If you’re around the shopping district on NFB for lunch time, ditch the chain restaurants by the mall and head to great Buffalo Mexican food at El Palenque!
There are a lot of offices and shopping just North of Buffalo which means there are a lot of restaurants to dine at. Namely, since the Boulevard Mall is right there on Niagara Falls Boulevard, those dining locations are chain restaurants.
Forget about them! If it’s lunch time and you want a flavorful, filling, and above all affordable meal, hit up El Palenque.
This Mexican restaurant has been around since 2007 and they have recently updated their interior for a more modern look, but still with the Mexican restaurant flare. I’ve dined here on several occasions because it’s pretty near the office and has incredible vegetarian food at rockin’ prices. The staff has always been friendly, even when some are not super comfortable with the English language, and the food comes out quickly. They’re a little slow getting the check to the table at the end of the meal, but it’s always been easy to get someone’s attention as El Palenque is rarely slammed at lunch.
The food is amazing! I say that as a comparison to the value. El Palenque’s lunch menu is fantastically affordable and they have enough vegetarian options to mix it up. My husband and I both are big fans of the Huevos Rancheros which are ranch style fried eggs, Mexican rice, and beans served with a side of tortillas. The eggs are usually more done than I’d prefer, but there’s so much flavorful rice, and the beans are a cooked down blend of amazing goodness, that the overdone eggs topped with enchilada sauce aren’t even bothersome. It just works beautifully and it’s always filling.
Another vegetarian dish I’m fond of is the Special Lunch #18 which is a burrito (I request bean, of course) topped with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream with a side of Mexican rice. It showed up with a generous topping of cheese and sauce which made me oh-so-happy. Every time I get a lettuce topped dish the shredded iceberg is always crisp and fresh, which is a huge food turn-on.
Other winning dishes are the Special Lunch #5 as a cheese enchilada with rice and beans, and the Special Lunch #15 which is a mushroom quesadilla with a side of rice, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. However, since those are very cheese heavy and rich, I rarely order them. The beans at El Palenque are just prepared so well and don’t leave the eater gassy that I normally opt for anything with them. Another notable dish is the Special Lunch #4: Chile relleno, rice & beans, but as I have a bell pepper allergy, I haven’t tried it to vouch for its flavor or asked about its vegetarian authenticity.
Now, it might not look like a lot of food at first glance, but when paired with the free chips and salsa, believe me when I say these meals are plenty. The slightly smaller serving size is actually my favorite part about El Palenque: their lunch prices are small because the servings, comparatively, are small, so it’s a total win-win scenario! You pay a lower price for a smaller meal and, assuming one can restrain themselves from gorging on chips and salsa, once the meal is over, you’re actually perfectly satisfied and don’t get that overstuffed feeling which is miserable to go back to work with. It’s undoubtedly the best place for lunch Monday through Saturday in the Buffalo area.
So while I’ve never been disappointed with their lunch menu (they could expand some vegetarian options, granted) I will give a bit of criticism to their dinner menu. I believe I’ve dined their twice–maybe three times–for dinner and the result has been slightly disappointing. The food is amazing, the service is still fantastic, and the portions still very filling, but for the value, it doesn’t match up. I swear the meal sizes are the same for both lunch and dinner. The pro: you’re not overstuffed at dinner! The con: you pay one and a half to possibly twice as much as you would at lunch. I could be completely wrong and the dinner sizes might genuinely be larger, but I just feel like they’re the same size as the lunch meals so it prevents me from being thrilled to cough up what I believe is extra cash. Plus I’m a twenty percent tipper, so what’s more than an acceptable gratuity at lunch suddenly turns into a begrudging give up at dinner…because the service is always acceptable so there’s one hundred percent no reason to take out my cheapness on the server…ever (all who have served or bartend know this to be sanction).
To wrap it up I will say this: if it’s between 11 and 3 on a Monday through Friday and you’re near the Boulevard, don’t consider Panera or Chili’s or T.G.I Fridays or any of those recognizable establishments that have nationwide commercials. Instead make your way to the corner of NFB and Sheridan and enjoy the best priced lunch menu possibly paired with a margarita. You’ll enjoy the food, love the price, and support our local economy!