One of the things I learned long ago about living in New England is that certain phrases should immediately make your “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” alarm go off. One of those is most any sentence containing both “New England” and “Barbecue”. Also up there is “New England” and “Mexican”. Really dangerous is the combination of “New England” and “Authentic Mexican” food, since, while I’ve been to the occasional good actual Mexican place (including El Rincon down in Manchester, or when they have their A game going, Gusanoz, although for the latter I usually need to budget extra for the extra margarita I’ll need to wash down the bad service), usually I find an “Authentic” place to be dismal Tex-Mex at best, sub-Old El Paso at worse. But every once in a while I do stumble across a place that’s actually putting in a good effort, and not just dishing out queso-flavored disappointment. So, on that note, I introduce you to El Rodeo.
Walking in, El Rodeo at least has a decent ambiance going: it’s got the basic slightly-dark dining room with a Mexican theme applied somewhat sparingly, and the staff is friendly and prompt, quickly ushering us to a seat by the window. Next up, a generous basket of chips and some salsa (an Americanism, but one I do occasionally enjoy, and most any Mexican place in the US has to at least offer it), and while I generally prefer a bolder salsa than what they served up, it was a nicely done, flavorful, and obviously house-made salsa with plenty of fresh cilantro.
Next up, two very generous and plentiful margaritas served up on the rocks. Too often a house margarita is basically cheap tequila and limemade, but you could tell that their margaritas are put together with a little bit of care: some fresh lime juice, a few decent mixers, and a reasonably good tequila applied rather generously made for a refreshing, pungent, but tasty margarita. I’d certainly take these over a lot of the other places around.
Menu-wise, El Rodeo does have your basic Mexican-American style menu, with a few large platas, and an implausibly large number of permutations of basic Combinacions of basic Mexican items, but at that, they’ve got some decent depth: the menu includes tamales, a rarity for these parts, as well as chilaquiles, alambres, and carnitas. Since I rather like a good carnitas, but am often disappointed, that was my selection (and Carol’s as well). And I’ll have to say, they get the basics done rather nicely: the carnitas itself was a nice selection of tender bits of pork, fried up a second time to give a nice crispiness to it. Served up with a pleasant green salsa that had some nice tomatillo, lime, and cilantro notes, and accompanied by a flavorful (read: lots of lard!) refritos and some pleasantly-executed rice, and I’ll have to say, I rather enjoyed our meal, although it was only about 6/10 on my spicy scale (that said, a good, well-seasoned dish will beat a simply hot one almost every time!)
So, if one finds themselves in Concord, NH looking for one of the better Mexican options, I’ll have to say, I’d put El Rodeo near the top of my list for a return visit. I was certainly happy enough, even though I’m generally a curmudgeon when it comes to Mexican food.