Authentic Mexican Cuisine in the Heart of Port Chester

El Tio 143 Westchester Ave. Port Chester, NY 10573 (914) 939-1494 There’s a fiesta at El Tio every night of the week. And yo...

El Tio
143 Westchester Ave.
Port Chester, NY 10573
(914) 939-1494

There’s a fiesta at El Tio every night of the week. And you’re invited.
Since 1990, owner Jesus “Jay” Barajas has been cooking and serving his family’s favorite dishes at this Zagat-rated Mexican eatery (whose name is Spanish for “The Uncle”).
Barajas, who moved to Port Chester in 1981, hails from Jalisco, about an hour and a half from Guadalajara.

When asked what made him decide to open a restaurant, Barajas said, “I always enjoyed working in the kitchen and my dream was to own my own restaurant.” He added, “I always helped my mom in the kitchen as I was growing up. Then, when I came to the US, I worked at a private club for 10 years. At this club I obviously worked in the kitchen preparing Italian & French dishes. When [I finally got the opportunity to] open my restaurant, I combined what I learned from my mother's recipes, my experience at the club, and my mother-in-law also gave me many tips and her recipes.”

His creations are, as he puts it, “a combination of all three and my own seasoning.”

There are no esoteric ingredients or overly fancy presentations; when you dig in, you know what you’re eating. Simple, hearty portions of tried-and-true foods at a reasonable price (the most expensive item on the menu is about $15) are all it takes to satisfy Barajas’ hungry clientele.

Barajas’ menu favorites are the T-Bone in chipotle sauce, Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo (garlic shrimp), and Tacos al Pastor (“shepherd’s style tacos” made with pork and pineapple).

With more than three long pages of entrée choices, it was a difficult decision for me. But before I began the daunting task of choosing just one, a friendly waiter brought warm, lightly salted tortilla chips to the table. The mild yet somewhat piquant salsa was made from scratch: freshly diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and a hint of cilantro.
After crunching and contemplating, I ordered the Fajitas de Camarones (shrimp fajitas).

Along with soft flour tortillas that had just come from the oven, Barajas (himself) delivered to me a sizzling pewter plate of eight jumbo, tender shrimp with savory-sweet caramelized onions and colorful peppers sautéed in a light, tangy tomato sauce with a side of fluffy rice and refried beans.

I don’t think I could have had it better at any other Mexican restaurant: this zesty, sensual dish beats even the serenade of a mariachi singer.

And the homemade flan—smooth butterscotch-flavored custard with a hint of sweet whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce—was indeed a happy ending to my evening.
But the subtle yet comforting décor enhanced my dining experience: the large map of Mexico, the sequined sombreros, the festive red, white and green tablecloths, the family photographs and collages of local soccer champions, and the ceramic chili peppers dangling from the back wall made me feel as though I was sitting right inside Tio Jay’s home. Think of it as an oversized family kitchen that comfortably fits about 14 tables with just enough room for the jukebox that echoes Latin tunes from various decades.

I had the sounds, smells, and colors of Mexico in front of me without having to get on a plane, let alone get up from my seat. I had to pause for a moment to take it in.

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, marking the end of a horrendous two-hour exam, or are just sick and tired of fast food, El Tio is the place to go.

Open for lunch and dinner, hours are 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The dress code is casual, and no reservations are required.

So, instead of another trip to the City for dinner, why not take advantage of this local jewel of a restaurant? Embark on a mini vacation to Mexico: step out of the cold and into El Tio. You’ll be glad you did.


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JG said...

I can't help but notice how much you love food. Everytime I read your blogs I end up hungry. For now on I'm going to have to read your blogs on a full stomach.

Teag said...

I actually remembered this post about your review of this restaurant!! My boyfriend and I tried to go there for lunch a couple of weeks ago but it was closed on Wednesdays, I should have paid more attention to the hours!! We will attempt to go again before we leave for the summer... We are always for trying new restaurants, and Mexican is one of our fav's! :)