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July 31, 2014

El Potro - Dining in Orlando


I grew up in the San Antonio, Texas area where one of my grandmothers handmade flour tortillas every morning as we watched Telenovelas... I consider myself an honorary Mexican thanks to her influence, and a very harsh critic of Mexican cuisine. Considering my die-hard devotion to all things Texan, and my knack for comparing Florida dismally to my true home state, it's not rare for me to point out just how difficult it is to find good Mexican food in Florida. When I have family in for a visit, I wouldn't even consider taking them for either barbecue or Mexican food... until I found El Potro. The phone lines fired up like a chili pepper the first time I dined here. I couldn't wait to tell every Texan I knew - both here, and back home - that I had finally found "THE ONE". 


Don't get me wrong, I still want to return home and indulge in the BEST...


 ...but, as long as I'm living here in Orlando, there's only one place that truly feels like home - El Potro. 

When it comes to atmosphere, El Potro is just a comfortable place to dine. They offer both indoor and patio seating, as well as a bar. I cannot praise their Margaritas and Pina Coladas enough! Not only are the drink specials plentiful, and drinks affordable, but you can practically get in the glass and swim around! The package is complete when the Mariachis show up! This is not an all-the-time feature, but they do make appearances. My song suggestion - "Eres Tu"!

But what you're really here for is the food, right? Take it from me... this is as authentic as it comes this side of the Mississippi River! If I didn't know better, I would swear that my Nanny Maria was in that kitchen with her dance hall/ bingo buddies making it all right from scratch. There is no mistaking home-cooked, from scratch Mexican food... this is IT! 

The menu has just about everything you could imagine that resembles Mexican edibles. Actually, there are so many items that scream "YUM" that I almost always decide that I can't decide. Luckily, they seem to expect that here at El Potro... and they're prepared for just such a dilemma. They have... a buffet! Take note - the buffet isn't always in effect. The lunch buffet is available daily from 11am-2pm, and the dinner buffet: Thursday-Saturday from 5pm-9pm. In recent years, my weight loss has made buffet dining a complete waste of money and plans... I just can't eat like I used to! El Potro is one place I still opt for the buffet. For one thing, it's inexpensive! Secondly, even if you can't consume mass quantities of any one thing, the option to sample so many yum-licious items is oh so worth it! 

Don't fret if your visit doesn't fall during buffet hours... you'll still love whatever you decide on - you'll just have to suffer through the decision making process! View the entire menu to begin pondering your options now. Even the complimentary chips and salsa are rave-worthy... and, when is the last time you raved about free chips and salsa?? Again, these did not come from a store shelf - definitely as fresh and homemade as it gets! Other top-notch items I have to recommend:

  • Anything with refried beans is going to be good. It sounds like an odd thing to praise so highly, but until you've had homecooked refried beans, you couldn't possibly understand. Trust me on this one. 
  • The Burrito Grande is a massive pile of delish! Topped with amazing queso... it is one to write home about (especially if you're a transplanted Texan)
  • Cheese enchiladas... just do it. They aren't always on the buffet, but guess what? At El Potro, if you order the buffet and something you want isn't on it, just ask... they'll make it fresh and bring it to your table! The cheese enchiladas are my absolute favorites!
  • Sopapillas!! I have always loved them, and so rarely do I find them (especially done right), but El Potro has them and they greatly surpass WOW. If you don't know what a Sopapilla is, it's essentially a bread-ish deep fried pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar.
  • Carne Asada is another item that Florida can't seem to get quite right by my standards, but again... El Potro has it down pat! The only time I've had it better is when my mom made it.

Aside from all the edibles, drinkables and just the general feel of the place, El Potro also has another essential advantage - the people! As a very frequent visitor, I have noticed the same faces there every time I go. Even if they're not all "family", they run this establishment as if they were, and everyone is incredibly pleasant. 

I can rarely have a meal anywhere without something going wrong, but countless visits to El Potro, and I cannot think of one legitimate criticism or the slightest bit of dissatisfaction. If I had to stretch for a downside, it would only be that the ground beef could use a bit more seasoning to give the flavor a bit more "kick". Otherwise, this Texan (and plenty of visiting Texan guinea pigs) gives El Potro an extremely enthusiastic thumbs up! I am, however, still on a mission to find something in Orlando comparable to Bill Miller's BBQ in Texas. Suggestions welcome!!

El Potro has four locations in the general Orlando area, with additional locations in Florida and Georgia. My location of choice, and the one I can personally speak of is on Kirkman near Universal Studios. Catering and carry-out are also available. 

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