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Restaurant Review: El Torito

Author: Margaret Tweet, Issue: June 1996, Topic: Restaurants

Although many are aware of the El Torito Mexican food restaurant, this review is written for newcomers to Tsukuba, or those unfamiliar with this chain. A popular restaurant in the States, El Torito offers delicious spicy Mexican food and a colorful Southwestern motif complete with lively music at a volume that allows for good conversation.

The atmosphere and layout make it a good place to meet friends. There is a semiprivate area that seats about 30 and is good for a party. Of course, if it's a birthday party, the honored guest can expect a dessert and serenade to liven the celebration. Although our kids don't like spicy food in general, they really go for the chicken fajitas; or a safe bet for picky eaters would be the basic quesadilla (cheese melted on a flour tortilla). They also are appeased by the chips (sans salsa) that are brought to the table soon after being seated.

A very reasonably priced all-you-can-eat buffet is held every Sunday and on national holidays. You need to enter between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., but have until 3:00 to finish the meal. Chicken and beef fajitas and side dishes are the featured hot foods with an excellent salad bar as well. Special drinks such as Margaritas are not included, but they are often specially priced and available in a low alcohol version for drivers. For those who don't drink alcohol, another festive drink is cranberry juice served in a tall soda glass garnished with lemon.

Prices for the buffet are:
Adults: 1280 yen + 100 yen for a beverage.
Children 3-6: 640 yen + 100 yen for a beverage.
Children under 3: no charge.

The restaurant is located on Higashi Odori near the university.

Another familiar chain worth mentioning is Coco's. Having avoided the bland family style restaurants here for many years, we were pleasantly surprised by the updated menu and dinner we enjoyed there recently. The entree consisted of spinach fettucine, a tasty southern style chicken in tomatoes, and steamed vegetables all in generous portions. The price for this was: ala carte: 880 yen + soup, bread or rice & drink 1280 yen + salad 1430 yen. Another featured dish, Jambalaya, was nicely spiced and served with salad and a cheese baked potato for 1280 yen. The large piece of peach pie made for a very satisfying finish.

The menu offers a variety of salads, soups, and vegetable side dishes for lighter meals, and all the items list the calories per dish. An extra bonus is the choice of cranberry juice as part of the dinner set. For the kids, pancakes or hot dishes with appealing vegetables range in price from 380 yen to 580 yen for ala carte.

Breakfast choices are the familiar bacon and eggs or French toast from 480 yen with the American tradition of as many cups of coffee as you like for that extra jolt to get going in the morning. Lunch sets from 780 yen are available, or the dinner menu is available at lunch as well. We enjoyed the separate non-smoking area, and pleasant atmosphere with decent service.

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