Abuelo’s is a small chain of 42 Mexican restaurants throughout the United States, but don’t be misled by the words “chain restaurant.” You know you’re in for something special when the napkins are cloth and a splashing fountain in a central atrium mimics a courtyard in Mexico. The flagship Abuelo’s opened its doors in 1989 with made-to-order Mexican dishes for under $20 and, now that it has gone corporate, still continues the tradition at the Merrillville, Ind., location which opened in February 2006.
Expect tortilla soup everyday and one sopa del dia (soup of the day). If you’re lucky, it will be the delicious Papas Chili (potato chili) — yum! Appetizers abound and you can’t go wrong with the Dip Sampler — a trio of Queso Diablo, Chile con Queso and Avocado Cream dips. Main-course salads include grilled chicken, fajita and reynosa (similar to a taco salad without the taco chips).
Fajitas (check out the Yucatan Shrimp), enchiladas (carnitas is my favorite) and combo dinners come many ways. All the usual suspects are represented — tacos, quesadillas, chimichangas, burritos — but you’ll also find seldom-seen chile rellenos, tilapia veracruz and others.
Don’t leave without trying the flan, tres leches cake, dulce de leches cheesecake or chocolate eruption for dessert (all $5.99 or less).
Amenities include a seniors’ menu with all entrées $9.99 and less, a children’s menu for $4.99 that comes with beans and rice or fries, and a small drink or milk. Lunch specials served 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily ring up at $9.99 and less. There is a full bar with all-day, daily drink specials for $3 and less (house margaritas on Tuesdays, mojitos on Wednesdays, etc.). There’s a Happy Hour food menu running 3-6 p.m. and 8 p.m-closing Sundays through Fridays. Expect hearty appetizers for $6 and less. From 8 p.m.-closing Sundays-Thursdays is Late Night Fajitas for $5. That’s a lunch-sized portion of your favorite steak, chicken or shrimp fajitas. Such a deal! The banquet room accommodates 30.
Freebies include tortilla chips, salsa two ways, and friendly servers. But what else would you expect at a place named “Abuelo,” the Spanish word for “grandfather.”
Address: 8255 Georgia St., Merrillville, IN 46410
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily