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Latest Mall Restaurant Opens, First New Jersey Location

El Chico Cafe brings Mexican cantina to Ocean County Mall

Opening day for is today, after construction began in early April at the next to .

The opening marks the mall’s newest tenant with a liquor license, which is shared by Benihana, whose owner Hassan Halani also owns El Chico Café.

Halani said the idea to bring El Chico to Ocean County first emerged more than two years ago, after he visited a location elsewhere and fell in love with the food. He decided to bring the franchise to New Jersey, building it next to his Benihana restaurant in the same corridor with on the Oak Avenue side of the mall.

The restaurant, a Mexican cantina, is the first El Chico in New Jersey.

The 5,600 square foot cantina-style restaurant was fully staffed yesterday as hosts, servers and managers came around often to check on guests during opening day. The lunch crowd was a mix of mall shoppers: families, groups of friends and folks on lunch break in tables and booths. A full service bar was cranking out specialty margaritas and Mexican draft beer.

Staffers promised outdoor dining seating would be forthcoming, and that happy hour and late-night specials had yet to be finalized.

Owners said the restaurant will bring approximately 60-70 full-time and part-time positions to Toms River. A “join our team” banner hung outside the eatery.

El Chico is open for lunch and dinner daily, and open through midnight weekdays and til 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Mariana August 20, 2011 at 06:50 AM
personally, i wouldn't recommend this place to anybody! i was happy to try it until i got there...we had a party of 3, and our drinks took over 10 minutes to get to our table from the bar, i've never seen bartenders move so slow! then our food came out cold and thrown together, and 1 of the plates was totally wrong after waiting over 35 mins, not to mention that they were out of burritos and coronas! these people need to get it together! i wouldn't eat there again if they paid me to lol...if you don't believe me, find out for yourself! what a joke...i'm a restaurant manager for over 10 years and i couldn't believe it, i thought i have seen it all
Barry Fleckmann September 21, 2011 at 05:19 PM
I was at Applebee's Restaurant, this past weekend, and I was told that El Chico's closed for the night, at ten pm, on that previous Friday night, because of ABSOLUTELY no business. It's supposed to be open until 2 am. The word on the street is, that Benihana's, OR El Chico's, will SOON be history. The lousy economy may be claiming ANOTHER victim!!
1stcav September 21, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Food $uck$ , we tried it ! Half the people working in resturants in TR are Mexican , use them to make YOUR Mexican food !!!!! The Corp. tells them how to make it for a profit, it ain't working !!!!! This place will close real soon , if NOT tonight the next day ! Gecko's in Cape May, now that was good Mexican food !!! Try there mussels, out of this world !!!
Lynne January 26, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I would not recommend. Our server was nice, but that was the only thing good about this restaurant! Our food took over 30 minutes after we started noticing how long it was taking..so it was probably more like 45-50 minutes, which I could understand if they were busy.. there were only 4 other tables...now I understand why. My tamale was worse than the frozen ones you get at the supermarket..and it was cold with more like pork fat than real pork in it...yuck My husband's chicken was also cold...and his mixed veggies were old (some of the potatoes were black and the rest of the veggies were like mush) The chips were hard and they should tell you the salsa is very HOT! Please use your money on a restaurant that really cares what they feed you...this place gives Mexican a bad name!
Joan Burnett DeFalcon January 26, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I would definitely recommend the restaurant. The top shelf guacamole is incredible and the food is fresh and delicious. The wait staff and management aim to please. Try the margaritas, they're GREAT.
Jackie January 27, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I tried it twice. Thankfully had a coupon each time for a buy one, get one entree. It still wasn't worth the cost. Food is either just bad or much too highly seasoned and I am not a stranger to spicy/seasoned foods. Wouldn't waste any more money there.
Alexander January 28, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Among the Tex Mex offerings in Toms River, you can't go wrong with El Chico. The atmosphere is friendly, the entire place is clean, and the food is exactly what I want from a Tex Mex restaurant. The salsa is pretty great (although too piquant for some) , and as with any good restaurant, if anything does go wrong the staff will do what it takes to make things right. Definitely worth a visit.
james taylor February 27, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I have eaten there twice and both times the food was great and the staff was very good. Will definatly return again for a good Tex Mex meal in Toms River
thirdgenerationff February 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Good luck they shuttered up.
1stcav February 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
It was bad !!

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