El Tapatio looks like any other local Mexican food joint in a commercial district except for one thing – it has a food truck literally built into the side of the brick and mortar structure. Oh, and Richmond locals widely agree that the food also happens to be delicious.
Situated in the heart of Richmond on the 23rd Street corridor, El Tapatio is unlikely to garner attention for its aesthetic qualities on the outside (aside from the food truck emerging directly from the side of the restaurant). On the inside, at least during the weekday lunch hours, it is quiet and almost empty. A few people wander in and sit down every now and then for a quick bite to eat throughout the day, but the overall atmosphere is quite stayed and the décor is nothing special.
I was meeting a friend for lunch at El Tapatio and spent my first few minutes in the restaurant taking in the calmness of the place while snacking on some excellent tortilla chips and salsa. The staff was pleasant and attentive as I gazed at the Spanish soap operas streaming in the background.
When my friend, a local activist, arrived, she was greeted with warm smiles and “holas!” from the staff. El Tapatio, she informed me, is a family-owned affair that serves authentic fair with a wonderfully homey and welcoming crew manning the service stations and the kitchen.
The drab atmosphere, I discovered, belies a really excellent kitchen that turns out the kind of delicious Mexican food that one seeks when you are so hungry you feel like you could eat a horse. And I advise that you order with horse-sized portions in mind. I ordered an outstanding chicken quesadilla that felt large enough to have fed my entire extended family should the need arise.
My friend also told me that I should come back on the weekends when the place is packed to the brim and the clientele are all there to enjoy the food and the fun. I assured her that I would be back and I will bring my friends as well.
El Tapatio Restaurant is located at 910 23rd St, Richmond, CA and can be found on Yelp at http://www.yelp.com/biz/el-tapatio-restaurant-richmond. The “food truck” built into the side of the building is open 24 hours, so feel free to stop by anytime.