El Sol opens on 3rd Street

Last Tuesday, I started for Subway in Strawberry Square to get lunch and found the place packed with kids. So I headed out toward Third Street, because I remembered that Lisa and Juan Garcia were about to open El Sol.

It’s in the old Harrisburg Magazine space at 18 South 3rd.

The place is cool and quiet. It’s a great room with a small bar toward the front and about a dozen four-tops in the dining area.

Randy King was at the next table. He said, “It’s about time we got a Mexican restaurant downtown,” when I asked him how he liked his meal.

Agreed.

(No offense to Neato Burrito, which does a good job with California Mission burritos.)

I had chicken enchiladas verdes with refried beans and white rice. Seasoning was mild and the meal seemed light, but even so I carried a third of it away for later.

The next day, I ran into an old rowing buddy downtown — George Spiess of Pedaling Along. He was looking for a place to eat, I pointed him toward El Sol, and he had a more adventurous time than I had.

So, I’m just gonna steal part of his post and point you toward his cycling blog.

“When I walked in I could tell that they were a little more up-scale than what I had in mind, but I really like mexican so I decided to give it a go. Since I was alone I asked to sit at the bar; which tickled the bar tender because I think she was lonely, and I was their very first bar customer. The menu had burritos for $6.50, and I rarely drink alcohol or soda anymore, so I had a water. So she starts with a big basket of fresh chips and a tasty, although too mild for me, salsa. While I’m waiting for the burrito, she offers me a glass of hybiscus juice. It tastes like watered down fruit punch, but has a unique refreshing quality. Something you’d want to sip on a hot day.

“Then my food comes – and it is a Big El Honkin Burrito. I guess my presence at the bar made others more comfortable with the idea, because soon another guy comes over and sits down. Bartender Julie offers us both a glass of some mexican rice drink. I decline, but new guy tries it, and sets the glass next to his coffee, which he brought in, and his hybiscus juice sampler, which soon gets replaced by a hybiscus juice glass/pitcher.

“Then Bartender Julie drops the bomb. They don’t have their liquor license yet, so they can’t sell beer, but they can give it away. I sometimes have trouble hearing, I but had no trouble making out that she had just said, “free beer.” I find the fortitude to decline, but new guy is very pleased to order a Corona, and places it in line with his coffee, hybiscus juice, and mexican rice juice…and his own big basket of chips and mild salsa. Then his food comes.

“By that time I’m finished, and walk over to the waitress register to pay. But the waitress is new and she goes for the manager/owner type, who sends me back to Julie to ring me up. No problem. As I was leaving, new guy was chowing down, enjoying his free Corona, and probably thinking about calling back to the office to say he will be late.”

Read more at Pedaling Along

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5 thoughts on “El Sol opens on 3rd Street

  1. I ate there last night. Wow, what a disappointment. The food was bland, especially for Mexican food. Even El Rodeo, which is not great, is closer to what I would consider Mexican food. This makes me mad because I have been waiting for HBG to get a decent Mexican restaurant.

    It is obvious that this restaurant is trying to cater to a VERY Anglicized palate. There were no spices, no hint of cumin, and the majority of the dishes on the menu were not what you would expect from a traditional Mexican restaurant. In addition, many of their dishes were a little overpriced for mexican food, although they did give you a lot of food.

    Even their aguas frescas were expensive. 2.75 for a glass of horchata (a cinnamon rice water drink)? Ridiculous.

    If you have ever eaten at a Mexican restaurant in the West/Southwest, you will be sorely disappointed. If eating at Damon’s is your idea of adventurous, then this is your place.

  2. Justina-Have you ever been to Mexico and had the traditional food? I wonder this because your comment about West/Southwest Mexican restaurant is not a true Mexican restaurant. It’s the American interpretation. Just like typical interpretations of Italian and Chinese foods are a far cry from what they are really like in the countries of their origin. I’ve eaten at El Sol twice and both times my food was terrific. Was comparing dining at El Sol to eating at Damon’s a fair comparison, hardly. El Sol is a family owned business with a very reputable chef who came here from Mexico just to work at this restaurant. Maybe next time you go in it would be a good idea to communicate to your server that you like your food very spicy. Unfortunately in this area the majority of the popualation typically leans towards bland so they must cater to that palette. I know this because I have family in the restaurant industry and have worked in a restaurant for over 9 years. Give El Sol and chance and I’m sure you will enjoy a lovely dining atmosphere and experience! Buena suerte Juan y Lisa!

  3. I literally discovered El Sol the other week when friends and I were heading toward their neighbor, Pasquale’s, for pizza for lunch. I ditched the friends and headed inside. Atmosphere is great and the salad I got was terrific. From my travels to the Santa Fe area and talking to friends from Argentian and Uruguay, the menus seems pretty authentic. Can’t wait to go back and try it for dinner! Yumm…

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