"The people. The atmosphere." Those two things, says Cesar Acosta, are what make El Rodeo such a special place. Oh, and the delicious food and the fast kitchen, and of course, the exceptional margaritas! Bend's quintessential Mexican restaurant pretty much has it all, and has since opening on the southern end of Third Street back in 1999.
Acosta's uncle, Rudy Arias, was a founding partner and now, along with his wife, are sole owners of El Rodeo. Acosta, who's a supervisor at the restaurant, smiles and states, "Uncle Rudy is the best boss I've ever had." His nephew isn't the only person with great affection for El Rodeo's proprietor; the restaurant has several long-term employees and many, many regulars who pack the house daily.
"We have regulars who come every day and others who come two to three times a week," says Acosta. "Our mission is to give the best service we can to our customers." That commitment has certainly paid off during the past couple of years. El Rodeo's longtime supporters were more than willing to order takeout and dine outside and show back up after temporary closures as the establishment, like many others in Central Oregon, navigated its way through the pandemic.
- Courtesy El Rodeo
- A few El Rodeo staff members pause for a smile.
On any given afternoon or evening the El Rodeo parking lot is packed and the restaurant is full of life; families celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, couples having a night out, folks from all walks of life simply enjoying a meal or a drink. Now-grown children with their own kids in tow recall going to the restaurant since they were toddlers. There's a special menu for amigos under 12 years of age with items such as tacos, enchiladas, grilled cheese and hamburgers. Owner Arias is roaming around, checking in at each table, making sure his customers are having a good time, sometimes surprising them with something "on the house." There is laughter and a lot of smiling. It's a feel-good kind of thing.
El Rodeo really is a classic Mexican family restaurant serving authentic food in a colorful atmosphere. Chips, spicy salsa and a simple slaw called "cabbage" show up as soon as you sit down. The Perfecta Margarita arrives at the table in a large, ice cold metal shaker, which makes it easy to refill your own drink. Everything is made fresh in-house and comes out hot (or cold when appropriate) and fast.
The Mexican state of Jalisco in northwestern Mexico, along the Pacific Coast, is famous as the birthplace of mariachi, tequila and charreria (Mexican rodeo) and it's where the Arias family has its roots. The food at El Rodeo reflects those roots; Mar & Tierra (ribeye or carne asada cooked over charcoal with prawns and mushrooms) is a popular favorite, as is the bacon-wrapped camarones (Camarones Apretalados) and the Chicken en Mole. Abundant burritos, enchiladas of every sort, dinner combos and sizzling fajitas round out the multi-page menu.
- Courtesy El Rodeo
- El Rodeo’s bar serves ice cold beers, margaritas, sangria, and more
As Acosta puts it, "there's a little bit of everything and something for everyone." Rice, beans, and fresh guacamole are typical accoutrements. Egg dishes such as Huevos Rancheros and Machaca feature shredded beef with scrambled eggs on the lunch menu, served daily from noon to 3pm. There's Chile Verde and Tortilla Soup; Chile Relleno and tamales; Steak Picado and Parillada—a feast for either two or four people featuring carne asada, grilled chicken, pork chops and shrimp along with vegetables, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream and tortillas. And if there's something you're craving that isn't on the menu, ask your server about it.
Frequent visitors often come in the back-door bar entrance and plant themselves at the cozy, old school bar. Along with El Rodeo's renowned margaritas, there's house-made sangria and a large selection of beers, both domestic and Mexican.
Check out the El Rodeo Facebook page to find out about takeout dinner specials and see a lot of great food pics. After trying El Rodeo once, chances are the people and the atmosphere will have you coming back for more.
El Rodeo Family Mexican Restaurant
Open Daily at 11am for lunch
Open Daily 3-9pm for dinner
785 SE 3rd St., Bend