Dining Out: Hacienda El Mirador a tasty addition to Peoria’s Mexican restaurants

 

By Thomas Bruch
Journal Star entertainment reporter

 

PEORIA — Peoria is blessed with a fertile supply of Mexican restaurants, whether it’s a place to get happy hour margaritas or to gorge on a plate full of tacos, beans and rice. Could a new place get a tostado in edgewise?

The emergence of the latest Mexican restaurant to open in Peoria, Hacienda El Mirador, bolsters the abundant status quo with an inviting interior and food that has you making plans for another visit.

Located in the development built in 2015 in Junction City, Hacienda El Mirador joins fellow restaurant Childers Eatery along with a few boutiques. It is new to Peoria but not foreign to the culinary business as the owners relocated the restaurant from Chicago to central Illinois.

My guest and I stopped in on a recent Saturday night and the restaurant buzzed with bustle and people. Being the trendy new establishment in a trendy part of town ensures a certain amount of frenzy in the first few months since opening, and Hacienda El Mirador was no different. The hostess informed us that all of the tables were filled aside from an elevated two-seater near the bar — good enough for us.

Hacienda is roughly separated into the larger dining area, the patio and the bar, with the bar and the seated area separated by small rounded-off archways. The interior reflects a warm charm as low-hanging lights float above tables and attractive Latin-themed art adorns the wall.

Quick guide

Hacienda El Mirador

5805 N. Humboldt Ave., Suite 1, Peoria

Junction City

(309) 839-2820

Ratings: **** is highest

Food: *** 1/2

Atmosphere: ***

Service: **1/2

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Monday.

Menu: Appetizers, $7 to $13; salads, $7 to $10; tacos, 3 for $10; burritos, $9; seafood, $13 to $20; “platos,” $19 to $23; enchiladas, $11 to $14; tamales, $7; quesadillas, $10; desserts, $5.

Miscellaneous: Full bar, kids menu.

Our waiter brought us the menus, a basket of chips and salsa, and asked for our choice of drinks. The margarita flavors are inscribed on a number of walls inside Hacienda and cannot be missed; I got the house margarita ($5) while my guest requested the mango ($5).

We then moved onto the food menu, which covers any range of Mexican you might be seeking: burritos, tacos, pescados, tamales, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, sopes. The “platos” contain the most volume of food (and the highest cost), but we chose the smaller portions. I went with the Conchinitas tacos (four for $10) after learning the Carnitas were all gone. My guest went with the Pastor Quesadilla ($10). We added the Chicken Taquitos Dorados ($10) as an appetizer.

It was at this moment that the logistical hiccups of a new restaurant with a new staff on a busy night cropped up. Our margaritas arrived quickly enough, but then an interminable wait for the food ensued. These are the growing pains of a restaurant that get ironed out over time and blame isn’t easily adjudicated. For instance, our waiter was hard-working and extremely polite — hardly a target for someone’s ire. He then brought out three tacos on the house when the food did arrive. Sometimes the thought counts as much as the execution.

When the food did make it to our table on tapas-style rectangular plates, it was easy to forgive the delay. I basically spent the next 20 minutes quietly murmuring my admiration of the Conchinitas in between bites. The Yucatan-style pork is marinated in achiote — giving it a sweet and peppery taste — and citrus that is topped with homemade habanero sauce and a mound of red onions. I cannot recommend them enough.

My guest enjoyed her quesadilla, which was filled with chili chipotle marinated pork, grilled pineapple and a chipotle sauce. We both appreciated the reasonable portions that didn’t leave you wanting to succumb to a food coma. The only downside was the chicken in the taquitos appetizer tasted quite dry and could have used some type of sauce.

Because of those portions, we had plenty of room for dessert. The Flan de la Casa ($5) was a sweet pastry served cool with embedded bits of blueberry and juicy blackberries and cream on the side. It was the perfect conclusion to the Mexican meal.

There were several other desserts on the menu, and a theme had developed over the course of the night between my guest and I: we wanted to come back and sample the other options we didn’t get this time. I imagine that’s the sort of niche Hacienda El Mirador will fall into — a pleasant place to return to often.

Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or tbruch@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.”