Tlacoyos, a filled corn cake, is an appetizer at El Hidalgo Diner… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
Meeting and eating a new food can be exciting. The other night at El Hidalgo, a Tex-Mex restaurant in an Elkridge shopping center, I was introduced to tlacoyos.
They were Mexican corn cakes ($7) shaped like torpedoes, stuffed with chicken and topped with pico de gallo, lettuce, cheese and a tomatillo-serrano sauce. The two were served piping hot, right off the griddle. Although they were listed on the menu as an appetizer, they were big enough to be an entree. I loved their look and appreciated their corn flavor. Yet the tlacoyos were not my favorite part of the meal.
That honor would go to an old friend, chile relleno ($14). Two poblano peppers were stuffed with Chihuahua cheese, a tangy cow's milk cheese from northern Mexico, then topped with Monterey Jack cheese and served with tomatillo-serrano sauce. I have a thing for chiles rellenos, and these were some of the best I have had outside of my visits to Arizona. They were served with generous portions of refried beans and fried rice.
The stuffed peppers had a little fire to them, which I quelled with a glass of Stella Artois ($4.50), the closest thing to a craft beer on the menu. The restaurant also had a reasonable wine list and an extensive and impressive list of tequilas.
Located at the end of a shopping center on Marshalee Drive, El Hidalgo is a small, midprice restaurant with a bar and booths and tables made of polished wood. It is cozy, not fancy. The top of the plate glass windows are covered with logos of Anheuser-Busch beers. The weeknight my wife and I visited, the restaurant filled up with couples and families.
While I had the best entree, my wife had the best appetizer. That was good old guacamole, ($4 for a small order). The avocado was fresh, and the spicing was superb. Good things can come in small, green servings.
For her entree, she chose the house special ($15), an array of four dishes: a beef taco, chicken enchilada, pork burrito and chicken tamale. The taco, enchilada and burrito were quite good, the tamale less so. These came with a serving of so-so black beans and delightfully light poblano rice.
This was a lot of food, yet somehow I found room for dessert. The flan ($4) was creamy, sweet and silky.
The service was spotty, though. We had a young man who was pleasant and tried very hard, but as he acknowledged, was new to the job. Our rice orders were mixed up; one of our appetizers arrived after our entrees. Our server did not know what tlacoyos were. But now we both do.
El Hidalgo calls itself Tex-Mex, but the menu is extensive and the dishes dip into Latin America. Its portions are large, its flavors winning. The service is a work in progress.
Where: 6060 Marshalee Drive, Elkridge
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Sunday
Credit Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
[Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or uneven: ✭✭Poor:✭]