What was once Chinese is now Mexican. The location beside Bellacino’s in Kanawha City has been home to a couple incarnations of Chinese restaurants, neither of which excited us here at Fork You. Now the space has been freshly painted in a cheery palette of yellow, orange and avacado to transform it into a Mexican Bar & Grill.
You might be wondering: does Charleston really need another Mexican joint? After my first meal at El Patron, I say “yes”.
Here’s how I rank the Mexican restaurants in Charleston/South Charleston after dining at them all many times:
With only one visit to El Patron under my belt (literally!), I can’t be positive, but I believe they will slide ahead of Casa Garcia into second place. I did not include Rio Bravo because I have never eaten there. Daniel can add his two cents about that one in the comments.
(A side note to this side note: as I perused the existing reviews for the restaurants listed above, I realize they should be updated, as least from my perspective. I gave Cozumel a puny two forks, and La Carreta a solid three. My experiences at La Carreta have gone consistently downhill as it relates to their food and I keep finding items on Cozumel’s menu that I absolutely love. Hmmm…. Guess I have some work to do.)
If I expand the radius to surrounding towns, I would rank them:
- East Tenampa
- La Roca
- Casa Garcia
- Three Amigos
- Nitro Rio Grande
- Los Shoneyos
- Mi Pueblito
- La Carreta
- All other Rio Grande locations
Under this scenario, I predict El Patron will rank in fourth place after La Roca. La Roca has this great dish that I refer to as “Mexican Stir Fry”. It’s official name is Cameron Yucatan – it’s a bed of rice with grilled shrimp, yellow squash, zucchini, and bell peppers. I have convinced myself it’s healthy as well as delicious. I also differentiate the Nitro Rio from the other Rio locations because, in my experience, it’s much better than its counterparts.
Take a look at the menu for El Patron at the end of this post. They offer some dishes you don’t see on the “standard” Mexican restaurant menu. For example, they have a shrimp and scallop chimichanga, chorizo tacos, and sopes (a fried masa base typically topped with beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa and cream).
The chips and salsa were so good, I ate way too much of them. The salsa, made with delicious cilantro, tasted super fresh. The chips were light, crispy and salted. Yum. I often purchase chips and salsa from a Mexican restaurant any time I want to serve that sort of thing at home. They aren’t at all expensive (usually cheaper then buying the same items at the grocery store) and they are delicious. El Patron could be my new go-to chips & salsa place.
I had a tough time deciding between the tacos de carnitas and the shrimp/scallop chimichanga. I ultimately went with the former for two reasons: 1) even though I kinda sorta know that carnitas are usually made with lard, they seemed like the healthier option and 2) I have been having a serious carnita craving ever since I ate them at Casa Garcia recently.
As you can see from the photo, the tacos de carnitas are three soft corn tortillas topped with tender, bite-sized chunks of pork and garnished with lime wedges. (If you noticed from the menu photo above, the menu said they were “folded” corn tortillas but, as you can see, mine are flat. This did not bother me in the least.) This entree is served with your choice of rice or beans, pico de gallo, and a hot sauce. It is regularly priced at $8.25 but was today’s special for $1 off. Yay!
The carnita tacos were really yummy and satisfied my craving. For now. I squeezed some lime juice over the pork and added pico and the hot sauce, which was indeed hot so exercise caution. Just the three tacos were enough to fill me up but I also had a large side of rice. I ate almost half the rice – it was too good to leave untouched.
Even though they haven’t been open long, the service ran smoothly. The individual who delivered our meals forgot the pico de gallo but our server corrected that immediately. It’s interesting to me that the mongolian grill is still sitting where it was during the Happy Buffet days. Perhaps they could turn that into Make-Your-Own Fajitas???
I am anxious to put El Patron on our regular lunch rotation. It’s easy to get to in Kanawha City with free parking right outside the door. They are advertising a live Mariachi Band for August 26 (Thursday) from 6-9 pm. That might be a good evening to give them a try. THREE FORKSEl Patron Mexican Bar & Grill 6309 MacCorcle Avenue S.E.
Charleston, WV 25304 (304) 720-2036