Anchos Southwest Grill and Bar
10773 Hole Ave.
Riverside, CA 92505
Getting back from our vacation, we were going to be swapping pictures with Sabrina and Anthony, who live in Corona. Since we've been back we had not had Mexican food in a long while. Meanwhile, my Uncle Jerry has been raving about this restaurant in Riverside since September. So it seemed like Anchos would be the natural choice for us to quench our Mexican food cravings, and satisfy my Uncle's request that we try this restaurant. It was off to Anchos we go.
Anchos has been anchored in the Inland Empire for over twenty years now. Almost everyone that lives in the IE knows about this restaurant. They have won numerous awards for their food. Anchos has been mentioned in "Best of Lists" from Inland Empire Magazine, the Press Enterprise, as well as other media sources. We arrived here on a Saturday night at about 7:30, and the place was packed. The location is a little odd. They share a shopping center with the County of Riverside Health Agency. This shopping center is kind of off to itself, in a heavily residential area. It was promising that even with the hidden location of this restaurant, we still had a ten minute wait for a table.
The outside of Anchos reminded me of what some of the old El Torito's used to look like. White stucco buildings, with wood logs sticking out near the roof line, lending to the hacienda kind of vibe. The inside was one giant room, full of tables. They must have had at least forty tables in this restaurant. The large, boisterous crowd really gave this place a life of its own. The inside of this restaurant really reminded me of a Chevy's. The menu here is pretty large, but we finally decided what to order. Let's see what this Riverside culinary landmark had in store for us.
Most places just give you Chips and Salsa, but at Anchos they also give you a refillable basket of flour tortillas. I had not noticed it while we were being seated, but in the middle of the dining room was a tortilla making station. We all really enjoyed this touch. They even gave out butter to go along with these tortillas. There is something magical about freshly made tortillas. They just make the world a happier place. Thank goodness for the tortillas, because the tortilla chips were not the best here. They are made here, but are very thin and needed more substance behind them. The salsa is also made at Anchos. This salsa did have a little heat behind it, but I like a chunkier salsa than this overly blended one.
As is customary when it is on the menu, Katie always has to order a side of Guacamole ($4.00). This guacamole featured very fresh avocados, but the guacamole needed to be seasoned a little more. Not the worst guacamole we have had, but it needed something extra added to it.
We already had the tortillas, so it was natural that we get the Queso Flameado ($9.99). I have had something similar to this called Queso Fundido in other restaurants, so I was looking forward to Anchos take on this dish. This stringy and thick dip is made of cheese and chorizo. This is a very heavy and greasy appetizer, but it is oh so good. Kind of hard to scoop out of the bowl, but it went well with the tortillas and the guacamole. The chorizo added a nice bite to the dip, and helped prevent a cheese overload. We all would get this appetizer again.
Before we delve into each of our meals, I wanted to show how crowded our table got after they brought out the food. Yes, for some reason they serve their rice and beans on separate plates at Anchos. They also had separate plates for the chiles rellenos that came with mine and Anthony's combo meal. Maybe to conserve space and eliminate waste, Anchos should consider serving their beans and rice family style, out of one bowl for an entire table. Just a thought I had after looking at this picture.
Starting off our entrees will be Sabrina's selection for the evening, the Chicken Enchiladas ($11.99). At this point of the blog, I would usually say something sarcastic about my table mate Sabrina, but I am going to refrain from this. It is the holiday season after all. Speaking of the holidays, Anchos gives you a choice on what sauce you want over your enchiladas; red, green, or Christmas sauce, which is a combination of both red and green sauce. The menu says this is a specialty of the Santa Fe area. Sabrina probably does not even know where Santa Fe is, but she thought these enchiladas were just okay. She liked the green sauce better than the red, and felt the chicken was just average. The serving size of this meal was on the large size, even without including the rice and beans. I know Anchos is busy, but they definitely need to work on their plating. From the looks of this plate, they just plopped these two enchiladas down.
The Chicken Fajitas ($14.99) are done a little differently here at Anchos. They do not come out steaming hot and sizzling, and they do not include bell peppers. Besides the grilled onions buried underneath the chicken, all of the other produce is placed on yet another plate. I am not a big fajita fan. I actually like that these fajitas did not come with bell peppers and I did not miss the sizzle that makes other diners in the area take notice. I applaud you Anchos for taking a stand on how you prepare your fajitas. That is where the accolades for this dish stop though. I felt awful for Katie to have to try to get through this meal. Lesson number one about Anchos, skip all chicken. This chicken was so dry it was like sand paper going down. No amount of refried beans could make this taste any better. After getting home and reading the reviews, everyone seems to be in agreement that the steak is the way to go at Anchos. Sorry Katie, I wish I would have known this before we came here. Not only was the chicken dry, but it was also flavorless. It really needed more seasoning. I took her leftovers home, but could not make them edible the next day either.
Both Anthony and I got the same thing, which usually means that I have to write less, but at Anchos, Our Number One Combination Dinner ($15.50) came on a whopping four plates, so no shortage of writing for me. Let's start with plate number one. This combination meal came with two chicken enchiladas, a crispy beef taco, and a tamale. The chicken enchiladas came Christmas style, with both red and green sauce. Both of these sauces were pretty pedestrian. Not too much going on with these enchiladas. The chicken was dry, but not as dry as in the fajitas. The tamale was probably the best thing in this combo meal, and even that was not memorable. I'm not even sure if it was a pork or beef tamale. I remember it being semi-moist, but not big on flavor. The Beef Taco was probably the most disappointing thing on this plate. It was not filled with very much beef, no cheese anywhere to be found here, and the tortilla had a supermarket shelf quality to it. I only ate half of it. Taco Bell makes better tacos than this.
Plates two and three were the Beans and Rice. Again the theme of the night went unchanged, because both of these tasted like nothing. I liked that they had hunks of chicken in their rice, but then I realized it was the same dry, flavorless chicken that was in the fajitas. The refried beans were a little on the soupy side, and were only useful when trying to make other items we had more moist. When we packed some of our food to go, both of us left these two plates on the table.
The last of our four plates was the Chile Relleno. At Anchos they make their chile rellenos with Poblano chilies. The Poblano chili is a very mild chili, so this relleno lacked the bite of other ones we have had. They stuffed the Poblano with jack cheese, then doused it with a red sauce that almost resembled tomato sauce. I was a little more forgiving about this chili relleno than Anthony, who said it, "tasted like nothing. No flavor whatsoever." I thought it was okay, but nothing I would get again.
So if you have made it this far through our review, you know this is not going to be one of our highest rated restaurants. I do give Anchos some leeway here though. They are not claiming to be a Mexican restaurant. It's in their name that they are a Southwestern grill, so that will explain the lack of heat in their food, but it does not explain the lack of flavor or the overcooked chicken. Our meal started out good with the freshly made tortillas and queso flameado, but after that it was just one low light after another. Maybe we should have just stuck to their Southwestern specialties like their ribs, skirt steak, or bacon wrapped shrimp. These are the items that get praised on-line at Anchos. The prices were pretty high here. There are no combination plates that are under $14, but you do get a lot of mediocre food with these combination plates. The service the night we were here was pretty solid. Our waiter had a very pleasant personality and checked on us often enough. It is safe to say we will not be going back to Anchos anytime soon. This place is all yours Uncle Jerry.
Out of five navel oranges, (because the city of Riverside is not only home to Anchos, but it is also the birthplace of the navel orange in California, way back in 1874), five being best to zero being worst, Anchos Southwest Grill and Bar gets 2 navel oranges.
For more information about Anchos, check out their web site here: http://www.anchos.net/