I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, when you decide to eat Mexican food in a place called Olé Olé that sports a dancing maraca playing chile as its logo, you are prepared to be underwhelmed. Add in the ground beef tacos found on the menu, and who knows what to expect.
Olé Olé is the Mexican restaurant that is part of the Gold Dust Casino and Hotel in Carson City, Nevada. I was staying there for two days, arrived late, and rather than drive around town looking for something else decided to give it a try. After all, their web site says they are award winning.
As I walked up I was warmly greeted and given a seat. Soon I had a menu and a giant martini shaped wire bowl of chips, a red and a green salsa and some kind of cole slaw in a bowl. I also ordered some guacamole.
The chips were fresh and crisp. For the average American reared on Anaheim chiles, the green salsa will have a nice little kick, but for my tastes, it barely registered on the heat scale. The red salsa however was completely bland and heavily flavored with oregano. It seemed like they took some of that salsa from New York City and tried to give it a Mexican flair. Clearly, the experiment did not work.
The guacamole was very good. With a hint of heat, from the fresh chile slices, you can almost never go wrong with guacamole. For one person, get the small, but for two or more, they have a larger portion prepared at your table.
Onto the slaw. At least that’s what I think it was. It had shredded cabbage, but it also had onions. It was also dusted with what I think was cayenne pepper, which only served to give it a browning color and make it look as if it had been under the heat lamps for too long. Thinking about this, and the idea that you are supposed to put it on your chips, I mean, why else would they serve them together, I am still at a loss. Maybe it was thought to be some variety of escabeche. No matter, this was a big fail.
To drink I ordered mezcal, which, as expected, they did not have. In fact, the waitress was not even aware of what it was. But they did have 40 different tequilas. I am still amazed, given the growing popularity, that Mexican restaurants in the US are not stocking even a few mezcals. No matter, I went with the house margarita. Served in a rocks glass with salt, it seemed like it was mostly sweet mix, because the tequila was almost imperceptible.
When my dinner arrived, it looked wonderful.
Although the plate had the typical version of Spanish rice you’ll find at most Mexican restaurants here, the beans had their own bowl and were served charro style, as opposed to the standard refried covered with cheese method. While they were not hot, their taste was pretty good. Cooking something with bacon will generally always improve the flavor, at least in my opinion and you need to give Olé Olé credit for trying something different.
On the recommendation of the waitress I ordered the carnitas and was not dissapointed. What I received was what seemed like a pound of wonderfully flavored tender pork that melted in your mouth. Slightly crisp on the outside, they hit a home run with this plate. Some of the best carnitas I’ve had north of the border.
And then it was time for dessert. Apparently Olé Olé is famous for their sopapillas, a wonderful type of soft sweet bread normally served with honey, so I wanted to give them a try.
Sopapillas are not from Mexico, unless you are counting places like Santa Fe, New Mexico. And what Olé Olé served up was nothing like the sweet, soft warm almost pillowy concoction you’d normally expect after taking a left turn at Albuquerque. Instead what I got was more of a fried flour tortilla type thing.
Served as six small triangles on a plate with cinnamon covered butter as a garnish, mine were so overcooked, I had to send them back. The second batch, which the manager personally brought out, while still not sopapillas, were much better, though maybe I should have sampled the flan.
Overall, the meal was much better than what I expected. They’re thinking. Rather than just phone it and open a can of refried beans, they offered up something different. The carnitas were cooked to perfection. The guacamole was spot on and even the green salsa above average.
Sure they’ve got a few holes, starting with whatever that slaw stuff was, but for the average American, Olé Olé will be a hit. Indeed, as I sat there I noticed quite a few locals coming in for their weekly Mexican food fix.
Should you go? That depends. If you are expecting a meal like you’re going to see at La Chata in Guadalajara, probably not. But if you’ve never ventured south and like what is offered in the US as Mexican food, I think you’ll like this place. The service is good, the prices reasonable and the food plentiful and tasty.
Just skip the sopapillas… and that slaw!
Olé Olé, Gold Dust Hotel and Casino 2171 East William Street, Carson City, NV 89701
Dinner for two, $35.00, no alcohol.