Last Tuesday, I ventured only minutes from my apartment to El Campesino located at 4097 William Penn Highway in Monroeville. El Campesino has four other locations also in Altoona, North Hills (been there), Peters Township and Robinson (been there as well). There used to be a Los Campesinos in Irwin many years ago, but I am not sure if the restaurants were under the same ownership or not, but the food is very similar at El Campesino. When I was in middle school, my cousin used to take my sister and I to Los Campesinos weekly. We used to know all the employees and my cousin would talk to them in Spanish for hours. My cousin told me that the word campesino in English means farmer or farm worker. Going there weekly probably was the reason why I am addicted to tacos. Once they closed, my family heard about the El Campesino in Monroeville so we started making trips there, but a little less frequent than weekly.
I was able to make it to El Campesino during happy hour, which is from 5 to 7pm daily, Monday through Friday. The special is a dollar off a certain beer each day and half price house margarita on the rocks daily. This worked out nicely for me because I usually get the house margarita on the rocks, no salt (if you haven’t figured that out already…). The margarita had a thick, syrupy consistency that was easier to drink after I let the ice cubes chill the margarita for a few minutes.
Inside the restaurant, there were many, many booths, a bar off the the right and light Latin American music playing in the background. Soon after we got to the booth, my friend and I were served chips and salsa (first basket free). I have always liked their chips and salsa. The chips are baked to a light golden yellow. The salsa there is a bit spicier than Patron Mexican Grill salsa but still tolerable. It was just enough spice to open the nostrils.
If you are able to go to El Campesino for lunch, you get a very good deal on the combination meals ($7.99). At dinner, the combination meals usually run for about $10.50. I usually get a combination meal but tonight I was really craving the shredded beef quesadilla, like I used to get at Los Campesinos. I ended up ordering from a la carte which turned out to be roughly equal in price to the combination platter. I ordered a hard shell chicken taco, shredded beef quesadilla, and a side order of rice. My friend ordered carne asada which consisted of three grilled steak tacos on a flour tortilla with a cup full of cilantro and diced onion to add on top.
My meal was just what I was craving. I ate the taco first. I always eat the taco first when I get a combination platter because they usually do not reheat well unless it is a soft shell taco. The chicken was shredded and topped with plenty of lettuce and cheese. The chicken was a little dry so I added the salsa from the chips to juice it up. The Mexican rice was amazing. So fluffy and consisted of a little bit of peas and corn. The serving of rice is plentiful too as it takes up a whole plate. I ate spoonfuls of rice in between bites of the shredded beef quesadilla. I have not ordered the shredded beef quesadilla in a long time and each bite reminded me of my middle school years at Los Campesinos. The flour tortilla was flaky and evenly cooked to a bubbly brown crunch. The beef was shredded, juicy, and a little salty. I love how with each bite, I did not have to think about bits of fat. The meat was lean and tender. The cheese added a nice thick layer too to the quesadilla. I was only able to eat a little less than 3/4th of the quesadilla so I took the rest home along with the rice. It heated up well the next day.
The Carne Asada looked very simple with just meat on a tortilla, with onion and cilantro you put on yourself. It was seasoned with a substantial amount of saltiness, which my friend thought was perfect. I thought it was a little too salty, unless it was just the bite I tasted. My friend really enjoyed them and would definitely get them again.
I could not let the perfectly baked chips go to waste, so I placed the rest in my to go container and asked for a small cup for the rest of the salsa on the table. Instead, our waiter brought back a whole new salsa in a styrofoam cup to take which I thought was very generous. The service was exceptional quick too like usual. For how many times I have been to a El Campesino or former Los Campesinos in my life, I have always had a great experience.