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THE DISH: El Real Mexican Grill

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Staff Photos: Meghan Kotowski El Real serves, from left, camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp), santos parrillada (mixed meat with vegetables), Real molcajete and queso Real.

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There are tables and booths inside for diners, plus a patio with lots of room, too.

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El Real Mexican Girll

El Real Mexican Girll

El Real Mexican Grill

1475 Buford Drive, Suite 100, Lawrenceville

678-682-8291

elrealmexgrill.com

-- Open since: April

-- Owners: Hector B. Abreu and Jose L. Santos

-- Manager: Mark Soriano

-- Location: In the Russell Ridge Shopping Center at the far left side next to Subway. It was previously a Beef 'O' Brady's.

-- Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

-- Atmosphere: The inside of El Real takes you back in time as if you were visiting the Aztecs in the 14th and 15th centuries. The walls were created to look like pyramid ruins (made from stucco and foam) around the door frames and into the bar area. All the colors were chosen surrounding the idea of the sun and the moon, so there are plenty of reds, yellows, oranges and blues throughout the restaurant.

Wooden accents were added to the space for an aged feel, including in the bathrooms, which were completely gutted and replaced.

There are three dining areas: the main dining room with tables and booths, the bar area with a wrap around bar and a handful of tables, and the outside patio with tiki torches is for those who would like to dine in the warmer weather.

"We feel that we have a better atmosphere than most Mexican restaurants," owner Hector Abreu said. "We take pride in that and in our customer service. We want to make sure everything is great for our guests."

Abreu wanted to have his restaurant in this location because he believes he can be more involved with the community.

"We don't like to be in the downtown areas of the cities," he said. "We have made our place in Bethlehem and Lawrenceville to be a part of the community."

El Real also offers carry-out food and catering for large events.

-- Menu: As the motto says on the front door, "Enjoy the true taste of Mexico," and Abreu believes in that.

"The name 'El Real' came from being 'real' and 'authentic,'" he said. "We have a fusion of dishes from traditional Mexican to Tex-Mex."

Instead of picking a number from a combination menu, guests are allowed to choose the perfect combo that fits their appetite and change it the next time they visit.

A crowd pleaser is the guacamole cart. When someone orders a batch, it is handmade at their table with avocado, lime juice, tomatoes and onions.

But the most popular dish on the menu is the molcajete. A large heated stone molcajete (or mortar from the mortar and pestle tool) is lined with meats, cheese and vegetables. All of the food is cooked on the flat top first, but laid around the rim to finish cooking for the customer.

-- Things you might not know: Abreu and Santos own another location in Bethlehem and are looking to open a third El Real in Loganville in the future.