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Review: El Conquistador - Phoenix (w/ photos!)


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Review: El Conquistador - Phoenix (w/ photos!)

Seth Chadwick | May 9, 2006 10:58 PM

Dave the Roommate can sometimes be the master of ambivalence. He loathes being the person to make a decision for the group, and that includes having to pick a restaurant. There was one time where he wouldn’t choose a restaruant, so I drove to a vacant parking lot and drove in a circle for five minutes until he made a decision. Extreme? You bet, but I achieved my goal and Dave did make a good selection, from what I remember.

Even more extreme, in these current days of high gas prices, is to tell Dave that if he doesn’t choose, then I will take him to either Denny’s or Chevy’s. If he’s really ambivalent, I will start driving to Applebee’s. Cruel? You bet, but, again, the goal has been achieved.

Our friend Neil has upped the ante even more and forever is begging me to take Dave to Pancho’s Mexican Buffet on East Indian School Road. For those who haven’t been in the Valley very long, Pancho’s is truly a food gulag. The concept is you line up and get this hot metal tray thingie placed in a larger, cooler tray and then you make your selections along a buffet. The food is, well, dubious at best. If you want (or can stomach) more, you don’t return to the buffet line. Instead, you raise a little Mexican flag at your table to the top of its mast and some Mexican buffet maven asks what you want more of. If you are smart, you will ask for Tums. Or a stomach pump.

Luckily, you don’t have to go to Pancho’s. That fact lead Dave, Neil and I out for a Mexican lunch at the El Conquistador Restaurant which, the menu states, serves “Jalisco style” Mexican food. Okay, a break from Sonoran style is a good start.

We arrived and found El Conquistador at the end of a very small strip mall near 32nd Street and Bell in North Phoenix. We parked and entered. The places was decorated with lots of Mexican art and knick-knacks and divided into two dining rooms. The back room was fairly full, so we parked ourselves at a booth near the main entrance. A gentleman came by and gave us menus and took our drink order. Neil and I each ordered an Iced Tea ($1.99) while Dave had a Diet Pepsi ($1.99).

As we reviewed the menus, our server retrieved our drinks and brought over a small bowl of chips, a bowl of salsa and a bowl of hot sauce. The chips were crispy and had a good taste. Thankfully, they hadn’t been overly salted. The hot sauce was a somewhat thin, tomato-based sauce with plenty of garlic and a spice kick that hit you about two minutes after you ate it. The salsa was solid with its fresh veggies and cilantro mix. We were pleased with both dips.

After much discussion, it was time to place our order. We started with a Cheese Quesadilla ($4.95). Dave wanted some soup and got a bowl of the Tortilla Soup ($3.50). For his entree, he went with the Carne de Puerco con Chile Verde ($8.95). Neil got the Chicken Chimichanga Plate ($10.95). For myself, I had a craving and only the Chile Relleno Plate ($9.95) was going to satisfy it. Our waiter disappeared and we all wanted to discussion something things we noticed on the menu.

If we wanted another small bowl of chips, that would be an extra $1.50. Drink refills on Dr. Pepper were $0.50. They proudly served mole, but only on Tuesdays. And, at the end of the menu, was this odd announcement of “TAMALES AVAILABLE” but no indication of how or how much.

A few minutes passed and our Cheese Quesadilla arrived and we were pleased to see that it was actually a cheese crisp, which we prefer. The mixture of cheddar, Jack and Queso Fresca cheeses were melted fully on the tortilla which was slightly crispy. I would have preferred more browning on the tortilla, but it was really quite good. We gobbled it down and finished up the chips.

Dave’s Tortilla Soup arrived shortly thereafter. The bowl was filled with a spicy broth and a lot of chicken meat swimming in the base with tortilla strips. On top of the soup were three slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream. Upon Dave taking a bite, I could see the soup was also filled with plenty of chopped vegetables. Dave said the broth was excellent and the chicken excellent. He also noted that the soup had a fair amount of spice. All in all, he liked the soup and gave it a thumbs up.

Dave had finished about half of his soup when our meals arrive. We scrambled to make room on the table.

Neil’s Chicken Chimichanga Plate was the first to be sat down. The chimichanga was bright red from the sauce and the plate also held a large serving of rice and beans, and several chips were stuck in the beans. Neil tried the first bite and said the chimichanga was “pretty good.” He described the sauce as fairly basic but it did have a nice flavor to it. The chicken was moist and flavorful and the tortilla was fresh. The rice had a dark color to it from seasonings and also had some corn and peas mixed in. The beans were topped with some queso fresca. Neil said he could take or leave the beans and rice. Overall, though, he said his meal was okay.

Dave’s Carne de Puerco con Chile Verde was a large plate of good sized chunks of pork in a green sauce, accompanied with the rice, beans and chips that Neil experienced. Dave tasted the pork and said it was delicious. The chili verde sauce was quite spicy and Dave was sniffling a bit from the spice in the sauce. The pork was tender and the sauce was bright green and fresh looking. Like Neil, however, Dave thought the beans and rice were just okay, but he did get in a great comment about hoping that we weren’t charged an extra $1.50 for the chips stuck in the beans.

The final entree to hit the table was my Chile Relleno Plate. On a large platter were two chile rellenos covered in a red sauce and served with the beans, rice and chips. I thought the rellenos were rather small and I took my first bite. Quite frankly, they sucked. These were horrible and I swear I had had rellenos like this before. Dave and Neil could see the disappointment on my face and asked what was wrong. Well, the egg batter had been whipped so full of air that the batter resembled a sponge when it was fried. Because it was so whipped full of air, it didn’t taste like anything. Additionally, the red sauce had the consistency of water with little taste. These were so disappointing. I tried to find something redeeming about these chile rellenos, but they were just awful and even the beans and rice seemed to do little to put even a slight grin on my face.

Dave and Neil finished their meals and I snacked on the remaining chips and some of the beans and rice. At this point, we seemed to have been forgotten about by our server. After 10 minutes of waiting for our bill, Dave finally got up and had to walk into the kitchen to get someone’s attention. He paid our $48.20 (including tax) bill and we left the restaurant. Service was okay to begin but nosedived at the end. That described our entire experience at El Conquistador.

As we drove back to East Phoenix, we chatted about the meal. While there were some highlights, the meal could have been much better. If I was in the neighborhood, I might go back for some soup or a cheese crisp. Other than that, El Conquistador probably wouldn’t be in our field of vision. So, we pledged to try another Mexican restaurant in a couple of days, but we weren’t sure which one.

Perhaps I will let Dave choose. So, if you see a car driving in circles at a mall with two or three guys in it, don’t worry. Dave is just making up his mind as to which restaurant we will be dining at that day.

El Conquistador
16428 North 32nd Street
Suite 101
Phoenix, AZ 85032
Dress: Casual



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