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Restaurant review: El Metate spices up Lakes

The molcajeta grinding bowl is used at El Metate to serve a dish of the same name that has chicken, shrimp and beef served over grilled vegetables. Eric Daeuber / Special to The Forum1 / 2
Finishing your meal at El Metate with its fried ice cream could be a fine way to end your visit at this waterfront restaurant in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Eric Daeuber / Special to The Forum2 / 2

For some people, the Lakes aren't the Lakes without a burger on the grill, walleye in the pan and a cold one on the deck.

But a drive around Lakes Country will tell you that, like everywhere else, pizza joints, ethnic restaurants and steakhouses have made inroads into the world of the family cabin cookout.

Add another Mexican restaurant to the list as El Matate has opened on the Detroit Lakes waterfront.

El Metate brings Mexican dining to the Detroit Lakes waterfront, and if it doesn't take away from the Miguel's monopoly, it may give Zorbaz a run for its money.

The strength of El Metate, which is named after a mortar tool, is its location on the lake with outdoor dining or indoor seats providing nice views of the water. But there are also nice touches on the menu that can't be found elsewhere.

Two menu items especially worth a look are the chorizo and the molcajeta dishes.

The chorizo, a Mexican version of the Spanish smoked pepper sausage, has a bit of a bite. It also makes an excellent Queso Fundido ($6.25); ask for more tortillas as this wonderful cheese and sausage spread goes a long way.

Another of El Metate's ample entrees is the molcajeta plate ($13), which is almost big enough for two and comes with a variety of grilled meats and vegetables.

The name of the dish comes from the stone grinding bowl it's served in.

At El Metate, the bowl's a combination of chicken, shrimp and a thin sandwich rib-eye with grilled vegetables served under the meat, which is well done. If that's intolerable to you, order the dish made with pork and chorizo.

El Metate doesn't have any real weaknesses, just a series of minor distractions.

For instance, the rest of the menu isn't bad by any means, but typical of area Mexican restaurants. And like other area restaurants, the décor is decidedly un-Mexican with an interior that's half Tex-Mex and half Budweiser Beach Bar.

Speaking of beverages, the Mexican beers ($3.50) go down easy, and for dessert, there's a very nice fried ice cream ($3.75).

The restaurant's service is a bit relaxed, but El Metate is a break from beach burgers and beer.

Restaurant review

El Metate

720 W. Lakes Drive

Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Cuisine: Mexican


# Food: Two and a half stars

# Service: Two and a half stars

# Ambiance: Two and a half stars

Dining details

* Phone: (218) 844-5333

* Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

* Reservations accepted: Yes

* Alcohol: Full bar

* Dress: As you like

* Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express

Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at