Remember the Alamo? If so, the sign outside El Presidente may look familiar—had electricity been around in the 1830s. The sign, with red saloon-style lettering framed by flashing yellow bulbs, summons drunken partiers with the promise of round-the-clock Mexican fare. Earlier on in the evening, however, families and friends fill the large booths in the brightly lit dining rooms festooned with plants, Diego Rivera paintings and colorful ceramic sun plates. Diners listen to Spanish-language soap operas and random bursts of Latin pop over the crunching of thick, homemade tortilla chips.
Across from the entrance sits a display case storing pies and a cooler stocked with the Mexican soda Jarritos and Coca Cola. Take advantage of the BYOB policy by taking a trip to the liquor store three blocks south down Ashland. The attentive waitresses will bring a plate of limes to squeeze into your bottles upon request. The menu overwhelms with offerings ranging from combo plates to seafood dishes, burgers and burritos. The enchiladas are dry, but the tacos taste fresh and come topped with salty Supremo Queso cheese. Unlike the classier Mexican joints that offer scant servings of guacamole in stone mortars, El Presidente piles a hefty portion on your plate.
The spot serves up six entrees at $6 each from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m as its midnight special. When that deal expires, breakfast begins with chilaquiles, huevos con chorizo and additional egg offerings available until 11 a.m. Standard menu prices range from $4 for a burrito to $12 for fajitas. Though just a touch above average, the food is filling and the family-restaurant feel beats a late-night burrito shack for 3 a.m. feedings.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Dana Kavan