In 1974, Elmer Cuen opened a restaurant that would become a local phenomenon due to his attention to the food, his love of the community and his hard work. He opened his restaurant right across from Chandler High School which allowed for hungry high school students to come across the street and not only get great food, but also a place to return to long after graduation. While the prices may have risen in over 40 years of existence, the care for quality ingredients and emphasis on happy patrons has never changed.
The minute you walk into the restaurant you get the feeling that you are going to get an authentic eating experience. A small indoor dining room with a large community table is in the center may be a more recent change; it is evident from your first bite that the recipes are the same. I had heard that there were a few must have items so we were sure to start our meal with those, but it became quickly evident that deciding on the other items may present a challenge. The menu has a lot of tantalizing options that it was going to be difficult on one visit to choose just a few items to enjoy.
We started with the recommended order of Strips ($1.69). The small order is still a large portion and is comprised of freshly made corn tortilla chips that are served with shredded cheese and their famous red sauce. The chips were a perfect crunch to get the meal started and the sauce was fantastic, although if you like it spicy, this may be on the mild side for some. The flavor though cannot be denied as delicious. While the chips are warmed the cheese is not, so if you are imagining a nachos like dish, it is not that. The cheese may be on some chips and not on others so lift it carefully to your mouth and then enjoy.
The other item I was told that it was imperative to order was the Bean & Cheese Burro ($2.75). I was told that this is a small burrito that would be great to start the meal off with and it was fantastic but not small in any definition of the word. This could easily be a meal item on it’s own and at that price makes it a very exciting item. The beans were full of flavor and the cheese melted perfectly into the beans. The tortilla is warm and wrapped tightly to make it easy to eat. If you love refried beans or bean and cheese burritos you will want to make sure to put Elmer’s on your list to visit when in Chandler.
The next item was from the combination plate section. All combination meals are reasonably priced at the same amount and include rice and refried beans. The first combination we ordered was the #5 combo ($8). Along with the rice and beans, you were given your choice of a beef or chicken taco, a bean tostada, and a mini beef chimi. The taco shell is made in house so has a non-uniformed shape. But it is packed with flavor, especially if you add a little of the red sauce from the Strips dish. The tostada is piled high and takes some skill biting into without spilling the contents on to your plate, but it is worth the effort. The rice is fluffy and full of flavor and it is served with the same beans that are in the burrito.
The next combination was the #4 plate ($8). This is two mini chimis and a taco. I was not paying attention to the first order, so I apologize for failing you dear readers. But that being said, it was a happy mistake as the chimis were so tasty I am not sure I would have been able to get much of the one that was served with the first combo plate. The chimis are small meat filled tortilla wrapped pockets of flavor that are deep fried before serving. I also selected a chicken taco, so that was a variation from the first order. The chimis were fantastic and although a duplication from the first combo ordered, a blessing in disguise. The chicken tact had amazing flavor and the crunch of a fresh taco shell is hard to duplicate.
I only have one thing that I am not thrilled with for this experience. It is too darn far away for me to visit multiple times a month. I loved all the flavors, the ambiance, the service and everything in between. It will be high on my when in the Chandler area must stop list. Do not let the look of the outside of this quaint location fool you; it is full of flavor inside.
Location and Website – 355 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, AZ 85225 www.elmerstacos.com