El Rodeo (First & Main)

elrod3Your typical American-Mexican fare in your typical small town in typical America

Decorations: meh
Menu options: meh
Menu execution: meh
Beer: meh
Staff: Maybe Meh-xican

He said: Every single small town in America seems to have some sort of half-assed Mexican-themed restaurant, and Blacksburg is no different. It’s not really the ‘Burg’s fault, though. No town I’ve ever lived in has had high-quality, authentic Mexican fare that tastes like its straight from the back of a border-crossing U-Haul. And no town you live in is likely to have it, unless has over a million people or borders the Rio Grande.

elrod1El Rodeo is your typical megamart-style, ubiquitous American-Mexican restaurant that can be found in 99 percent of the cities across the country. The interior is a cheap knock-off of what we’re supposed to assume constitutes a typical Mexican setting – solid light colors on the walls, oranges, yellows, reds, cacti, sombreros, weird false perspective paintings depicting working in the field – you know the drill.

The menu is just as typical as the decor. Pretty much every dish is some combination of rice, beans (black or refried), cheese, and some kind of meat all shoved together inside of or on top of some kind of starch (tortilla, burrito, enchilada, chip, etc.) If you put all of those ingredients into every possible combination, and then make combo meals out of all of those finished products, you get about an eight-page menu that looks exactly like El Rodeo’s.

I ordered one of the few things I saw on the menu that didn’t follow this formula. It was different. Instead of carne asada, pork, chicken or fish on a platter of Mexican sides, it was steak smothered in Colorado sauce. Not that different, but I hoped the sauce was mildly more authentic and unique than the salsa.

It wasn’t.

The food wasn’t revolting by any means, but you can get the same meal anywhere in the country. And it wasn’t particularly cheap, either.

All that being said, it’s a clean place. They serve beer on tap in giant mugs. The wait staff isn’t terribly slow; at least not when the place is nearly empty like it was when I visited. The food won’t make you vomit.elrod4

I give it a “meh”.

Grade: C-

She Said: ‘Meh’ about sums it up. My personal experience with Mexican food is when it comes out of a dirty truck or a grandma’s kitchen, it’s incredible. When it falls out of a corporate-America-designed ‘hacienda’ it’s a little lame.

El Rodeo is fine. I had beef tacos. They were sorta tasty but not something I would crave or feel super happy about paying $8.99 for. Their food is pseudo fresh (obviously not talking about the beans here) and it’s all pretty dependably okayish. Sitting in El Rodeo feels like you could be anywhere in middle America…just a sneeze away from a strip mall and a Wal-Mart.

Maybe there are a couple better things on the menu, but the few unsatisfying visits I’ve had don’t inspire me to try more. It’s all we’ve got in Blacksburg, but I bet if I tried, I could make better Mexican food at home.

Grade: C

El Rodeo South Main on Urbanspoon


2 thoughts on “El Rodeo (First & Main)

  1. If you would like to try the real deal Mexican, there is a rundown food trailer (not truck) outside Carneceria Lilly over on Williamson Road (just up the road from the Sheetz.) in Roanoke. I am from Arizona and this is REAL. Just go into the store and pay for a couple Carne Asada tacos or a Sopa then take the ticket to cook outside. I hit this for my Mexican fix whenever I can!

    • This sounds wonderful! We came across a similar place like this in Lansing, Michigan. Thanks so much for the tip, we’ll definitely try it next time we’re craving proper Mexican food!

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