THE PLACE: Abel Del Real is a longtime Reno restaurateur, so when he sold his previous restaurant, La Posada Real, to his brother, I knew I’d want to make the trip out to Verdi to check out Del Real’s new place, Abel’s Mexican Restaurant.
It’s right off Interstate 80, exit 5, so it’s easy to spot, despite its Verdi location. Which really isn’t that far if you think about it — well, maybe for Reno — but 15 minutes is never too far to travel for good food.
THE LOOK: The dining room is splashed with bright colors — orange and blue on the walls — and filled with sports memorabilia. Football helmets line the tops of the walls, and baseball caps sit on a shelf above the windows.
A banner with multicolored Corona flags hangs from one wall, and the bar is tucked behind the dining room — I hear a woman ordering a margarita but can’t see her.
THE MEAL: I never turn down a fish taco, so I try one fish taco and one shrimp taco for lunch. The fish taco arrives: Fish topped with white sauce and gooey cheese encased in a corn tortilla with lettuce and guacamole on the side. Same for the shrimp but swap the proteins.
The tacos are filling — not quite as fresh as I prefer for fish tacos, but the flavor is delicious nonetheless.
My husband, a creature of habit, orders the cheese enchilada and chicken taco combination.
The enchilada is stuffed with cheese and blanketed with a spicy, smoky red sauce — it’s deeply flavored and layered with chiles. The chicken taco is the standard variety with chicken, cheese, tomato and lettuce.
The Spanish rice at Abel’s, usually a throw-away elsewhere, is moist and flavorful. Refried beans are velvety and topped with queso fresco.
KUDOS: Happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. features inexpensive food and cocktail specials. Abel Del Real works the dining room, greeting patrons warmly and offering hugs to regulars from his old restaurant. He never seems to have a bad day — his smile always is warm, even when he’s busy.
QUIBBLES: The menu at Abel’s is a bit more expensive than it was over at La Posada Real, and it was tough to stay within the $20 budget, even at lunch.
ALTERNATIVES: The camarones a la diabla are divine at La Posada Real, so I’m eager to try the ones at Abel’s. For breakfast, I’m looking at the huevos rancheros or a breakfast burrito stuffed with chorizo and eggs; for lunch, tacos al pastor and carnitas tacos; and for dinner, taquitos, jalapeño poppers and chicken fajitas.
RETURN TRIP?: Yes, even with the trip out to Verdi.