In the car on the way up to Modesto to run a few errands, hubby and I were both lamenting that, while Merced has some good taquerias and a mariscos place or two, there really isn't a great place for a full, meat-centered Mexican meal with a full menu and cozy booths, not to mention a decent margarita. You know, the perfect type of place for a late leisurely Sunday lunch after running errands...
So I did a quick check on Chowhound reports for Modesto, and we decided to try El Rosal on Tully and Standiford, fairly close to the malls. Shopping done, when we arrived at about 1:30 we were pleased to see that while the place was busy, there were a few comfortable booths free.
Chips, both corn and flour, and fresh and reasonably tasty (I am not a flour chips fan, so hubby had those), were brought along with a nice but mild tomato/cilantro salsa that tasted house made.
No margaritas (at least no tequila, there may be wine margaritas), but they have a decent beer selection, including several Mexican beers on tap.
The menu is quite lengthy and varied, and breakfast is served all day, always a plus. Hubby settled on enchiladas de pollo en mole, and I was going to try the cosido (always a good sign if cosido is on the menu), until I spotted a note that on weekends they have carne en su jugo.
Score! I haven't seen carne en su jugo on a menu in a Central Valley restaurant in, well...ever, so my order was settled.
I've only had carne en su jugo once, and that was in Guadalajara years ago. This version had less meat than I remember (the meat wasn't particularly flavorful and was cut into very small pieces..) still, the beans were excellent, there was *lots* of bacon, and the broth was delicious. The bacon appeared to have been cooked a while in the broth: that probably adds flavor but I think I'd prefer crispy bacon added at the end.
The dish was served with a spicy, very nice chipotle salsa (and I am not much of a chipotle fan but this one was good, with lots of garlic), chopped onions, cilantro, and lime, along with two quesadillas and some refried beans. The refried beans were above average but overkill with the beans in the dish, and the quesadillas were a waste of calories (average tortillas stuffed with jack cheese and griddled). Fortunately, I had also asked for plain tortillas (though I was charged an extra 95 cents for them) to dip in that broth. Next time, I will ask for plain tortillas instead of the quesadillas...
Anyway, I ate every drop despite being stuffed, and would definitely order it again: not a perfect version of carne en su jugo, but pretty darn good, and as I say, if anyone knows another spot to get it between the bay area and LA, well please tell us!
Hubby really liked his enchiladas: the mole was dark and sweetish, and the chicken was shredded and fresh. No cut up cubes of processed chicken breast here....
Service was average: drinks were brought quickly and water replenished, although it did take a while to get the mains. No problem, they were worth the wait. I was over charged for one of our beers, but it was corrected quickly when we pointed out the problem.
Total for our lunch with three beers and tax and tip was about $39, lots of food. Not the least expensive place around, but this is definitely the type of place we were looking for, and we will be back. Probably on a weekend to try more of the specials. That carne en su jugo is Sat and Sun only....
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