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Living in Fresno, there’s no shortage of delicious Mexican restaurants to be enjoyed. Often, when out-of-state guests visit, we ask, “Where would you like to eat?” and a common request is to go somewhere with great Mexican food, since so many other places in the country aren’t as lucky as we are.
Sometimes, however, it can be hard for a restaurant to differentiate itself from the crowd. When choices are this plentiful, restaurant owners have to do something a bit different, or a bit better, to establish themselves as a destination for Fresno restaurant-goers. This week, my coworkers and I stumbled across a place that does just that.
El Patio: perfectly named
Set back from the street in the former Meze Grill location on Olive Ave., El Patio‘s colorful flags beckon you in towards the entry. The restaurant looks small from the street, but once inside the courtyard, a large, colorful and shady patio instantly entices you to take a seat, and take in the scenery. I think my coworkers and I all audibly “wowed” when we walked in.
We stepped inside and were greeted quickly and told we could sit wherever we liked; of course, we selected a table in the center of the patio.
Our server was friendly and helpful, and shared with us that the owner, Benjamin Torralva, is a successful local entrepreneur who also owns Passions Boutiques and Jalisco Jewelers. Passions Boutiques is known for stylish interiors and a selection of clothing that is on-trend, which makes perfect sense, as the interior and exterior of El Patio is clearly designed down to the smallest details to be visually attractive and enjoyable.
The patio covering is lined with rows and rows of colorful flags and the fence is adorned with beautiful, vibrant Mexican art pieces and historical photographs. The brightly hued table cloths and hanging fabrics make you feel as though you’re on a vacation rather than a lunch break.
The food is the star here
As fantastic as the atmosphere at El Patio is, it can’t steal the spotlight from the food, which was also stellar. The menu had traditional Mexican cuisine, some lightened up and healthier dishes, and some really neat family-favorite items that my coworkers thought were truly special, like Café de Olla con Piloncillo y Panela (a delicious coffee sweetened with a deep, brown sugar) and Bionico with cream (seasonal fruit with house sweet cream, yogurt, and sweetened grains). Our table enjoyed multiple glasses of a refreshing house-made Agua Fresca made with mango and pineapple.
When it came to the main course, I ordered the Red Enchiladas Estila Tonala with cheese and they were delicious queso fresco, hand-rolled enchiladas topped with potatoes and an amazing, smoky red sauce. I enjoyed them more than any enchilada I’ve had in years.
My coworkers tried a torta and the flautas, and both hit the nail on the head for both freshness and flavor. The house-made salsa served with chips for the table was really good, too—spicy, but not too spicy, just right.
Throughout lunch, the service was very attentive and friendly, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was just perfect.
If you don’t have a current favorite Mexican restaurant, I highly encourage you to check out El Patio in the Tower District. And—even if you do have a tried-and true-favorite—I still suggest you give El Patio a try. It’s been one of my favorite Fresno dining experiences to date!
El Patio Mexican Restaurant is located at 552 E. Olive Ave. in Fresno. It’s open Mon-Thurs from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Fri-Sat from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Follow the restaurant on Facebook or call (559) 721-7757 for details.