Let’s all say a well-deserved “muchas gracias” to restaurateur Irma Aguirre for transforming the 64-year-old El Sombrero Cafe. Aguirre has made over the restaurant to bring a fresh new face and bright, lively tastes to the once-old-school Las Vegas eatery. Although the room gets noisy with the excited gossip of the local diners, the space is inviting and casual, with open seating and crisp black and white décor, as well as an exposed brick wall accented with mirrors.
We sampled some of El Sombrero’s offerings, along with a conversation with Irma and her staff, inviting a friend from out of town to join us. Our friend is one of the least culinary adventurous eaters that we have ever met, but recently she has become more interested in expanding her gastronomic horizons and was curious to try some real authentic Mexican food.
As we tasted the housemade guacamole with a touch of heat and dotted with chunks of ripe tomatoes, our friend remarked that the chips were the best she had ever had and we agreed. Usually chips have a tendency to be rather greasy, but these were light and crispy, perfect to load up with all the lovely guacamole. Off to a great start, we tried the flavored waters and then homemade sangrias that were refreshing and authentic.
Scanning the menu, calamari caught our attention and we waited in great anticipation for it to arrive tableside. This gift from the sea was thankfully not breaded, but charbroiled, and finished off with a homemade sauce of squid ink, much to our palates’ delight. This dish alone is a reason to visit El Sombrero for lunch or dinner.
Aguirre suggested we try the chile relleno, and it was clear why at first bite. This classic dish with a new spin is probably the best we have ever had. A Mexican favorite, this version features poblano chele ala brasa, filled with rich butternut squash potato, onion, and a blend of Mexican cheeses on a bed of charro beans, topped with a roasted tomato-oregano sauce. We predict that El Sombrero’s chile relleno will become a signature dish that guests will travel for miles to enjoy.
For those who want traditional tacos, the restaurant offers a tasty assortment that is sure to please. Select from chicken, chorizo, ribeye, fish, and carne asada, all served with homemade tortillas and Mexican garnishes. To get the meal started right, we highly recommend shredded brisket flautas, spinach and mushroom quesadillas, and the bean dip. Don’t forget the wine list featuring very nice Mexican wines to complement your dining adventure.
“This is true comfort food with authentic sauces and ingredients. Anyone can do rice and beans, but we do it with love,” said Aguirre. That love and respect for authentic Mexican cuisine comes shining through in every dish. With the unrelenting desire to elevate the palate of every diner, El Sombrero will indeed become a destination eatery.