The Taste Food Tour :: El Carnicero
You won’t see traditional platters of enchiladas, chimichangas or burritos served with rice and refried beans on the tables at El Carnicero.
But don’t let that stop you from experiencing Mexican dining from Chef Eric Williams’ point of view. You’ll be glad you took the diversion from the tradition into what Williams calls “Mod Mex.”
Williams, the culinary mastermind behind Cleveland’s popular Happy Dog, Jack Flaps and Momocho, expanded his creativity westward into Lakewood in 2013. That’s when he opened El Carnicero at the former site of McCarthy’s Ale House on Detroit Avenue, decorating the place with Mexican wrestling masks in an homage to Lucha Libre wrestling’s luchadores.
El Carnicero’s simple menu focuses on tamales and taquitos. These entrees provide options for carnivores (many creative meat selections, hence the name, El Carnicero, which means ‘the butcher’ in Spanish), vegetarians and vegans – and pair nicely with some pretty amazing guacamole, salsas, dips and sides. Ingredients for all rotate in and out regularly, adding variety to the choices.
At Chez Suttell, we’re a house divided in the tamales vs. taquitos debate. Scott prefers the tamales. His favorite so far is the wild boar, but says he wouldn’t turn down any of them. Evan and l tend to gravitate to the taquitos.
I’ll confess I can’t break up with those tiny (cute) warm tortillas served alongside a heaping plate of the filling of your choice. I’ve never been disappointed with any of my choices: chicken tinga, al pastor (pork) and brisket.
My friend and fellow Lakewoodite Laura and I wandered into El Carnicero after a yoga class to catch the tail end of happy hour (La Hora Feliz), which they serve at the bar from 4-7p.m. daily. We snagged some stools and ordered some pineapple guacamole and two meals to split: the fish fry with chimichurri fries, as it was a Lenten Friday, and tacos verdura. We had no leftovers when we were done.
The tacos verdura, a vegetarian taquito, featured cumin-roasted, tri-colored carrots; Oaxacan chocolate mole, ricotta and cream Mexicano. The El Carnicero folks had posted a picture of this vegetarian option on Facebook earlier in the week, and I knew I had to try it. It wasn’t hard persuading Laura, either.
Williams also offers up a hearty beer and beverage menu, including more than 30 tequilas and some of my favorite margaritas in town. I usually can’t decide which to pick, so I often order the margarita sampler — a serving of three smaller margaritas.
My sampler choices usually include the grapefruit, pineapple and spicy mango. I always opt for a salt rim on the grapefruit and pineapple and stick with El Carnicero’s chile-and-salt rim for the mango. These are some of my favorite margaritas in Lakewood. Thanks to the sampler, I have tried other flavors — all good — but keep coming back to these.
I actually hadn’t tried the traditional margarita until the aforementioned happy hour. Both Laura and I took the bartender’s recommendation and tried the chile salt on those too. And we enjoyed the happy hour price of $5 in the process. Winning all around.
–Robin Suttell, 2016 Taste of Lakewood blogger