While my son was home from college for a few days recently, I took him to lunch at one of his favorite Mexican restaurants, Ernesto's. There are actually a few items on the Ernesto's menu that are vegan or can be made vegan, and the restaurant prides itself on its vegetarian meals. Most of the dishes do include dairy products, specifically cheese and sour cream, but those ingredients can generally be omitted.
I decided to try something that I don't recall seeing on the Ernesto's menu before, the Whole Bean Soup (frijoles de la hoya). This soup is listed in the Soups section of the menu rather than the Vegetarian section, so I double-checked with the server to make sure that it was vegetarian. It was, and after I asked that the cheese garnish be omitted, it was vegan as well. It's made with whole pinto beans, and small dishes of garnish are served on the side (so if you forget to ask that the cheese be omitted, it should come in a separate dish anyhow). The other garnishes listed are cilantro and onions. Since I don't like onions, I asked that they be omitted as well, and I ended up with a small dish of shredded cabbage instead, which was really delicious in this particular soup. This large bowl of soup comes with homemade flour tortillas, so it was quite filling and I had leftovers for lunch the next day. I really enjoyed this soup, and will definitely order it again.
Other options for vegans include:
• 100% Natural Soup -- mushrooms, zucchini, rice, carrots, onions, and avocado in a vegetable tomato broth
• Enchiladas Sauté -- sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, and bell pepper (without the optional cheese) served in a corn tortilla and topped with enchilada sauce
• Navajo Bonanza -- mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and bell peppers sautéed in a spicy citrus chile ancho and chile pasilla sauce, then rolled in a flour tortilla and topped with avocado slices
• Taco Salad Sauté -- sautéed vegetables over Romaine lettuce with diced tomato, beans, guacamole, black olives, and jalapenos (hold the sour cream) in a flour tortilla shell
• Frida's Fajitas -- marinated zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and bell pepper sautéed with authentic spices and served with guacamole, pico de gallo, and homemade flour tortillas (again, hold the sour cream)
Since some of these dishes may come with a side of beans, you'll want to request that no cheese be used to garnish the beans.
There's not much, if anything, in the way of breakfast or dessert options for vegans at Ernesto's. But I could easily substitute one of their fabulous margaritas for dessert anyhow, and I'll just have to eat breakfast someplace else.
Ernesto's is located at 1901 16th Street (at the corner of 16th and S). Their telephone number is 916-441-5850, and their website address is http://www.ernestosmexicanfood.com/. They are open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.