Another small tex-mex chain around the Dayton area, Elsa’s currently operates four locations around the town. It’s got a different feel to it than some other tex-mex places; it feels almost more like a family bar than the average place does. You walk in and are greeted immediately by a dominating drink bar, and on either side, seating, televisions, and an arcade. With a lunch buffet it’s undoubtedly a very way to sell a business. Unfortunately, for all the other things going on around the place, making good food seems to have gotten lost somewhere.
So, the place actually lets you get your own chips and salsa or popcorn, which is a pleasant change from the standard places which serve them to you at the waiter’s convenience (and worse, the places that charge for chips) so that’s nice. The chips taste like they came out of a bag but the salsa is great. Unfortunately, all else is not so impressive.
When it came down to it, the food just came across as very inauthentic. Yes, the menu is littered with the usual tacos, burritos, carnitas, etc, but when you get a sample of each item, you can’t help but wonder if it came from a grocery store down the street and tossed in a microwave. The enchiladas taste like leftovers already.
The big problem, I’ve found, lies squarely in the ground beef. I don’t know what’s wrong with it (the pork is certainly average, and some of the other things on the menu aren’t bad) but the beef definitely kills the entire situation. I sampled a little of it by itself. It’s basically damp grease with no flavor. It makes for an awkward dish, too, because no amount of any other ingredient made it any good, which is too bad when beef is usually a great strength of tex-mex places. Is there really no seasoning on this meat?
Other than the food, the experience wasn’t bad. Service, particularly was good, and the servers were seemingly able to cover all of the tables easily during the lunch hour. The atmosphere was otherwise pretty friendly, and comfortable. Prices were great, at least considering the quality of the food.
During my time at Elsa’s I couldn’t help but feel like what I was eating was a parody of traditional tex-mex places. It’s just not up to the level I would expect from a restaurant of this type. The meat is plain, the ingredients taste like they came out of a bag instead of made in-house, and all in all I felt like these dishes were finished before they began. There are other places in town with better food at these prices.
- The lunch buffet is a nice choice if you’re very hungry, but the quality of food could be in question.
- This is definitely a family place with arcades and cheap food.
- The restaurant is also designed with a “sports bar” concept in mind.