists, etc.) are reknowned for their ability to find good bars. I’m normally not a fan of alcoholic beverages, but I have to admit that El Chico’s does produce some nice mixed drinks.

Like many sit-down Mexican restaurants, El Chico’s serves free chips and salsa. The chips are served hot and the salsa isn’t bad. El Chico goes a step above other restaurants though in that they will also provide free cheese dip, which is good alone or mixed with the free salsa. Poor grad students can definitely take advantage of the good drinks when combined with free chips, salsa, and cheese dip! :)

Most of the menu items are nothing special—not bad,but they just don’t stand out. Things you ought to try though are the 7-layer dip (inexpensive and very filling), the skillet brownie (chocolate/sugar overload!), and the Top Shelf guacamole (best I’ve ever had).

I’ve never had bad service here, though some of the waiters and waitresses are clearly better than the others who are just “coasting” along.

The one downside to the restaurant is that it can be dirty sometimes. The lights are dim, so you might not notice. But if you wait until your eyes adjust and then really look around, you’ll notice it. This is more of a housekeeping issue than a problem with the food. I’ve never had questionable things in my food (and I have looked), but A tends to eventually lead to B in these situations—unless A is addressed. If El Chico put more effort into cleaning up and played more on food presentation, it could merit 4 stars instead of a 2.5 rounded up to a 3.

Top Shelf Guacamole

Guacamole that’s hand-made from ripe avocados right at your table. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that!

I’m not normally a fan of guacamole, but this was actually good enough that I’d spring for it. A couple of my friends who love guacamole swear that this is the best there is and order it every single time they go. They’re practically salivating on the table by the time it’s served.

Brownie Skillet Sundae

A triple chocolate brownie with pecans topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and brandy-butter sauce.

I absolutely love this dessert and it’s practically a meal all on its own. You’ll be getting a large piece of brownie that’s served hot on a scalding skillet. The server will pour the brandy-butter sauce over the top and it will boil as it hits the hot skillet. (My mouth is watering as I type this.)

Personally, I like to tweak this dish just a little. If I’m in “chocolate overkill” mode I’ll ask them to substitute chocolate sauce for the brandy-butter sauce. I also like to substitute cinnamon ice cream instead of vanilla, as I think it pairs better with the chocolate brownie (but might not work for everyone with the brandy-butter sauce instead of the chocolate sauce).

I think this is probably one of the best desserts in Memphis.

Seven layer dip

The starving college student special!

The seven layer dip (the bowl, not the cup!) is a great deal. You’ll get a HUGE bowl of dip that will probably take an entire basket of tortilla chips to polish off. You can almost feed two people off of this one appetizer—or one person can make it into an entire meal and leave feeling like a bloated tick and not wanting to eat anything else the rest of the day.

While the dish itself is merely what you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant, the price and the volume of food makes this menu item an exceptional value—and thus 4 stars instead of 3.

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