The Battle of the Queso

Mexican Food Enthusiast debaates El Diablo versus California Tortilla. Who wins the battle for the Auks' stomachs?

Niko Omiridis, Staff Writer

In an area surrounded by many fast food restaurants with a variety of menu options, it can be hard to choose one with the best food. A popular food choice among Archmere students is Mexican, but which is bet- ter: Pennsylvania’s California Tortilla or Delaware’s El Diablo? After trying the Chicken Tacos, Southwest Salad, and queso from each restaurant, El Diablo is the winner by a small margin.

Both El Diablo and California Tortilla serve a variety of food options, anywhere from burrito bowls and salads to tacos and specialty sides like queso and guacamole. Both joints allow customers to custom-make their orders and control how much or how little actually goes into the dish, a neat option that any customer can respect.

AMBIANCE & DECOR

From the moment diners walk in, it’s pretty clear both restaurants want the customers to enjoy their meal, service, and menu options and have them come back for more. Both restaurants hit those goals pretty successfully. One of the checkpoints a restaurant also needs to check off if they want to have returning customers is a friendly atmosphere, and both El Diablo and California Tortilla use the size of their space to do just this.

California Tortilla had good service and quality, how- ever, the staff seemed slightly depressed about working on a Friday. The food arrived within 10 minutes of the or- der being placed. Inside the bag, the tacos were “shoved” in, rather than being placed.

The moment one walks into El Diablo, the cool blue paint creates a welcoming scene. The staff was amazing here: they greet customers with smiles on their faces and make sure the order is exactly what the customer asked for. All the employees had smiles on their faces and in the kitchen, the laughs of the employees filled the pickup line. This time the tacos, salad and queso were packed in a respectful manner and neat fashion.

THE MENU

We started with the Chicken Club Tacos from California Tortilla. The packaging of the tacos were a little sloppy, but the taco still kept its form well. The tortilla was soft, warm and flavorful. The ingredients used inside the tortilla were things like bacon, chicken, salsa and these ingredients packed a powerful punch, but most importantly the meat was very tender and seasoned well. Overall, a very impressive result from California Tortilla.

At El Diablo, their signature chicken tacos, which were packed in portions of three, also had an elegant, yet appetizing look. This time the tortillas were flour tortillas, unlike California Tortilla’s yellow corn. Nonetheless, there was a very soft, warm, and slightly sweet bite to the tortillas. The filling was very similar to California Tortillas, including bacon, cheese, pico de gallo and lettuce. The chicken was also not too salty but didn’t lack it, and it was very tender, and juicy. The tacos included a secret hint of what tasted like nutmeg, which added a very nice bite to the chicken.

While going to any mexican restaurant, chips and queso are a very popular side dish. For California Tortilla, queso is a staple side dish, and for good reason. Their queso was creamy and thick, perfect for dipping tortillas in it. The flavor was a perfect balance between the sweet tomatoes with fresh peppers and the creamy cheese. The appearance was also a bright yellow color coupled with the red and green veggies. The sodium was slightly high but did not impact the overall result at all.

El Diablo’s queso was also crafted with the right amount of sodium. Despite being a little less creamy then California Tortilla’s, the appearance of the tomatoes and green chiles were enough to eliminate that blemish of the texture. However, the only concern with this queso was the lack of flavor It was still there, but not to the level of California Tortilla.

The last dish of comparison is the salad. California Tortilla’s salad was a mess. The majority of the salad was lettuce–problematic because it takes away the flavor and elegance of the salad. There seemed to be little effort ac- tually put into the salad and its craft, since the ingredients were just placed randomly. Psychologically, a salad looks and tastes better if its appearance is good. In addition, the chicken was very dry, only slightly seared and in big chunks, very hard to chew and digest. It also was not juicy and felt more like a boneless chicken wing than a chunk of chicken.

El Diablo was the star of the show when it came to the salad. Named the Southwest Chicken Salad, it certainly lived up to its name. The lettuce was perfect bite size portions and took up about forty percent of the salad. The chicken was outstanding with a great flavor punch, and the veggies were juicy and extremely easy to chew and digest. The dressing added a great combo of fresh- ness and chipotle flavor. There may have been a little too much salt, but overall this dish was still very appetizing.

 

THE VERDICT

Both restaurants served very delicious meals and it’s clear why both are favorites among not only Archmere students but many high school students. The better restaurant would have to be El Diablo, because all three of their dishes were great, and California Tortilla’s salad will keep them from being the best. El Diablo’s 13.5 out of 15 Chili Peppers beats California Tortilla’s 12 of a possible 15 Chili Peppers.