Overrated/Underrated: Mexican Restaurants, Part One

July 02, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Ginger Russ

Without an idea to write about and my intern weekly post deadline growing near (yes, Chip Wesley, I will pick up your tuxedo pants from the dry cleaners still), I turned to a horrible first trip to Chipotle and one of my favorite TMS posts of yore as motivation for my next craptacular abortion. So here is Part I of Overrated/Underrated: Mexican Restaurants.

I give you the Overrated.

Table-side Guacamole
Honestly, up until a few years ago, I hated guacamole. It was texture thing, and avocado has a weird texture to me. When I finally came around I understood the tastiness of guacamole, but I never understood why it cost so much. I guess those fruits don't travel well. Living in AZ, this is not a problem, and I swear I never had a really good guacamole until I moved out West. The best way to compare it to someone who hasn't been west of the Mississippi is if you've ever eaten a tomato from your garden, and then compared that to one you just bought at the store. No contest. But I digress. Few restaurants still offer this table-side theater, as it's pretty much gone the way of the Caesar salad in Italian restaurants and saganaki (OPA!) in Greek restaurants. Because when it comes down to it, no one really gives a fuck how you make the guacamole. Sure, you can specialize your guacamole if it's being made in front of you (more cilantro please!) but shouldn't the restaurant be the one making the recipe. I mean, that is their job! So guacamole: good. But table-side, I'm not paying an extra couple bucks to watch you do your job, get back in the kitchen.

Mexican Salad Garnish
Stop wasting valuable beans and rice space on my plate with your stupid "salad". Yes, I am a fatty, and I don't have anything against vegetables, but does anyone ever eat that little corner of shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes that accompanies every meal you order at a Mexican Restaurant? But Ginger, "It's a garnish thing," you say. Well, then it's time it went the way of curly parsley. Look, your food isn't even really Mexican food. It's Tex-Mex. The taco, the burrito, the chalupa, do you think they were Mexican staples? No. So don't try to fool me by adding lettuce and tomatoes to my dish and calling it "classy". If I'm eating a greasy pile of carne asada tacos and bean enchiladas, I don't care if my plate is colorful. It's taking up valuable fat and calorie space.

Fried Ice Cream
How can you take ice cream and improve it? How about deep frying it and covering it with honey? Genius! Everything taste better fried. Exhibit A: Chicken Fried Bacon. Sure this dessert which spans both Mexican and Asian fare might seem like a tasty treat at the end of your greasy meal, but is dying for that treat worth it? If so, then go ahead. But if you want to live to eat another Pollo Fundido understand that to make fried ice cream you have to dip the ice cream in raw egg, which is then not cooked enough to remove the possible salmonella poisoning. Plus it's not even a good tempura batter like at a Chinese restaurant. Usually it's stale cornflakes. So keep your fried ice cream away from me, and while you're at it, stick your churros up your ass as well.

To be honest, I've never had Menudo, so maybe it's actually good. And it's supposed to be a great hangover cure, which I could use many a Tuesday morning when I'm pulling a Wolter and calling in sick because of a Listerine and Binaca binge from the night before. But anything that involves cooking a part of an animal for an extended period of time (like 6-8 hours) just to make it edible is not good eats in my book. Plus the smell is horrible. So much so that I won't even venture near a Mexican restaurant on Sunday's. Which sucks, because that's the day that my hangover needs a greasy taco and hair-of-the-dog margarita to get me through the day the most. So GFY menudo, for making Mexican off-limits to me on Sunday. Oh, and the band sucked too.

I had Chipotle last night for the first time and it was probably the most disappointing experience of my life, other than losing my virginity, although both ended up with me praying to the porcelain goddess afterward. I had heard so much about Chipotle. How great it was. How the burritos were the size of basketballs. How the salsa was the best ever. And this is probably true for 85% of the population whose closest competition is Taco Bell, but for me it was shit. Growing up in DeKalb, IL we had 3 different burrito joints. And that's all they did: burritos. Sometime during the late 90's they decided to all out-do each other. So within a couple months, you could order a 4 pound burrito that was twice the size of the one I got at Chipotle for half the price (usually around $4-$5), and didn't taste like a baby pooped in a soggy tortilla and covered it with baby puke sour cream.

Fish Tacos
Growing up in the Midwest, I had never heard of fish tacos. But since moving to the valley of the sun, I have noticed that they are everywhere. Every Mexican restaurant has some form or another, and if my 6 hours of watching the Food Network each night has taught me anything, it's that these California treats are sweeping the nation. At first, I was down. It was something new. But then I soon realized that really all I was getting was a small piece of breaded cod and some cole slaw in a mini tortilla. The only people who should be eating fish tacos are vegetarians, who are also probably munching on pink tacos as well.

Next installment, the Underrated, which will include: Free Chips and Salsa, Margaritas, Pollo Fundido, Black Beans, Mexican Beer and the Numero Uno.

Go Cubs!