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Bites Nearby: El Campesino

Fresh ingredients and a cozy atmosphere bring a taste of Mexico to Peters.

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to dine on some authentic Mexican food. And possibly a margarita or two. 

at Waterdam Center serves up a huge menu full of real Mexican fare. Prices are affordable, and the portions are big enough that you might have some extra to take home.  

The first thing you notice at El Campesino is the quaint atmosphere, adorned with Mexican sombreros and serapes, which are brightly-striped ponchos. After hearing just a few notes of the cheery Mexican music, you quickly forget you are in a shopping plaza. Sturdy wooden booths around the perimeter of the restaurant have backs that are so high, each booth has an added sense of privacy.

Sit down in one of the big booths, or at a table, and you’ll experience a real taste of Mexico. A big basket of complimentary tortilla chips and salsa are brought out to whet your appetite. The salsa is made on site daily, with only the freshest ingredients. The salsa has some zing to it, but it’s not so spicy that you need to lunge for your water glass. The chips are also made fresh every day, with whole tortillas that are bought, cut up and fried in house.

Salsa not enough of a dip for your chips? Try the fresh, homemade guacamole. With big chunks of avocado and tomato, it’s so rich and creamy you might want to forgo the chips and just eat it with a spoon.

“The fresh ingredients are what makes the difference,” said Jose Primo, manager. Chefs come in early to chop up the garden-fresh ingredients and boil the refried beans. No canned beans here.

The menu includes all widely-known Mexican dishes. Everything from quesadillas and enchiladas to fajitas and nachos. There are so many choices that you can go every week for a year and never order the same dish twice. Try the Quesadilla Roja, munch on one of the salads served in a fried tortilla bowl or dig into one of the many burrito dinners.

Or chose from 25 different combination platters, all for under $10. Try a No. 1 and get one taco and two enchiladas with a choice of rice or refried beans. Order a No. 18 and munch on one burrito, one taco and either rice or beans.

If none of the set combinations appeal, there is an a la carte menu so you can pick and choose what you like and make up your own dinner. Choose a taco, a taquito and an enchilada with a side of beans. Or choose quesadillas and French fries. The a la carte menu is a great option if you want a smaller portion, or if you plan on eating three or four baskets of chips.

If all those chips make you thirsty, try washing them down with an ice-cold margarita. El Campesino offers a variety of the salt-rimmed drinks in the restaurant and bar. The bar gets busy for many happy hours, and will be hopping on Cinco de Mayo, the holiday that commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A Mariachi band will be on-hand that day to aid the festivity.

El Campesino, which means farmer in Spanish, has been in Waterdam Center for five years. The restaurant chain has seven locations around Pittsburgh. You can dine on the authentic Mexican food in Wexford, Altoona, Monaca, Monroeville, North Hills and Robinson.

Stop by the Waterdam Center location and buen provecho, or bon appetit as we say in English. 

Learn more at www.elcampesino.net.

marilyn May 01, 2011 at 03:49 AM
I have been there a couple of times and haven't really been impressed. Service is bad. You ask a question about something on the menu and the server cannot answer you. It is the only Mexican restaurant around though. Does anyone know another restaurant around. Maybe I am used to Tex-Mex.

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