Late one Saturday afternoon, I decided to ring up some friends and see if they would be interested in doing dinner. As it turned out, a relative from out of town had arrived and the entire family was going out to dinner to celebrate. The out-of-towner being a good friend of mine as well, I garnered myself an invitation to join them. While there were many places to choose to eat in Cuyahoga Falls, the one place that my friends and their family return to time and again is El Meson. Formerly one of the El Rincon locations strewn throughout the Canton / Akron area, several years ago they decided to go independent. While the choices on the menu stayed pretty consistent, the actual quality of the food improved somewhat.
El Meson was located at 657 Portage Trail, Cuyahoga Falls 44221 and can be reached at 330-920-1759. There is a website associated with the Google results for El Meson, however, the link is incorrect. As far as I know, El Meson does not currently have a website.
As one can imagine, El Meson can be a very busy place. Even with the amount of business my friends give on a regular basis, it can still be hard to snag a table on a Saturday night, especially for our group of thirteen. Fortunately, we arrived just before the dinner rush and were greeted with a half-empty parking lot. Here was a shot of the exterior of the restaurant:
Once inside, they sat us at several joined tables in the front half of the restaurant. Seeing that El Meson does not have a website, I decided to perform a pretty thorough job documenting the menu. Here were my photos:
The menu was pretty extensive and even with the number of times I've gone over the years, I've never even come close to trying everything. Tonight I decided to start out with a nice glass of their freshly brewed iced tea:
As with many Mexican restaurants, when you sat down, you were immediately presented with a freshly fried basket of corn tortilla chips and homemade salsa:
The chips were warm, fresh, and best of all, not greasy. They served as the perfect vehicle for the smooth salsa. Because the salsa is made from fresh jalapenos, the spice level varies from time to time. Tonight's version was a bit on the warmer side, prompting those at the table who didn't like spicy food to stick with just the chips. One of my friends decided to order the queso dip, which she declared was quite good.
For tonight's entree, I decided to go with something a bit more authentic. Billed as "Authentic Mexican Chiles Rellenos" on the menu, I figured it couldn't get more legitimate than that. Each entree comes with different sides and my dish came with a side of their seasoned rice and refried beans:
Here was a close-up of the chiles rellenos themselves:
These rellenos were stuffed with queso fresco, lightly battered and then fried. On top was a red sauce, very much in the same vein as an enchilada sauce. This had a very fresh taste and the rellenos were not greasy at all. Even with all of the complex flavors going on in the red sauce, you could still taste the fruitiness of the poblano pepper. I'm not sure how authentic it was to just stuff the peppers with only cheese, but they were prepared very well and the cheese stayed completely melted from the moment I received the dish until I finished it. The seasoned rice and refried beans were also done well, but I found that I prefer the beans done at Molly Brown's Country Cafe just a little bit better. The smokiness from the lard at Molly's gives the beans an extra depth of flavor that these were missing.
One of the advantages of having such an extensive menu was that you could order almost any of the components of an entree as a side item. Along with my chiles rellenos, I chose to order a single tamal (singular version of tamale). While tamales can be stuffed with many kinds of fillings depending on your geographic location in Mexico, at El Meson, there was only the single filling of pork. Here were a few photographs of my tamal:
And here was a side view showing the filling:
The tamal was very tasty. The two primary flavors, corn and pork, showed through quite well. Even the addition of more of the red sauce was nice. However, I'm not sure why extra ground beef and even more melted queso fresco was necessary. The additional flavors on the plate just served to busy the plate up too much and disguise the more essential flavors from the tamal. Don't get me wrong, gentle reader, I thought this was a tasty dish, but sometimes more is not always better.
The other point I wanted to mention about El Meson was the service. Of course, my friends were longtime acquaintances and friends with the owner and many of the staff members and are given preferential treatment from time to time. But even during times when I've eaten there by myself, the food was always brought to the table incredibly quickly. Tonight, with our table of thirteen guests, only about ten minutes passed between the time we ordered and the time we received our food. I've found that with a smaller group, it can be even faster.
Do I think that El Meson is a destination type restaurant if you live outside of Akron? No, not really. There are a lot of really good Mexican restaurants in other major metropolises. However, if you are passing through Cuyahoga Falls or happen to live in an adjoining community, I definitely think you should take the time to look up this marvelous Mexican restaurant.