El Rey in Philadelphia: 2014 Update

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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 lunch while in the city, and it remains pretty much one of my favorite spots in the area for a tasty and reasonably priced midday meal.

I have basically made my way through everything on their regular Comida Corrida 9.99 lunch menu over the past four years. (The Comida Corrida menu offers salsa & chips and two courses from a limited selection). The Sopa de Tortilla is always a good choice when in the mood for a traditional tortilla soup to start, and so is the Sopa de Hongos (wild mushroom soup). The only regular starter I’m kind of “meh” about is the Esquites (warm corn salad)—it’s nothing to get too excited about and kind of a tiny little cup. Of the seconds, I especially like the Tostada, served with a delightful chicken topping and cotija cheese.

Grilled pineapple salad with jicama and arugula.

Grilled pineapple salad with jicama and arugula.

But what really keeps me coming back are the weekly specials they have added to the lunch menu. Every week there are three special first course and second course offerings which you can mix and match between, generally reflecting what’s in season and traditional for a particular time of the year. In the summer, for instance, there might be a chilled gazpacho soup or a grilled fruit salad – like the grilled pineapple and jicama salad I recently enjoyed.  In the fall you might find squash blossom or pumpkin enchiladas.  The specials always make for some tough decisions to choose between, and I have very rarely been disappointed in any of them.

Picadillo Enchiladas

Picadillo Enchiladas

In fact, the only time I’ve been disappointed with El Rey was when I went on a Saturday once and tried the nachos off the brunch menu. It was way too gloppy and heavy for my tastes; I could barely finish half the plate and didn’t really want to as the cheese was getting cold and clumpy. So, I think I’ll stick with El Rey for my weekday lunches instead!

No matter what time of year, though, I’ll never skip the frozen margarita! That changes seasonally too, and during the summer it tends to be frozen pineapple – my favorite. It’s a perfect cool and refreshing drink for a hot summer day in Philadelphia.

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