It’s reassuring, when you walk into a Mexican restaurant, to see someone making fresh tortillas.
It’s an indication that they pay attention to the little things. I mean, it would be easy enough to order generic restaurant tortillas from a distributor — plenty of fine Mexican restaurants do — but the difference is the difference between OK and really good.
El Mirador is really good, and there’s a little station right between the kitchen and dining room where an employee stands dutifully cranking out the tortillas.
El Mirador has two locations, the one downtown at 418 W. Walnut St., and the one right off Interstate 82 at 1601 E. Yakima Ave. I went to the latter for lunch recently. The main dining room is big and bright, as sitdown Mexican joints around here tend to be. There’s outdoor seating in warmer months and a bar that’s livelier in the evenings.
On this visit, my dining companion and I ordered chili verde and nachos with chorizo. The chili verde, an old standby of mine, had just the right tang to it. The tomatillo sauce was vibrant, and the rice and beans served alongside it were better than average. As were, of course, the freshly made tortillas.
The nachos were good, too, loaded with chorizo, tomatoes and green onions and covered entirely with melted white cheese. It’s worth noting that the basket of chips on the table (ubiquitous at this sort of place) came with beans as well as salsa. That’s another of those little things that puts El Mirador a step above the average local midrange Mexican restaurant.
The nachos cost $6.95 for a small or $7.95 for a large. I spent the extra buck and had some leftovers. We were there on the weekend, so the lunch-size portion of chili verde ($8.95) wasn’t available. The chile verde dinner cost $13.25. We had some of that to take home, too.
The rest of the dishes — all of the standards you expect at a Mexican sitdown joint as well as a few more daring items — are similarly priced. There are also margaritas the size of your head, beer in the bottle or on tap and a full list of fruity tropical cocktails. Just make sure, if you go that route, to get some of those tortillas in yourself first.
Location: 1601 E. Yakima Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.