Restaurant Update: El Rey in Philadelphia


I posted my first thoughts on El Rey Mexican Restaurant back in November 2010, not too long after it first opened. This funky little Stephen Starr restaurant – located in a former diner that had been good for little but sobering up after a late night of drinking – remains one of my favorite lunch spots in the city today. I seem to always end up here once every couple weeks when in town, craving their creative and tasty food. And killer margaritas.

Grilled Pineapple Salad

Grilled Pineapple Salad

Eggplant Torta

Eggplant Torta

The bar in the front, which was formerly the diner counter, is a great place for solo dining. And you still can’t beat the $10 “fast lunch” special of 2 courses plus chips & salsa verde. I’ve basically eaten my way through every option on that menu at this point, particularly loving the wild mushroom soup and the tostada with chicken tinga and cotija cheese. I also appreciate that for the past few months, there is a daily changing selection of options on the lunch special menu – three appetizers and three entrees – so one never gets bored. These changing options typically feature fresh, seasonal ingredients so for the summer months, there have been nice chilled soups and salads like grilled pineapple with pomegranate and baby greens – delicious! For the summer my favorite drink in Philly is back as well – the Pineapple Frozen Margarita. There is seriously nothing more cooling and refreshing on a hot summer day.

My only quibbles are that some days the service at lunch is not as “fast” as it should be for a “fast lunch” special. Other days it’s almost TOO fast, with my second course coming out before I’ve even put a dent in my salad or soup. I also find the portion sizes can be difficult to judge – a recent Chili-Crusted Eggplant Torta was massive and really filling. Another time, a Flounder Veracruz almost seemed like a joke, barely a few ounces of fish on a plate and a single small scoop of rice. I’m not expecting massive quantities of food for the price, it’s just that some days I definitely end up eating my way through the tortilla chips more than others to fill up.

Still, I’ve had more than enough “hits” here versus “misses” that I keep coming back. Give it a try if you haven’t already – just do not miss that frozen margarita!

El Rey
2013 Chestnut St, Philadelphia 19103
(215) 563-3330

Related posts:

  • El Rey in Philadelphia: 2014 UpdateEl Rey in Philadelphia: 2014 Update I published my initial thoughts on El Rey, Stephen Starr's Rittenhouse Square-area Mexican restaurant, back in November of 2010. Since then I have continued to visit El Rey regularly for […]
  • Review: Mission Grill, Philadelphia PAReview: Mission Grill, Philadelphia PA I love Mexican and Tex-Mex food, but it's always seemed so difficult to find good Tex-Mex in the Philly area. So I was keen to give The Mission Grill a try one night when looking for a […]
  • A fabulous evening at Sbraga in PhiladelphiaA fabulous evening at Sbraga in Philadelphia Recently a few friends were visiting from San Francisco and I wanted to take them out to a Philly restaurant that would really make for a memorable experience. Unfortunately they were only […]
  • Vietnam Palace in Philadelphia: A long overdue revisitVietnam Palace in Philadelphia: A long overdue revisit When I lived in Philadelphia, one of my favorite haunts in the Chinatown area was always Vietnam Palace. I had many great dinners with friends there; we loved the reasonable prices, the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.