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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Thursday, January 9, 2014

El Tio Tex-Mex Grill and Mexican Restaurant - McLean

1433 Center Street
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 790-1910

After reading a multitude of generally positive reviews on Yelp we headed to El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in the hopes of having a good meal, and we did. El Tio is difficult to find, tucked away in a tiny strip mall on a side street running parallel to Chain Bridge Rd (near the corner of Chain Bridge and Old Dominion). Unlike its Falls Church location on the main drag (Lee Highway), there is no way to drive past the McLean El Tio and notice it. It stays busy, no doubt, due to word of mouth. The food is great and the service attentive. We were definitely made to feel welcome.

El Tio is a small restaurant with about 15 tables in all, so, when crowded, the atmosphere is cramped, hectic and can be a loud. They do not take reservations on Friday and Saturday nights, but we were seated, even though the restaurant was busy. It would have been nicer to have had a larger table for our party of 5, with wait staff rushing all around us.

The bottomless chips and salsa really hit the spot while we waited for our food to arrive. The huge margaritas seemed popular with the patrons, so we ordered a few also. Despite the restaurant being busy, our server Eneida was very attentive. She also answered our questions knowledgeable and overall added to the great experience.

Everything we ordered from cheese quesadillas to taco samplers to seafood burritos to chicken chimichangas was delicious. Those who like their food a little spicy, note that there was not much heat to any of the entrees, so if you want some extra spice, you can ask and they will gladly oblige. Those who don’t like heat will enjoy the full flavor of the food. The staff seemed to be able to accommodate almost any request, even to split our large margarita into two glasses.

In an area with many great, but expensive, restaurants, El Tio offers both great food and affordable prices at about $12 per entree on average. Our margarita was the size of an entrée, that's for sure, and cost about $13.

As we were leaving, we ran into some friends who asked us “have you been here before?” Before we could even answer, they all enthusiastically pumped their thumbs in the air, saying “this place is great, we love it!” And we all agree.

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