Dinner Debriefing: El Caporal

I’m moonlighting, writing restaurant reviews for Trip Advisor, who post my reviews under the diabolically indecipherable pseudonym Tim A. I don’t get paid, but I’ve worked my way up to Contributor by submitting more than ten reviews. Tonight I tried to review El Caporal, one of just two Mexican restaurants in Prosser, and they had it misfiled under El Corporal. I sent in a correction with my review, but it may take longer than usual if they have to verify it.

Anyway, we figured: 1) we were ready for a smaller bill at dinner 2) we’re overdue for Mexican and 3) this is the place. Culturally, the Yakima Valley is closer to Mexico than Canada. It probably began with agricultural laborers – you can still see help wanted signs, in Spanish, at many of the orchards and vineyards. Driving through Sunnyside was just one loud bus short of actually being teleported to Mexico.

Last time we were here, we lamented the lack of wine-worthy restaurants. The wineries were changing not just the economy, but the whole landscape, and the restaurants were being left hopelessly behind. Now I’m not so sure. Trip Advisor’s top-rated restaurant is a new place called Wine O’Clock. The Barn, a rustic diner that’s been serving food here for most of a century, is under new ownership and has been redecorated (necessary) and modernized (not so sure). At least two worthy attempts at opening restaurants to offer food suitable for wine country have failed in the last three years.

So maybe the change needs to be more gradual. With this in mind, we returned to El Caporal, a solidly grounded Mexican restaurant that’s been here since before the wine tourists started coming. 

Side note: the first time we visited Prosser, the lady in the liquor store asked, ‘did you come here on purpose?’ She sounded genuinely startled.

Ahem – back to El Caporal. The menu still lists just three kinds of wine, and one of them is Chablis, which is a wonderful wine in France, but a code-word in America for stuff that’s sold to winos who conceal it in paper bags to hide their shame. But: gradual change. They now verbally offer actual Merlot and Chardonnay. I don’t think either of them are from premium local wineries, but it’s an important step in the right direction. More importantly, the restaurant is still focused on what it knows: authentic Mexican food. We ordered fajitas. Beef with flour tortillas for me, chicken with corn tortillas for Caroline. We both ate too much because it was hard to stop. The portions are generous, and you get a whole plate covered in rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce and tomato. Plus four tortillas, plus the whole iron skillet full of meat and peppers and onions. Sizzling hot, tortillas too hot to hold. Not actually very spicy – we added some of the hot sauce that came with the complementary corn chips. They also had a good selection of Mexican beers, including Bohemia as well as the more usual Corona and Tecate. I took off my wine-snob monocle and had a Pacifico. It came with a frosty mug and a wedge of lime. Good dinner. Under $40 with a drink each. ¡Viva El Caporal!

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