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We tried the El Mezcal on Iowa Street (now closed and called "Pueblo") shortly after moving to Lawrence last summer and were not impressed. So when I read the yelp* reviews for the new restaurant, I was a bit surprised that they were so good. In fact, a fellow Elite '14 member had high praise for their food, service, and margaritas, so I had to give them a try. Our experience was very average, even disappointing. Based on the menu, it looks like El Mezcal simply changed the name to Pueblo, hoping to get more business, but they should have copied the 23rd Street location's recipes because the food is not as good.
As mentioned in previous reviews, I am a bit of a Mexican food snob, if there is such a thing, having grown up in LA where Mexican restaurants far outnumber McDonalds. As usual, I stick with the basics the first time I visit a restaurant to see if they can get them right before moving on to more complex dishes.
Steak Tacos ala Carte - $2.40 each
We ordered the small guacamole ($3.49) and the highly touted white cheese dip (queso blanco - small - $3.49). The guacamole was small and too dark, made with avocado and SMALL PIECES OF TOMATO. The queso blanco was warm and well seasoned, but way too runny, barely adhering to the store bought chips, another disappointment. I had the 27 ounce margarita (on the rocks - $4.99) which was good, strong, and very reasonably priced, and my wife had the horchata, a Mexican rice-base drink which was better than El Mezcal's watery version.
My wife ordered the vegetarian special #1, a cheese quesadilla and cheese and onion enchilada (with queso blanco instead of red sauce - she hates tomatoes - $7.49), coming with refried beans. It is difficult to screw-up a quesadilla and Pueblo was no exception. The enchilada was good, but the beans rather bland, missing that fatty taste traditional refried beans emanate hence the name "refried".
Beef Enchiladas ala Carte - $5.49 (3)
I decided to forego the rice and beans and get down to brass tacks, ordering the steak tacos ($2.40 each) and beef enchiladas ($5.49) ala carte. The tacos came in flour tortillas and the steak was well seasoned with a little lettuce and plenty of white cheese. I saved some of the guacamole for my tacos, ordered some pico de gallo, and added their salsa, which was pretty good, making up for the lack of tomatoes.
The beef enchiladas were OK, but the sauce was lacking flavor and a bit too sweet for my taste. I recommend that they flash fry the tortillas before filling them, adding the sauce and some white cheese on top before putting them under the broiler to melt.
Pueblo was no surprise after the ho-hum experience we had at this Iowa Street location when it was called El Mezcal. The decor is colorful and reminiscent of old Mexico and the service attentive, friendly, and fast. Not my favorite Mexican restaurant in Lawrence by any stretch and we will probably not return.
CombatCritic Gives Pueblo 5 Out of 10 Bombs ... BOMBAS ARE BUENAS!