El Campesino

By | May 18, 2006

El Campesino

4063 William Penn Hwy
Monroeville, 15146
4771 McKnight Rd
North Hills, 15237
M-Th: 11:30-10; F: 11:30-10:30; Sat: 12-10:30; Sun: 12-9

I have this little theory. The closer you are to Mexico, the better your Mexican food is gonna be. Be it Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, or Actual-Mex, its gonna be better. Also, it only matters as the crow flies. For instance, FL will have better Mexican than Missouri, even though it might be a longer drive from FL. If you take a boat across the Gulf you’d be there in no time! The only thing wrong with this theory is that I live in Pittsburgh and it means we haven’t got a chance. We aren’t ever going to have the awesome Mexican that places like California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona do, but we must do with what we’ve got. There is no way I am just going to NOT eat Mexican food while I live here. That just isn’t possible. So we’ve got a few meager options. El Campesino is one of them. It’s not my favorite one, but at least 1) its not a national chain, 2) its not as busy as MadMex on Cinco de Mayo so you can still get a margarita with that quesadilla, and 3) it’s only half bad.

I know this doesn’t sound like a marvelous review. I guess it isn’t. The margaritas are expensive and sugary, and just not as good as Mad Mex’s. But they get you toasted. The offerings are more along the lines of your usual Mexican place. They have combination plates with quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, etc. They also have specialty items like chimichangas, flautas, chile rellenos, molé, and even chilaquiles. It is essentially the same menu as La Fiesta. Across the board, La Fiesta does them all better.

But El Campesino has a couple things La Fiesta does not. One major thing is a liquor license. A lot of people don’t want Mexican without a Corona or margarita. At La Fiesta you must bring your own. El Campesino will bring them to you. Another plus for a lot of people is that they don’t have to drive into the city. I live in the city, so this is not at all a problem for me. But I recognize that Pittsburgh Suburbanites like to stay on their side of the river. If I were them, I’d make the trip, but I understand where they are coming from. With locations in Monroeville and the North Hills, I imagine they get most of their business from the local residents who don’t want to travel into the city. Also, the fact is that El Campesino’s restaurants are actually kept well. La Fiesta is has ripped up seats with duct tape, old carpet, run-down fixtures….I actually kind of like the atmosphere, but fine-dining it is not! El Campesino isn’t exactly fine dining either, but its Mexi-Themed with wood slats and cow skulls and stuff. Some people just want that out of their Mexican restaurant.

On the basis of food alone, El Campesino is just OK. It isn’t exactly bad; it’s just not terribly interesting. A direct comparison of a quesadilla: cheese not as good, tortilla not as crispy and buttery. How about chile rellenos? Beef not as good, cheese not as stuck to the plate with the brown crispy edges that I adore. Burrito? Sauce not as tasty, tortilla not as soft. Chips and Salsa: stale and boring. El Campesino’s flautas were greasy, but more than that, the portion was way too small. However, all the food qualified as average or better. Just not best.

If you live in Monroeville or the North Hills, prefer not to drive into the city, need alcohol with your Mexican food, want to feel like you might be in a cantina even though you’re in a strip mall, or happen to want a margarita on cinco de mayo but don’t want to wait 3 hours for a table at Mad Mex, then you might like this restaurant. But don’t take my word for it, ‘buh-nut nut!’

It’s all about the same amount of ‘average’

Go to La Fiesta.

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