IN THE KITCHEN El Huipil is a relatively new Mexican restaurant on Great Road in Acton that’s worth checking out. It’s a cozy, family-friendly eatery where you can get tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and burritos made with the freshest ingredients, and budget-conscious diners will delight in the fact that the prices are affordable and the portions are generous. There’s a small bar, too, so you can order an ice-cold margarita if you’re in the mood.
The menu was created by the owner and chef, Alonso Moreno. He said his wife, Alma, came up with the name. When they opened their first restaurant in Maynard in 2010, she told him, “Why don’t we call it El Huipil?’’ A huipil (pronounced “we-peel’’) is a traditional dress or blouse worn by indigenous women in Mexico. The name turned out to be a good fit, and when they decided to open a second location, in Acton, they stuck with it.
THE LOCALE El Huipil opened in Acton in late July. The site at 273 Great Road was once a Pizza Hut, and more recently an Indian bistro.
The atmosphere at El Huipil is laid back and casual; the sombreros hanging on the wall by the restrooms are a nice touch. It’s a good place to take kids, too. When we visited, many of the tables were occupied by families with children. There’s also a small bar that serves beer, wine, and cocktails. They offer takeout, if you prefer to dine at home or eat on the go.
The original El Huipil, 51R Main St., Maynard, offers live music on Fridays.
ON THE MENU El Huipil offers a variety of dishes at reasonable prices. Sides include chips and salsa ($3.50), as well as rice ($2) and beans ($2). The most expensive item on the menu is the El Huipil steak, ($22) a rib-eye topped with grilled onions, chile toreado, and guacamolillo sauce.
Enchiladas and quesadillas are served with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, chorizo (pork sausage), carnitas, or vegetables.
Speaking of veggies . . . vegetarian options include tofu burritos (sauteed tofu, vegetables, rice, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and the house guacamole in a flour tortilla); calabacitas (zucchini stuffed with mushrooms, corn, carrots, onions, cheese, rice, and black beans and topped with green tomatillo and Mexican cheese sauce); and enfrijoladas (warm corn tortillas and black bean sauce, onions, rice, and sour cream).
Seafood lovers also have plenty of choices, including Baja fish tacos; octopus Veracruz (octopus sauteed in a mix of tomatoes, celery, and sauce); and arroz a la marinara (a mix of shrimp, calamari, and mussels served in a tomato sauce with rice and avocado).
On a recent visit I tried the shrimp fajitas ($18), which were beyond delicious. When the dish was served, the shrimp and grilled peppers and onions were still sizzling. A cloud of steam billowed from the plate. The shrimp were fresh, plump and large; the crisp peppers tasted as if they had been picked from the garden that day.
My companion ordered a shredded beef taco ($3), which was served with caramelized onions, cilantro, and grilled scallions in a corn tortilla. The beef was tasty and extremely tender.
After our meals, we looked at each other and agreed we’d be returning.
El Huipil is at 273 Great Road in Acton; 978-795-4413, www.elhuipil.com. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 12 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday.
Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.