Family Dining: El Encanto, Novato
December 26, 2007Posted by pamela |
We live in Marin's northernmost outpost, Novato, which is not exactly known for its fine dining opportunities, let alone decent restaurants where you can take children. So we were really happy when we finally made it to El Encanto Restaurante y Cantina, located in downtown Novato on 7th Street between Grant and Novato Boulevard. El Encanto offers Mexican food, and is relatively new—it's been open for a little over a year—and occupies the space the once housed a Lyons, followed by a string of other unlucky, short-lived, and now-forgotten restaurants. My husband was a little suspicious of the place for this reason, and he also used to hang out at that particular Lyons on occasion in hight school, but it looked really nice from the outside, and we heard some good word-of-mouth about it, so we gave it a try.
For what it's worth, the place looks nothing like an old coffee shop whatsoever, with dark wood furniture, tile floors, leather-covered seats in the plentiful booths, and colorful paintings. There are also nice decorative touches like hanging lamps made from twisted strands of barbed wire. The family that owns this place put a lot of time and money into the remodel and it really shows. I guess it kind of has an Old West/Ranchero kind of feel. On our first visit we dined on the outdoor patio that was created as part of the remodel. It's a pleasant spot on a warm day, even with the traffic whizzing by on the adjacent street, which was much less noticeable than we thought. There's nice decor and landscaping, including a fountain, on the patio, and it's a good place for families, since kids can roam around (within reason).
There are always quite a few families dining here, and the friendly staff makes an effort to be accommodating to them. The service each time has been really good; friendly and attentive without being intrusive.
The food so far has been consistently good. It's fresh, well-prepared, and reasonably authentic, moreso than any of the other "sit-down" Mexican restaurants in Novato, or pretty much elsewhere in Marin, for that matter. The menu has plenty of standard Mexican-American fare prepared with an authentic touch, as well as numerous specialties which are apparently made from family recipes. Complimentary tortilla chips and a good spicy salsa are offered when you sit down, as well as a little bowl of warm refried beans to dip you chips in, which is a nice touch. Everything we've tried so far has been really good, especially the tamales. Prices are pretty reasonable, too, especially compared, both in price and quality, to other competitors in town.
Margarita lovers should be happy here. We didn't try them ourselves, but saw plenty of others drinking them out of giant glasses. They've got a full bar, with something like 60 tequilas to choose from and several different variations on margaritas. We'll check those out on a future visit.
El Encanto is located at 970 7th Street in Novato. To get there, take 101 to the De Long exit, then follow De Long to Novato Boulevard, where you'll make a right turn. Turn right onto 7th Street; El Encanto will be on your right. For more information, including menus, visit encantorestaurant.com, or call (415) 892-1471. We hope El Encanto sticks around for a long time.