Best Old-School Mexican Restaurant - 2010
Why do we adore El Toreador, the raucous, family-friendly Mexican joint half a block from the West Portal Muni station? Is it the bright palette of reds, greens, and yellows that smacks you upside the head as soon as you walk in the door? The birdcages, parrots, airplanes, chile peppers, dolls, serapes, and bulls' heads that drip from the ceiling and plaster every wall? The María Félix pinups? The 56 beers from Brazil, Peru, El Salvador, and Argentina? The infectious carnival spirit that's been packing 'em in for half a century? All that, yes — but we primarily adore the food. El Toreador puts out enormous platters of Mexican comfort fare like plump, garlicky Veracruz-style shrimp with peppery grilled onions; a brisk and tongue-tingling pumpkin-seed mole; and a smoky, juicy carne asada. The mango-passionfruit margarita is rich and lusty, the housemade strawberry-guava nectar is even better, and don't forget the honey-cinnamon sopaipillas for dessert.