El Merendero sits at the south end of a street filled with food trucks and taquerias, almost like it's the capital building. The sprawling pink adobe has been here since the '60s when it was an A&W drive thru, and it's the only major sit-down dinner spot on South 12th Avenue.
They're big on the oysters and shrimp, but the restaurant's real specialty is the milanesa, a large slab of battered and fried beef with beans and French fries. The tacos here are old school tasty: crunchy fried shell, meat filling, lots of lettuce and Monterrey Jack cheese. My carne desebrada was filled with soft shredded beef that had been stewed in tomatoes and green chiles until it was plump and tangy. When I bit into it there was a nice crunch, followed by a torrent of juices spilling out all over my plate.
Interesting fact: The restaurant is owned by Ramon Bohon and his family, who also own Asadero y Taqueria Sonora on Irvington and South Sixth Avenue.
Location: 5443 S. 12th Ave.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays
Payment: accepts debit and credit cards