El Torito

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El Torito Grill Cooks up a Killer Champagne Sunday Brunch!

Aug 27, 2000 (Updated Aug 27, 2000)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fast, tasty, great service, nice range of choices, affordable, kids corner was great!

Cons:Guaranteed you'll eat WAY too much!

Despite my health-conscious eating habits, I truly enjoy a gourmet meal – especially if someone else prepares it! So when I was invited to participate in Tanster’s Sunday Brunch-Off , I happily accepted knowing it was a great excuse to go out for a fancy meal!

Our dilemma, of course, was to decide where to go. I had wanted to try the El Torito Grill Champagne Sunday Brunch for some time, though, so off we went. For those of you not familiar with the El Torito Grill, it’s a Los Angeles / Southern California specific chain. Part of the El Torito family of restaurants, ETG has a focus on freshly made foods and grilled meats with a southwest flair, as well as serving traditional Mexican fare. I would say that it’s the El Torito equivalent of Chevy’s.

From 10 am to 2 pm every Sunday, ETG offers a champagne Sunday Brunch. One of the local papers voted this “The Best Brunch”, and after tasting it, I would have to agree. I’ve had Sunday Brunch in five-star restaurants and lots of small local restaurants, and ETG was a truly fabulous experience.

With two small children, we struggle with eating out. I’m a bit of a food snob, and buffet lines usually leave me cold. On the other hand, we have to balance this with needing to eat in a kid-friendly environment and needing fast service. This means that we often rely on Coco’s, Denny’s, IHOP and small local restaurants to fill the bill… hardly gourmet fare. El Torito Grill, on the other hand, offered us the best of both worlds, and at a reasonable price to boot!

Price and Availability
The price for ETG’s Sunday Brunch is $12.95 for adults and $5.95 for children 10 and under. Included for this price is a full brunch and bottomless beverage of your choice, including champagne. Brunch is available in all of the El Torito Grill’s in Los Angeles and the surrounding area, except for Beverly Hills.

Setting
El Torito Grill is a lovely chain, with high-beamed ceilings and Mexican decorations throughout the restaurant. There are lots of plants and ceiling fans and fresh flowers at each table. For Sunday Brunch, there is a large central area with stations of food for you to select from, mostly buffet style plus several cooked-to-order options. Tables are set up so they are close, but you don’t feel like you are right on top of the people next to you.

Offerings
For the Sunday brunch, ETG offers different stations with foods grouped together at each area. Unlike some restaurants, there are clear signs discretely placed at each station, so you can easily discern what is where. With kids tagging along, this was especially helpful. Stations offered included:

• An Omelet Station, cooking omelets to order. Ingredients to select from included fresh eggs, onions, peppers, mushrooms, cilantro, salsas, pico de gallo, cheese, shrimp, ham and chorizo. This was moving quite efficiently so the line was not horrendously long.

• A Taco, Tostada & Quesadilla bar, with fresh hot carnitas, grilled steak and chicken, cheese, salsas, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro and guacamole to assemble into your own taco, tostada or have cooked in a custom quesadilla. There were also traditional sides including chips, rice, tortillas and both refried and black beans. There were pre-cooked quesadillas, if you preferred that, with regular flour tortillas, spinach, and blue corn tortillas, all of which almost melted in your mouth!

• A Southwest Favorites Station, including chipolte eggs benedict (which my husband said was fabulous!), chicken fajitas, a tortilla casserole, tamarind BBQ ribs, roasted spinach quiche, cheese enchiladas, chile relleno, citrus marinated carnitas, southwest potatoes, santa fe rice, pasta and fresh fish. Of all of these the tortilla casserole was out of this world, calling me back for more!

• Homemade soups, offered in huge cauldrons including tortilla soup, roasted tomato soup, pozale and menudo. All were offered with traditional toppings on the side, including cheese, onion, cilantro and tortilla strips.

• A Seafood Buffet with peel and eat shrimp, steamed mussels, cerviche, fresh lemons and limes and cocktail sauce on the side.

• A Full Salad Bar, including traditional greens and spinach greens, the El Torito cilantro pepita dressing (my favorite, especially topped with pepitas!), a fresh spinach salad, fresh veggie mix, potato salad, marinated mushrooms, pasta primavera, cucumber salad, mixed bean salad, roasted potato salad, and assorted toppings including bacon bits, sunflower seeds, croutons, tortilla strips, pepitas and more!

• Fruits and Grains – a fresh fruit bonanza including a wide selection of fresh melons and berries, assorted muffins, and two types of waffles (regular waffles and what my son called “waffle boats” – he devoured almost two!). There was also a selection of yogurts and cereals, plus four kinds of fresh juices (Agua Fresca) – watermelon, strawberry, mango and pineapple/coconut.

• Kids Corner – El Torito Grill has, hands down, the best “kids brunch” we’ve found. An entire area is dedicated to kid-friendly cuisine, including: Jell-O, macaroni and cheese, french fries, chicken strips, pizza, cereal, milk, gummy worms and candy, with balloons and other decorations all around it. My kids left stuffed and happy! This was fortunately near the tortilla machine as well, which fascinated my kids to no end (watching the dough get baked into puffy tortillas, then collapse again into the end product that arrived at the Quesadilla bar!).

• Desserts – there were an amazing array of desserts in bite-sized servings available, tempting you to take several! Offerings included caramel flan (delicious), chocolate cake, cookies, cheesecake, carrot cake, fruit tart, cobbler, fresh chocolate dipped strawberries (sinful!), rich pecan pie, profitoroles, mousse, churros and other pastries. There was also a soft-serve ice cream set up with an assortment of toppings, which thrilled my kids to no end!

We were incredibly impressed with the El Torito Grill’s Champagne Sunday brunch. We enjoyed the wide selection of foods, all hot and fresh, including authentic Mexican specialties, seafood, and many cooked-to-order choices. It wasn’t overly crowded, but the ambiance was light and happy. The families were laughing and we weren’t self-conscious about having our children with us; rather, the setting was fun with music and enough distractions to keep them interested and the overall sound level reasonable. We did notice that a lot of the families were seated in the same general area, and some couples and seniors were seated in a different “alcove” which was sensitive to both their needs and ours.

The service was quick and efficient. Because it was buffet-style, we were able to fill our plates immediately and not wait for the kitchen; however, the service we did receive (bringing drinks, clearing our plates, making sure we were okay) was exceptional. The waitress was informed, friendly and in a great mood, and made dining there pleasant. We were able to get seated, eat without rushing, including several trips to the buffet stations, and still leave in under an hour.

Thanks to Tanster’s Sunday Brunch Off, we had the opportunity (excuse?) to try a fabulous brunch at a restaurant we’d wanted to explore anyway. While it took an incentive like this to get us out to try the ETG Sunday Brunch, I can guarantee that we’ll be going back soon! Although I do owe Tanster for the weight I no doubt gained grazing my way through that buffet… all in the name of research, of course <GRIN>!


I would like to thank our Sunday Brunch Hostess Tanster for her hard work in coordinating this write-off. Please visit the link on her profile page (http://www.epinions.com/user-tanster) or check out the other participants in this write-off by searching by their names: caroleg, conradd, fiatgirl, forkids, garypai, halfsweet, kboo, macresarf1, mrisch, mrsfitts, nita, poseidon, sleestakk, srothstein, sweeper , tanster , workingmomof2, and zzjulia.




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