No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!
Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).
I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!
My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)
(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).
I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.
As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).
It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!
I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.
Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!
If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!
Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.
This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!