enchildas verdes

Southern Standoff (El Gallo Tropical Mexican Grill)

El Gallo Tropical Mexican Grill, 17 E Park Ave, Hamilton, NJ
M-F 8:30 AM - 9:30 PM; Sa 10:30 AM - 9:30 PM; Su 10:30 AM - 9 PM
(609) 888-1385   Website    Google Maps

Gravitas:   Decor:   Cost:   Proximity:

Located in a tiny strip mall just off Rt 206 in Hamilton, El Gallo Tropical serves up what is possibly the best Mexican food in the area. That’s saying a lot, as a host of good-to-superb Mexican dives have opened in the Greater Trenton area over the last few years. My friends from Cali to Texas used to opine, “Oh, you can’t get good Mexican food in NJ!” 10 years ago, you had to travel to New Brunswick to prove the contrary. These days, there are many existence proofs right here, with El Gallo Tropical providing Exhibit A.

sopesThe grilled meats are utterly superb. A recent Sopes sampler with Pollo (chicken), Carne Enchilada (spicy grilled pork), and Chorizo (spicy, ground, pork sausage) was one flavor delight after another. The Sopes themselves were perfectly fried: lightly crispy, but still moist and chewy. Topped with fresh lettuce, avocado, and queso fresca, you can slather on El Gallo’s superb salsa verde for a little more punch.

In Trenton City (in Sept 2015), this dish will set you back around $6-8 (depending on the restaurant). At El Gallo, it’s $9 for a platter with 3 Sopes with one meat, or $10 for mixed meats. Still, the quality is impeccable and the portions are a little more generous than most restaurants, so that many people will find the price difference justified.

We’ve sample a number of other options on the menu:

  • Enchildes Verdes (header image) – moist chicken wrapped in warm, home-made tortillas and drenched in a superb sauce made from tomatillos and cilantro.  Just divine.
  • carne enchilada asadaCarne Enchilada platter: grilled, spicy pork with rice, beans, and salad.  El Gallo’s delivers pungent, spicy, complex flavors with meat that remains moist and slightly charred.
  • Roast Chicken: a rotisserie chicken on a platter (available as a quarter, half, or whole chicken).

If you like seafood, El Gallo has a larger and more varied seafood menu than most Mexican joints in town. I’ve not sampled it, but I have to believe it’s good.

What’s not to like?  Every time I’ve visited, the large screen TV has been blasting nearly full bore through blown speakers.  Borderline assaulting.  Service is sometimes slow.  The restaurant decor tries to mask the fact that it’s in a tiny strip mall next to a dry cleaning shop.  It only partially succeeds.

Whether it’s worth schlepping out to Hamilton is something of a standoff. If you live or work in town, there are so many good choices closer in, you may not worry about it. But if you live south or east of the city, and either plan to take out (or wear ear plugs), the food is certainly worth eating.

El Gallo Tropical

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4 thoughts on “Southern Standoff”

  1. I stumbled on this place after seeing my friends at The Greek Corner in the Center next door (if you like Greek food, you should try it), and finally ate there one morning when I misjudged the Greek Corners hours. If it isn’t the best Mexican restaurant in Trenton, I want to know what is, because oh my god. All the dishes I have eaten there have been excellent.

    I wish it was a tad further from the Greek Corner, though. It feels like betrayal.

      1. Thanks. I went there last night and got 2 Tortas: 1 Carne Asada, 1 Chorizo (to go). Both very good; my wife ate her entire Torta, which is a lot for her.
        I didn’t think that Mole would travel that well (although the sandwiches were still warm when I got home), so I might want to return and eat that in house.
        I need to try Chenche y Chole, too.

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