Large groups looking for fast, friendly service and a BYO Tequila option should look no further than El Azteca. It's Mexican, tasty, and with prices in the $8-$12 range, it's fairly inexpensive. Heaping portions of burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas make the restaurant -- located in Center City -- a great lunch and dinner option. Plus, there's nearly no wait.
As Salsa music plays over the background speakers, diners are greeted with the symbols one might associate with Mexico, including mariachi guitars and hats. The lighting is dim, befitting the fiesta mood that El Azteca displays. The atmosphere is great for a large, hungry crew --especially one that enjoys spicy food. It's not really a date place, however.
The servers are friendly, and they serve chips with salsa, as one might expect. Restaurant owner Barbara Sparebo, though a recent vegetarian-convert, will help even complete novices find what they're looking for. She suggests the fajitas, which come in chicken or beef. She says, "If you like seafood, the jumbo crab quesadilla is excellent." She adds, "I think our Mexican chicken soup is famous."
In order to cover as many bases as possible, I sampled #27. This option features one quesadilla, enchilada and burrito. Though sauces varied between the enchilada and the burrito, both were excellent. The ground beef was at its finest, nestled amidst lightly pressed dough. The cheese quesadilla was rather plain in comparison, but nonetheless well-prepared. Quesadilla fans should steer towards the chicken variety. As one customer exclaimed, "It was awesome!"
While the Mexican chicken soup may be a hot menu item, the restaurant is most famous for its pitchers of margaritas. A 750 ml bottle of tequila -- or tequila product, … la Tortilla Silver -- makes three $6 pitchers. The restaurant staff takes your bottle and mixes up the famous Mexican cocktail in minutes -- while you wait. Given how much margarita this makes, the "BYO" part of the menu should be a great draw for tequila drinkers who don't mind fronting the initial bottle cost.
Overall, compliments abounded after my group's meal. Everyone was satisfied with his or her food, and no one's wallet was overly depleted. Students can consider El Azteca as an alternative to Mad4Mex and Copa, and also as a nice downtown option for good food and great prices.