Only one other customer came into El Pueblo during my dinnertime visit, and he wasn’t even there to eat. And he couldn’t have been sorrier.
From what I could gather from his apologia to the young woman taking the orders and to the cook who also acknowledged his arrival, he had been outvoted by his family regarding dinner. He had been sent for takeout, but his family chose pizza as the food to be taken. So, apparently, he placed the order at a nearby pizzeria then popped in to El Pueblo for a beer while he waited. And maybe a side order of the Mexican rice to go.
But what he really wanted was No. 8 on the menu. “I don’t even know what it’s called,” he said, without getting an answer. He just knew it by number.
For the record, the No. 8 is Pechuga de Pollo Asada, or grilled chicken breast with beans and salad, and of course the rice that is better than pizza. But you can just call it No. 8.
I chose No. 4, Chilaquiles, which for some reason that escapes me is spelled Chilakiles on the menu. Maybe they were tired of people pronouncing it chee-lay-KWEE-les and couldn’t get them to just order it by its number.
As is traditional in Mexico, the chilaquiles is available with a red or green sauce and a choice of meat. It’s a simple dish with squares of tortillas as the base, with sauce, meat and cheese on top.
I cheated. I got the green sauce and requested some red on the side. I pretended it was to go with the pork taco I also ordered.
I liked it all. The chilaquiles/chilakiles had just the right soft and crunchy texture in the tortillas, and the meat topping was ample.
The taco was served in a double soft corn tortilla with moist pulled pork and just a bit of fresh cilantro. A lime wedge was provided for a bit of a citrus splash.
Even the sides were good, including the dense mound of refried beans and the rice that my fellow customer had asked for. You may have heard me lament about the general poor state of Mexican or Spanish rice in this town. El Pueblo’s could serve as a guide to other Mexican restaurants — not too dry, not too moist, just a few bits of carrots and tomato for coloring. It’s even made prettier with the slices of fresh avocado draped over it.
El Pueblo’s sign says it is a grocery as well as a restaurant, but unless I missed something I saw nothing in the way of a market. It operates as a quick-serve — order at the counter and the friendly staff member will bring your food to you when ready.
It’s a pleasant but small dining area, painted brightly with colorful murals and bunting.
The fast-food type booths aren’t the most comfortable, but they’re fine for a quick meal. Or while you wait for your pizza order next door to be ready.
El Pueblo is at 7124 Aloma Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The restaurant’s Facebook page has a link to a website, but it’s for Mi Pueblo, a Northern California chain. The Facebook page does not have much information, but most entrees are under $10. The phone number is 407-677-5534.