Its name means "The Cactus," but its staff are anything but prickly. (Obligatory pun discharged. Thank you.) El Nopal offers decent Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices. The lunch special, which lasts 'til 4:00, is one of the best deals in town. Consider what I recently feasted upon for a mere $5.65 + tax: chicken chimichanga, black beans (had to ask for them; refried are the default), "salad" (lettuce drizzled with oil and vinegar), tomato rice, and a basket of chips with fresh salsa. Full belly on an empty wallet--always a winning combination.
Food comes out piping hot in just minutes--"extremely hot plate" is a warning to be heeded--often faster than the area Jack in the Box, and a hundred times as tasty. The service is prompt and polite. A small TV plays telenovelas on mute, while tejano warbles over tinny speakers. The decor is cheesy and inviting, the hosts amiable.
Nothing is exceptional, but it's all hearty, and at the speed and the price, it's well worth an hour's lunch with your pals from The Evergreen State College. (If you're on the other side of town, check out its sister restaurant, Sarita's.)
Oh, and if you come often and tip heftily, they'll even extend the lunch menu until 4:30.
The author maintains vigorous standards, taking bribes only in the form of food.