Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight of the Week: El Tio Tex-Mex Grill

El Tio Tex-Mex Grill may be the new kid on the block in Falls Church, but this newbie comes bearing ripe gifts of spice and trouble.907spotlight.jpg

So what if these contributions are merely tacos and tequila to some; the duo does no wrong in the flavor department and El Tio’s mastered approach to the shaken-not-stirred margarita does the frozen swig justice.
Hanging ceramic sun faces, and moon mugs for that matter, stare customers down from the burnt-orange walls lining the roomful of linen-covered tables. The doting wait staff doesn’t let too many minutes pass before equipping diners’ tables with tortilla chips and chunky house salsa to make the menu grazing experience that much more fulfilling.
Latin-laced rhythms beat over the loud speaker while patrons ranging from puppy-love couples to families of five discuss menu decisions and exude surprise to their arriving, sizzling platters.
Branching off its other location in Gainesville, Va., the chain is known for its homemade salsa and hot sauce, both of which don’t disappoint. However, most impressive is the establishment’s Fried Bananas ($4.95) dessert plate. Cinnamon-crispy on the outside yet delicately soft on the inside, this fruit’s Plain Jane status is given a delectable makeover somewhere in between the à la mode and the hot fudge. Think “nutritious fruit meets all the naughty junk food that makes it desirable again” – or maybe that’s just the Strawberry Daiquiri ($6.50) talking. Nevertheless, the taste of sugary-sweet satisfaction awaits, tipsy or not.
Combination platters make prime affordable entrée choices, ranging anywhere from Spinach & Cheese Enchiladas ($10.95) to Chicken Tamal, Chile Relleno and a Beef Enchilada ($12.95) – all of which come sided with pico de gallo, sour cream, rice, refried beans and hit-the-spot guacamole. The Beef Enchilada and Chicken Taco combo ($10.95) leaves little to be desired, covering every base from crunchy shell versus soft tortilla to jam-packed ground beef versus shredded chicken with a bit of a kick.
A cautionary tip for eaters picky about their fare’s flavors unintentionally mixing, stick with something off the Meat, Chicken & Seafood portion of the menu, as the food on the combo platter tends to mingle its juices. For this reporter, that’s a good thing, but to each their own.
The food overall wasn’t anything too wildly unpredictable, but when a decent Tex-Mex staple is hard to come by locally, the mere coming of a new establishment is enough to cheer about for any Mexican food enthusiast. Better yet, those cheers can now be exchanged over clinked glasses at El Tio’s just-added weekday happy hour. The spirit special is new as of this week and will kick off every Monday through Friday between 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., with $5 quesadillas and $2 draft beers or $3.50 margaritas to wash ‘em down.
For Tex-Mex lovers and tequila “connoisseurs” alike, El Tio is where it’s at for quality flavor and friendly service to match. Of course, there’s always take-out dining to have a fiesta in the privacy of su casa, though you’re on your own with the cocktails.

El Tio Tex-Mex Grill

7630 Lee Hwy., Falls Church, VA
703-204-0233 •

Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.