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Identity in Flux 

After customers speak out, El Si Señor becomes another BK location

A funny thing happened on the way to this review: The restaurant closed!

Not too long ago, John and I enjoyed a nice steak dinner at a place called El Si Señor on First Avenue. This little place had been open for less than a year. The building had previously been the site of both a Japanese restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. El Si's claim to fame was mesquite-grilled steaks estilo Sonora.

They were good steaks, too, served hot and sizzling, accompanied by wonderful grilled chiles and onions. There was a rather large assortment; some of the dishes were priced pretty high considering how casual the place was. All the sides were tasty as well.

This was going to be a good review. We even talked about returning with a group of friends sometime in the future.

After writing the piece, I needed to check my facts--prices, hours of operation, credit cards and such. I popped on the Internet, and where there had previously been a rather elaborate Web site, there was nothing. A phone call or two with no response bothered me a bit--this was barely a week after our dinner--so we hopped in the car to check things out.

You can imagine our surprise when we drove up to find all new signage. Now the place was BK, just like the hot dog joint on South 12th Avenue. I had been told that El Si's and BK's owners were the same, so perhaps the changeover isn't so odd.

"It was working good, but it was kind of quiet during the day," says co-owner Benjamin Galaz, "People were asking for tacos, burros, something a little cheaper."

Olga, his sister and co-owner, adds, "People thought it was expensive, and they left. Steak was more for dinner, a little too much."

So after careful planning and a four-day shutdown, the place reopened under the name BK.

"It's more casual," says Olga, "but we still have steaks." They both point out that they now have burros, tacos, tortas and those famous hot dogs.

There are a few other changes. One is the family-style salad, which was served with all the steaks at El Si Senor. Salads are now individual portions. We thought the group salad was kind of a neat idea, but according to the Galaz family, all the ingredients remain the same. Thankfully, they kept the homemade salad dressings. The bleu cheese is thick and chunky, and the house vinaigrette has a warm kick to it, thanks to the house seasoning. That house seasoning shows up on plenty of items on the menu, yet somehow, it's not overwhelming.

They also kept the queso fundido ($5.95 when we had it, $2.95 now), which we enjoyed on our lunch visit. The appetizer came with our choice of tortillas; we opted for flour. This dish is a Mexican twist of fondue (fundir in Spanish means to melt). We had chiles added ($1.50 then, 99 cents now); other options include chorizo or mushrooms.

Chips are no longer on the menu, but there is the salsa bar with guacamole and an assortment of salsas. I recommend the house salsa. It's just different enough.

As far as our entrées went, at lunch, John ordered a cheeseburger with fries ($7.95 plus 30 cents for cheese). I ordered the fajita salad ($7.95).

A true burger guy, John really enjoyed the plate. The patty was hand-formed and came with the usual toppings of lettuce, tomato and onion. He compared it to the burgers found just down the street at Shari's. The fries were crispy and hot with just a light sprinkling of that house seasoning to set them apart.

My fajita salad was a decent-sized serving of mixed greens topped with plenty of sizzling, well-prepared beef (raw onion rings were atop the beef, but I discarded them). But what set this salad apart was the dressing. Served on the side, the house seasoning was stirred into creamy mayonnaise. The beef juices mingled with the dressing, covering the greens and beef with rich savory flavors.

Too full for dessert, we left El Si Senor, as it was then called, more than satisfied.

We went for dinner a week later on a Saturday evening. We ordered two beers ($3.50 each), the cheese sticks (no longer on the menu), a steak arrachera ($12.95) for John and the New York strip steak (no longer on the menu) for me. All dinners come with a salad and either charro beans (ranch beans) or refried beans.

The beers were icy cold, but the cheese sticks were unremarkable; they're gone now, so there's no reason to go into details.

John's steak--a skirt steak--was juicy, albeit a tad underdone. This cut isn't one of the more tender cuts, but a few more minutes on the grill might've helped. Nevertheless, it was still flavorful, and he enjoyed it immensely. His refried beans were traditional and tasty. For what it's worth, my steak was juicy and tender.

For dessert, we ordered the flan ($4.95). Here was a healthy portion of creamy, cold custard with an undercurrent of cinnamon and topped with the sweet, sticky burnt sugar topping--a great version of this traditional Mexican treat.

I apologize for not being able to report on any of the Mexican food or the hot dogs, but if the popularity of the original BK is any indication, everything should be delicious. Breakfast is served all day as well.

The Galaz family is going to be busy in the next few months. The new place is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., and there is that whole other restaurant to tend to. But by listening to what the customers asked for, they demonstrated some good business sense. They are also passionate about the food they serve--and, thankfully, they have a lot of energy. This should add up to success.

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