Living on the East Coast sometimes you can be hard pressed to find great Mexican cuisine. Sure there are numerous Mexican restaurants in Maryland, but none that are truly great. Well that is other than, El Azteca, in Clarksville, MD.
El Azteca has been a mainstay of Howard County for over two decades now and for good reason. It’s awesome. Putting out great Mexican food is difficult. Why? Well a couple of reasons.
1- Everyone has their own perception of what it should taste like.
2- Many people think Mexican food is Taco Bell and that comes with a litany of stupid expectations for food.
3- Mexican food is all over and has moved its way into the American diet, therefore just like Taco Bell people have their own expectation for how the food should taste.
El Azteca does everything right, just about. If they took reservations it would be nice, only because you don’t want to wait to have to eat this awesome food. Let’s start from the top, first El Azteca is tucked away in a unassuming strip of shops on Route 108 West in Clarksville.
You walk in and you notice that it’s not a large space, but it’s always packed. I’ve never seen this place not busy. You sit and then the real fun begins. You get house made tortilla chips that are delicious, they have a perfect combination of crunch and texture to them. They typically come with a house salsa, which you can tell is freshly made, it has a mild spicy kick to it. That’s a result of the fresh onions and pepper in the salsa. The tomatoes and spices give the salsa a refreshing taste that creates an invitation to your mouth to let your brain know that more chip and dip action is about to ensue.
You can also order Guac or Queso with the chips if you don’t want salsa or if you want both. We wanted both.
The Guac is great, it’s fresh chunks of avocado mildly mashed, sometimes you get guacamole and it’s almost a puree, which is no fun. This is spiced properly and doesn’t have any overpowering flavors ruining the flavor of the avocado. It’s perfection.
The menu itself is diverse offering you a wide variety of options, you really can’t find something you don’t like on this menu. Honestly, the harder part is deciding on one thing.
I ordered the Chile Verde, because I wanted something different and more authentic than your standard Tex-Mex fare. The Chile Verde was a slow cooked pork in a spicy green tomato sauce and it was paired with warm flour tortillas, rice, and refried beans covered in cheese. Basically heaven. The pork had a slightly smokey flavor that paired nicely with the cilantro, onions, and tomatoes in the sauce. The rice and beans were seasoned perfectly, I made myself little tortilla wraps with the meat, sauce, beans, and rice. The end result was a feeling of oh god, I ate way too much.
Mrs. Unmanly Chef ordered the chicken quesadilla, it’s a great quesadilla. Too often restaurants will get too cute with their quesadilla filling it with crap you don’t want. At El Azteca, they get it, it’s simple just the meat and cheese. You have your options of chicken or beef, the chicken was a nice slow cooked chicken that was soft and tender.
The service at El Azteca is great and prompt. They don’t fuss with stupid small talk, and they don’t try and strong arm you into ordering specials you don’t want. Quick in and out, just what you want.
The price is super reasonable, especially for a restaurant in Howard County, which tends to get pricey.
Do yourself a favor, go to El Azteca. It’s the Best Mexican restaurant in Howard County and probably Maryland.