New player in the plaza

Mexican cuisine was on my radar for this stop, and it took me to this new place in western Madison County.

Tucked into the corner of a revitalized plaza in this community, it’s a little hidden, but when you find it you’ll be treated to some classic ethnic fare inside a clean and cool atmosphere. 

The parking lot in this complex is gigantic, so find a spot and look for the small patio in front of this restaurant and the name prominently displayed over the entrance. A picture of a man wearing a sombrero with a mustache will catch your eye on the sign.

Once inside you’ll immediately come face to face with the bar. Seating is available on either side of the bar, with a few high tables and chairs situated in front of the bar and the large picture windows peering outside. 

This joint is laid out like a Mexican villa, which makes for a pretty neat ambiance. 

Booths line the outside walls of the building, with wooden tables and high-backed wooden chairs positioned down the middle adjacent to the booths. Every table features a Mexican-themed mural painted on the top, another nice touch.

Like most ethnic eateries of this ilk, the menu is quite large, so you’ll have plenty of options. The first thing I was smitten with was the fact that our waiter brought our classic chips and salsa, but an individual salsa bowl for myself and my dining partner. That’s just a small piece of customer service you don’t always see at similar establishments.

Options on the menu here include combination dinners, burritos, seafood, salads, fajitas, street tacos, sandwiches, veggie choices, signature selections that include a ton of steak options, chimichangas, enchiladas, quesadillas, appetizers and three different lunch menus. There are also good drink options here, most notably an extensive margarita menu.

I decided to go with their signature burrito on the lunch specialties menu. It came with Mexican rice and refried beans. My dining companion selected the chicken enchilada option on the express lunch menu. It was also accompanied by rice and beans.

I chose beef for my burrito filling option. It was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and melted white cheese. It was good, but there was nothing distinctive about it. It was fairly small, to boot. The cheese added a little sweetness, was about it. The beans and rice were both good, too, but pretty run of the mill for a local Mexican restaurant.

My friend was a little more stoked over his enchilada, which he scarfed down in about three bites. It was delivered in a soft corn tortilla with chicken, cheese and enchilada sauce stuffed inside. 

The prices are definitely right here. It’s extremely easy for a single patron to eat for under $10. 

I was also very happy with the service. Multiple workers constantly check on you, refill drinks, chips and salsa baskets and make sure you’re all right. Our food came out super quick, which makes it great for a lunch stop, too. 

With the quick and excellent service, an extensive menu and affordable prices, I’ll return. The shrimp fajitas off the lunch favorites, the Hawaiian fajitas with pineapple, chicken and steak, the chipotle-glazed bone-in pork chop and the toriado mix with chicken, steak, shrimp and bacon served on rice and smothered in cheese dip all sound like delicious tries.

Overall - four stars

Cleanliness - five stars

Service - five stars

Food - three stars

Price - $

Any idea of the name of this new Mexican restaurant in western Madison County? Scroll down to see if you’re correct.

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ANSWER: Mr. Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant and Grill, 119 Eastgate Plaza in East Alton

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