Princeton Edition: El Dorado

By Candace Nelson - 8:00 AM

The now-defunct Pizza House (short-lived, eh?) location has been replaced by El Dorado in the Princeton Kroger plaza. El Jaripeo closed, and that management opened this new Mexican restaurant (I'll tell you how I know all of that for sure later), El Dorado. So, Pizza House and El Jaripeo are both closed, and in the same building as Dragon Palace (1295 Stafford Dr) is now El Dorado.

It is quite nice looking inside. Lots of plants decorated divider ways, buttery-yellow walls and spacious dining areas. There are some booths along the wall, but for the most part, there are tables and chairs. There's a bar area hidden by faux-cement blocks. The menu is glossy with a notebook binding.

We took a booth and were served some chips and salsa. I asked for some queso as well. It was all pretty good - the salsa had a strong presence of cilantro, but it was mild and palatable. The queso was good, too. A little less flavor, but still good.

Looking at the menu, I wanted to try their specialty, of course. It was the "Molcajete," which is served in a volcanic stone dish. It has grilled beef, chicken, pork, shrimp all cooked with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, squash and mushrooms. It's topped with cheese and faja salad ($12.99). Our waiter looked at me and said that's all we needed; Chris hadn't ordered yet. The waiter continued on, saying it was huge. I hesitated, but I hadn't really had a backup option, so I decided to get it anyway and opt for leftovers. Chris got a seafood dish, with shrimp, crab, scallops and tilapia. 

When our two dishes came on, I was sure our table was going to catch on fire. Everything was steaming like crazy, and this giant pig-shaped dish was just bubbling and oozing cheese. I let it sit for a long time before trying it. I wasn't too impressed, really. It was all those items, but no spices, herbs, great flavor going on here. It's a bunch of meat mixed together with some veggies, but a sauce or some great spices could have made it a more cohesive dish. I guess it's their specialty more because it's so big, not necessarily the flavor. I tried some of Chris' though, and it was tasty. 

Both of our dishes were served with some warm tortillas, so I used some of the "faja salad" - which was another plate full of lettuce, tomato, rice, refried beans and guacamole - to make four small tacos. I'm not sure why they only gave four for such a big dish, but so be it. 

I got another plate and emptied the stone full of food onto it to help make a larger surface area so it would cool down. I just wanted it to stop bubbling so it would be safe to put in the styrofoam to-go box. In the process, I decided I wanted dessert. Duh.

They had fried ice cream, flan, sopapilla, but the churros caught my eye: fried pastry dough with a fruit filling, covered with cinnamon-sugar and served with a scoop of ice cream, honey and a cherry. One, please.

Our waiter brought out this behemoth of a dessert. And I was happy. The churros were cooked a liiiittle too long, as they were kind of hard and not pastry-like soft, but it was still good overall. The ice cream was fried, and it was actually strawberry, with hunks of strawberries in it. Yum! It was a decadent dessert, but it was delicious.

Now is when it got interesting, our waiter asked how the dessert was, and I said great. He then said "Can you taste the arsenic?" I paused for a split second and said "not yet," laughing it off. He then continued on, saying it was roofied and just trying to be funny, I suppose. This went on for a few minutes, so I changed the subject, asking about the restaurant. Turns out he is the son of the owner. He told me his mom owns it, and his step-father is Mexican, thus the Mexican restaurant. "Why else would you see one white guy working here," he said. He also said they hired a gay filipino - something that would probably be offensive to some people to so bluntly talk about people as if that's their only identity. 

I didn't take much offense to it then. I thought he was kind of fun. He's young, so hopefully he figures out who he can talk to like that and who he can't really quickly. As we were leaving, that filipino guy winked at Chris. I then put my arm around him, and the guy goes, "aw, you share, right?" And that was my trip.

Grade: B
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