El Caporal

Food: () Mexican dishes are predictable, but they are well prepared in good portions.

Service: () New arrivals are rapidly seated; servers are friendly and efficient.

Atmosphere: () New building is bright and spacious, with hand-painted wall murals.

More Info

Location: 62040 NE 27th St., Bend

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Sunday

Cuisine: Mexican

Price range: Lunch $7.50 to $12.50; dinner appetizers $7.50 to $11.95, entrees $8.75 to $25

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: $5.75 for ages 12 and under

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Cheese-and-bean dishes and several salads

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Patio

Reservations: No

Contact: elcaporalco.com; 541-318-1492

Twenty years is a long time for a restaurant to succeed in one location, especially in leased space tucked into a corner of a back-street building complex without prominent signage to attract drop-in business.

El Caporal has survived and thrived — so much so that the popular Mexican restaurant now has a new home all its own, two blocks from the original.

Owners Carlos and Luz Delia Anaya, natives of Guadalajara, Mexico, retained local architects Steele Associates to design the new restaurant in the style of Mexican modernist architects Luis Barragán and Ricardo Legorreta.

Their move from The Knolls complex to the festive stone-and-stucco building on NE 27th Street was complete in April. (The Anayas also own an El Caporal in Sunriver.)

The new restaurant has the same style as the original, but it is brighter and more spacious. The main dining room seats about 100 guests in two sections; a large lounge and a fine patio, shielded from traffic, may double that number.

A few pieces of traditional Mexican art hang on the interior walls, but the cheerful mood is better set by colorful hand-­painted murals.

In Spanish, by the way, “el caporal” means “the boss.” Located next to a car wash, it stands across a side street (Livingston Drive) where a new hotel is scheduled for construction. Foot traffic and a good-sized parking lot might assure a steady clientele.

Midday meal

I’ve visited the new El Caporal twice recently with my dining companion, and on each occasion we’ve been pleased with the same friendly, efficient service and tasty, if predictable, cuisine that we found at The Knolls location.

Lunch prices, not surprisingly, are lower than those for dinners, albeit the portions are also smaller. Still, most entrees are served with moist Spanish rice, refried beans and a choice of corn or flour tortillas, so there’s never a challenge to get enough to eat.

Whether midday or evening, all meals begin with a basket of warm tortilla chips, a small bowl of moderately spicy red salsa and a white cabbage slaw containing bits of carrot and Mexican peppers.

My pollo con chipotle ($11.50, or $15.99 for dinner) was delicious. Tender strips of chicken breast were sauteed with button mushrooms and yellow onions, and served in a creamy sauce spiced with smoky chipotle peppers.

My friend opted for carne asada ($12.50, or $19 for dinner). ­Slices of skirt steak, seared medium rare over charcoal to incorporate a barbecue flavor, were a perfect match for guacamole and pico de gallo.

Generous dinners

At a subsequent dinner, my companion went with a basic combination plate — a beef taco, a cheese enchilada and a pork tamale for $13, including rice and beans. It seems to me a common practice for Mexican restaurants to smother their combo plates with far too much cheese, and my friend agreed. But she scraped a couple of tablespoons off to the side of her plate and enjoyed the dish very much.

In the mood for seafood, I ordered the fajitas mixtas ($22.25). I could not have been more pleased. Medium-sized prawns, sauteed in butter, garlic and white wine, were tossed with grilled halibut in a blend of spices and vegetables (multi­colored bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, celery and tomatoes) served on a sizzling platter.

When my flour tortillas arrive, warm from the kitchen, I take a little rice and refried beans, add a layer of my seafood medley, and top it with dollops of sour cream and guacamole. Rolled like a wrap, it makes one of the best Mexican meals in town.

And I often enjoy it with a margarita. El Caporal offers a selection of 54 different tequilas, leaving me with a simple choice: Will I choose añejo tequila, or reposado?

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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