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Review of El Vez Restaurant

El Vez Restaurant
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Ranked #58 of 4,671 Restaurants in Philadelphia
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$21 - US$30
Cuisines: Mexican
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Groups, Special Occasion Dining, Business meetings, Bar Scene
Dining options: Lunch, Breakfast, Dinner, After-hours, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Neighbourhood: City Centre East
Cross street: Sansom
Transit: Broad Street Line - Walnut Locust Station.
Reviewed 2 February 2016

We had been dying to give El Vez a try after hearing so much about it from friends and after seeing it on the “You’re Bacon Me Crazy” episode of Guilty Pleasures on the Food Network.

El Vez is part of Philadelphia’s Stephen Starr restaurant group. We’ve eaten at other restaurants of the group’s in the past, and although we had some issues with service – our meals were always very good.

We had the pleasure of finally dining at El Vez on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, and after all of the hype we were not disappointed. Although it was lunch time, we were certainly glad we made a reservation early in the week because it was packed! There was not an empty seat at the fabulous circular bar which features a spinning bicycle as its centerpiece, nor was there an empty table in the house. We requested a booth when making our reservation, and upon arrival our request was met. There was one booth waiting for us when we checked in for our lunch reservation.

The majority of the diners around us were ordering the restaurant’s brunch. This seemed to be very popular and all of the dishes looked amazing, however, we were in the mood for some tacos.

As soon as our waitress arrived we ordered chips and salsa for the table. The salsa was fresh and included diced jalapenos which was a welcomed addition to kick things up a notch. We also enjoyed the salsa verde very much. However, we all agreed that we could’ve done without the salsa roja. The salsa verde and fresh chips took us back to our days in where salsa verde was a staple at all of our meals so much so that we had to request seconds.

We asked our waitress for drink recommendations, and we each decided on the Granada on the rocks for our first round. The combination of gold tequila, triple sec, fresh pomegranate juice, and lime made for a refreshing treat after hours of trekking through countless city blocks that morning. On its own, pomegranate can be a bit much, but mixed together this combination was a winner! For our next round of drinks, we ordered the Rojo Sangria which was made with red wine, Patron Citronage, brandy, seasonal fruit and spices. We were very pleased with El Vez’s version of sangria, and it was very closely comparable to one of our all time favorite sangrias crafted by the one and only Jose Andres.

For our entrees we were torn between a few dishes since so much of the menu was so tempting. We decided on the taco tasting platter which consisted of one each of sea bass, beef, chicken, carnitas, and mahi tacos. This beautiful platter was fantastic, and by itself is worth another visit to El Vez. The presentation was to perfect to eat, but don’t worry – we eventually dove right in! Each taco was perfectly prepared in a homemade corn tortilla, and if we had to pick a favorite it would have been the sea bass. Our next entrée was the grilled beef tacos. The entrée arrived with three individually assemebled tacos featuring perfectly charred grilled beef (cooked to our requested medium-rare) roasted tomatillo-chipotle salsa, and pico de gallo. Again, they were each served on perfectly crafted and fresh corn tortillas. We point this out because a number of restaurants in the past have had serious difficulty with perfecting the corn tortilla. They are either too dry for our liking or fall apart at first touch – which renders them moot all together. For our final entrée we were completely dead locked between the oxtail enchiladas and the carnitas tacos. When done well, carnitas are one of our absolute favorites. After spending time in Mexico, and experiencing just how carnitas should taste, our expectations are set pretty high. However, when we asked our waitress for her opinion, she recommended the oxtail. In result, our oxtail enchiladas arrived in a personal skilled perfectly wrapped and drenched in chihuaha cheese, crema, and red onion with a side of salsa guajillo. Again, the presentation was terrific, and these enchiladas were mouth watering.

It is worth noting that our reservation was at noon which was when we saw the restaurant at its fullest. However, by the time we were wrapping up – around 1:30 p.m., there was plenty of available seating at the bar and at tables throughout the restaurant.

Overall, our meal was “mexcellent.” Our service was fantastic, and our waitress kept the drinks as well as the chips and salsa flowing. We highly recommend El Vez for anyone who is in the area and looking to try Mexican fare at the best Philadelphia can do! We are so glad we took a chance on El Vez. We will certainly be back, and we are looking forward to trying their brunch menu.

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2  Thank Bucation
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 13 January 2016

Circular bar for seeing and being seen. Youthful crowd that does not mind eating within inches of those still waiting for a table. Very good tequila shots and bar drinks...margeritas top notch. Just start talking to the servers, they all love to share menu favs. I must have been impressed as I was here three times in one week due to good prices on food. Plan on the guacamole / chips and the corn on the cob is an experience to devour not carefully!

Thank Lorie S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 January 2016

We had a large group for a holiday get-together at El Vez. The drinks were good, the food was good, and for the most part the service was decent. It's definitely a place to visit.

Our large group was accommodated by our reservation. Unfortunately two of the people in the group had to sit at the end of the booth with regular chairs in the immediate aisle. It was also next to the photo booth and server entrance. This distracted a little from the dinner, but it wasn't to the detriment of the experience.

We immediately were served a pitcher of margaritas. The beer selection is a bit lacking, but that's not why one comes here. The margaritas were great tasting as we sampled nearly every concoction. We also cleared out several plates of guacamole. It's authentic with cilantro so take notice if one isn't a fan of the herb.

We did have to wait a bit for our food, but it was worth it. The fish tacos were extremely flavorful and just the right size. The corn tacos tasted great. Others at the table reported to have liked their food as well. All said and done, nobody disliked their dish.

Some of the negative experiences include the awkward seating (already mentioned), the loud setting, alternate servers (we weren't sure at times who our server was or where), and the heavy dosage of salt on several dishes.

The dessert that came out was flavorful, and the coffee was a nice way to end the meal. El Vez is definitely a place to try at least once, but twice might be in order. There were so many things on the menu that were ruled out with the consideration we would be back in the future. Definitely make reservations, and definitely ask to be sat away from the photo booth.

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Thank CJRowan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 January 2016

I went to El Vez for the first time with a colleague (who has been before). She recommended that we share one of the guacamoles to start. The Cesar Chavez sounded interesting, so we ordered that. I wasn't sure about the balsamic drizzle, but decided to give it a go. Wow - am I ever glad we did. By far, the best guacamole that I have ever had (next time I may forego an entree and just get guacamole and chips, lol)

I also ordered the Sea Bass Tacos, which were very good, the fish was perfectly seasoned and cooked. We split an order of grilled asparagus, which for me was overly salty and practically inedible. I ate a few spears, but then decided that since the guacamole was so good, I would consider that my vegetable and eat it in lieu of the asparagus! The grilled asparagus went back to the kitchen virtually untouched.

There are so many dished on the menu that I would love to try, and I will definitely be back. But next time, I'll pass on the grilled asparagus, as it was the only disappointing part of the meal.

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1  Thank travlr36
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2016

My family surprised me with a birthday lunch at El Vez. My wife and I have been there many times, but never with our kids and never at lunchtime. We all loved the atmosphere and it was quite busy for a mid afternoon lunch on a Saturday. We ate the chips and homemade Guacomole. Our meals included the shrimp salad, chicken quesadilla, mahi mahi tacos and the chicken enchilada. Everyone enjoyed their lunch and we capped it off with the most incredible churros. Great birthday lunch.

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Thank sambenina
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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