Traditional Mexican cuisine fills the plates of patrons where hot dogs and root beer floats once flowed. El Molino owner Ursula Soto first learned the ropes of running a restaurant by working with her siblings at her parents' drive-in restaurant. And in 1984, she and her husband combined their passions and turned the location into something far more unique, bringing traditional Mexican cuisine to Carpentersville on Route 25.
Whether it's the carne asada or the delicious salt-rimmed specialty margaritas, El Molino delights locals with a meal rich in flavor and as authentic as the Tex-Mexican Spanish colonial decor that engulfs the minute you step inside. Order a house wine or one of the aforementioned margaritas while waiting at the central bar that splits the two dining areas, or if the weather is right, ask for a table in the outside patio.
You can start by diving into a basket of the complementary tortilla chips and homemade salsa. But don't fill up to much. Save room for the appetizers ($5-$10) namely, the Quesadilla Supreme, a two-flour tortilla mini-meal that can be filled with chicken, or seasoned ground and shredded beef.
A plate full of Spanish rice and pinto beans comes with the combination style meals, such as the namesake El Molino, which includes a skirt steak, chicken taco and cheese enchiladas. Other single dish entrees — fish, salads, soups, chicken, egg dishes or enchiladas — run between $8-$17, with a hint of its American drive-in roots via juicy American style hamburgers ($5-$8): a third-pounder and a double-decker—donned Platillos favoritos Del Nortes; and a kids menu ($5) with smaller version of various adult dishes.
For a last taste of sweetness, desserts ($1.25-$3) are deep fried ice cream, flan and mulitas (flour tortillas with choice of fruit).
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Chris Catania