Friday, January 9, 2009

Good mexican restaurants for beginners

I ran a lovely 10 miler today. I just let my legs do their job; only had a couple of short walk breaks, and I did stop for a bit to talk to a neighbor. Otherwise, I just ran, and I had a pretty decent pace with a little gas left in the tank at the end of the run. It helped that the weather was perfect-cool with a very slight breeze. So I guess I'm over my cold!

Greentigress asks a muy importanto question-how do you tell if a mexican restaurant is authentic? The first rule is-if it's a chain restaurant, treat it the way you would a bean burrito that's been left in the Tijuana sun for 2 days-stay away-stay far, far, away. Chain restaurants do not know how to do mexican food. I'm convinced that if you check the dumpster behind a chain restaurant, you will find piles of boxes that say "Stouffers heat and serve enchilada dinner".

Rule number 2-if you can't tell the difference between the burrito and the enchilada, it's not an authentic restaurant. You can't just put beans in an enchilada and call it a burrito. It's like putting a saddle on a donkey-you can call him a race horse, but he won't win the Kentucky Derby.

Finally-if the only cars you see in the parking lot are Cadillacs and Lincolns, and the only people in the restaurant are elderly gringos, the food will not be authentic. It will be bland and have no spicy heat. You will get a great deal if you go at 4:30 for the early bird special, but the food will not be good.

So now that we know what to avoid, what do we look for in a good mexican restaurant? The best ones I've ever been to have some common traits-they're family operated. They're small. They have a lot of hispanic customers. The ingredients used are fresh, often from the cook's garden. The menu is simple and basic and generous. The whole place will carry the scent of garlic and chilies. Hubby and I discovered just such a restaurant in Santa Barbara. It's off the beaten path and very small with nothing more that a chalkboard sign announcing its existence. We found it by happy accident and I think the family's main business is in catering trucks and they've just sort of branched into the restaurant business. I commented to Hubby that the tomatoes that garnished our plates were real garden tomatoes and not store bought; the owner heard my comment and brought extra tomato slices piled on a spatula and added them to my plate. That's service!

It pleases me to think of this little restaurant operating in one of California's trendiest, most expensive and exclusive (translation: snobby) cities. I haven't been there in some time; I hope they're doing well and still serving good authentic mexican food with fresh tomatoes.


Lily on the Road said...

Sounds wonderful!! Isn't great when you can stumble across a jewel like that? Yummy!!!

greentigress said...

Ok, thanks! i know there is not one like that in my city or i would know about it already... I will ask an on line friend who knows good food, hopefully he will know of good mexican food in london... there is some there i am sure!!

Great that your running is back and feeling great!!!

greentigress said...

I am going to a real mexican restaurant!! on the 22nd Jan in London!!!! I'll order tamales :)

BeachRunner said...

Sweet run!! Great advice too.

Stan said...

Good any food is hard to find anymore. I am really tired of chains. I like the Mom and Pop Restaurants where when you get food it maybe a little different from the last time you ordered it. :) Everyone can heat a meal up in a microwave and tell you the plate is hot because they keep them that way so your food won't get cold on a cool plate.

robison52 said...

I also love authentic Mexican food, thank goodness for running or my love of food would have me looking like a Blimp.

SuperDave said...

Mexican is my favorite!
Every since TN became the new hotspot for illegal immigrants to work we have had wonderful mexican food. No pun intended