I was highly skeptical going to Alfonso's after I read what a handful of people wrote about this little place on the 41 highway 30 miles south of Yosemite, just past all the hubbub in Coarsegold. Like many, I passed it by for years and that was a BIG MISTAKE as I'm about to tell you.
I went to Alfonso's to meet a friend for a rootbeer float. A HARD ROOTBEER float. (oh YES!) On a Friday afternoon about 5:30. Ample parking was the first good thing I saw, a nice contrast to what other Mexican food places in the area offer (El Cid's is the exception)
Second note: I was greeted warmly by the hostess who was visiting at the bar with a family from Michigan. Since my friend was running late, I checked out the men's room because it has been noted in a review as an 'experience' of decor. (I found it historical and interesting) When I emerged, the family was still there speaking with the chef thanking him for their excellent dinner and relating how they'd gotten good information on local attractions from their waitress. Four kids and three adults were all very satisfied and had 'take out' being made as they waited. (I admit I thought, 'they are from Michigan, ...what do they know about Mexican food?') Keep reading!
So about the place:
Firstly it is very cool and refreshing inside. This is where you want to be on a hot day. Seriously comfortable so you won't want to leave!!
They should change the name to 'Alfonso's Oasis', it is that nice.
Layout is box shaped: enter, make a right to the first dining area, make a left to the bar with more, and a right to the patio. It has typical but understated decor and consists of a comfortable dining area of booths and tables with a few windows looking out to the road. Also a big booth above the rest so you can 'survey'.... (I tried out both seating arrangements to see how comfortable they were and was very pleased) I moved into the bar area past the chips and condiments counter and discovered a cozy but quite open space, saw a patio outside where two people were eating at one of the three tables and four customers seated at the bar where I sat down.
Shortly the waitress appeared with plates of food the size of small hubcaps steaming with a wonderful aroma. She refilled everyone's water and came to me with a very welcoming manner to ask if I wanted a menu or she could start me with a drink. I asked for the menu and told her I was waiting for someone. My notes on customer comments follows the end of my description.
The menu: a very good variety of Mexican dishes offered with notes on the preparation of items and the specials. There are children's' items and plates, the specials and combinations as with most Mexican food, but a thing which caught my eye, was anything could be ordered ala carte at the same prices. So if you wanted three tacos instead of two, that was available. Beans or guacamole: that too.
Okay; so I like 'flexible' ordering, but how was the food? I started by asking those sitting closest to me. Both said the same thing: "Best anywhere!"
One preferred the chili verde -which was a *huge* portion, the other was eating the enchiladas dinner served with massive amounts of beans, rice and flour tortillas. This diner also had bowls with sour cream, onions, guacamole, diced tomatoes which he described as 'fresh and authentic'.
The first diner said he was a regular eating two to three meals a week there, the second ate there twice a week driving 30 miles each way. Asked about what he liked best, he replied, "Always cooked perfectly, hot, fast and filling." (Chili Verde turns out to be a local favorite at Alfonso's)
I ordered a combo burrito to test the 'review' of how much meat was in one, and because my friend who had just arrived is a raving burrito-holic.
Four minutes later this ginormous plate with the biggest burrito I've seen was presented including sides of beans, rice and salsa fresca... none of which I ordered. (and there was no charge on my bill)
Was it stuffed with meat? Absolutely! Was it delicious? For sure! So much, I ordered another 'to go'. (I didn't have them make it until I was ready to leave and it took them 5 minutes) I especially liked the balance of crunchy vegetables, rice and beans with the cilantro and onions, delicious 3 cheeses. And the beans smothered in a sharp cheese was to die for. You don't get portions of food like that at El Cid's or the other joints up the road. In truth I'd say this was 'one of the best' burritos I've had, and I *love* Mexican food!
Okay. One thing tells you right off what your dining is going to be like in a Mexican food place: chips and salsa: these were both *excellent*. A bar let's you concoct your own combinations of toppings.
Another dead giveaway is the Margarita, so I got one and split it. Superb. Chilled monster glass on the rocks and salted to perfection. Not from a mix and only $5. I saw a draft pull for several of my favorite beers including Dos Equis, Negro Modelo and Sierra Nevada & more... so you get tap beers, you have Corona in bottles and the usual variety of Buds, Michs, and Coors:
*ICE FREAKING COLD*.
A steady stream of patrons arrived and put in orders on arrival, got their drinks and filled tables. Pretty soon it was buzzing and I noted EVERYONE was having dinner. (Serving time increased from 4-5 minutes to 7-8) Deciding to cut out before they started karaoke (aka 'cat strangling') I ordered our TWO Riley's Hard Rootbeer floats. (Mistake!;>)
The bartender brought them over in *large* glasses filled to the top with ice cream, a spoon & straw, then set the half full Riley's root beer bottles next to them. It took 45 minutes to finish them, but as a float fan, I did it. Impressed with my porcine impression, my waitress/bartender asked, a bit ironically, if I 'needed' a refill on the ice cream, and I got two more scoops (no charge) but a big grin from both my waitress and companion.
Then Karaoke happened.
So what was the damage?
Two combo burritos $7 each, two hardrootbeer floats $7 each (and well worth it), a Margarita $5, a Corona $4, for a 'friend' and my $15 tip= $52. And an hour plus of free entertainment: now about that below...
Okay, so no chikns were strangled in my first Alfonso's dining experience, but hopefully a few lame reviews are 'put to rest'.
If voice lessons were affordable there may have been more appreciation by my friend. Of about 20 'contestants' none was bad, several were quite good and a couple were amazing! There was a cheerful, supportive and very friendly 'Cheers' type of camaraderie present with applause greeting each new singer and every performance.
As for my friend's opinion: She thought the place was 'very good' with 'exceptional service and value'. The singing 'okay', but my own thoughts were amusement and surprise. Both of us plan to go again.
POSTSCRIPT: I heated up my 'takeout' burrito the following morning before hitting the garage sales, OH WOW. Just WOW!! Flavor, texture and sufficiency are why I'll be going back now this Friday to strut my version of Rollings Stones 'Start me UP!'.
So yea, go to Alfonso's.
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