This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dos Taquitos

One of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh. Tim and I had frequented this place nearly eleven years ago, but after we had kids, it kind of fell off of our radar.

But as luck would have it, we would end up moving in a neighborhood that was a hop, skip and a jump away from the place. We even drag our kids to it, who are slowly acquiring a level of tolerance for the place.

The decor is very Cantina-barrio-like. It reminds me of places I went to in the Philippines. The lights are off with only Christmas lights and candles to light the way of the place.

The tables are rustic - some with graffiti written or carved into the table. Some have pictures embedded in them. I don't know who they are, but they look like people having fun. And these aren't pictures of folks coming to the restaurant -- their like friends and/or family photos. Oh and none of the chairs match.

There are sombreros and other hats hanging from the ceilings. All kinds of rustic "junk" that makes the place unique and kitschy.

The people there are so nice. It seems like they are the same folks from years ago, but I can't tell because the place is dimly lit. But does it matter? The mood hasn't changed over this many years and it feels like they know how to be customer-driven without being sterile.

There is always a line. Eleven years ago, there was a wait and it hasn't dropped over time. What is different is their 'paging' service. Instead of buzzers that light off and buzz, they give you a stuffed animal. When your table is ready, you hear over the intercom "Monkey, your table is ready". No list of names -- just what animal you have been given. You couldn't have asked for a more ingenious 'invention' than that -- so much more creative than those uninspiring buzzers. Most of the time, I worry that my buzzer is the one buzzer that is broken and will never go off. I start imagining a fight with the staff over being given a defunct buzzer and once my adrenaline gets pumping, the darn thing goes off and I feel like I need to jump for joy over the miracle of getting a table...but I digress...

The menu fare is not typical of our area's Mexican cuisine, IMO. The early years of our visits, the menu included one section -- more like a small column -- of the typical Speedy Gonzalez stuff. You know, two tacos, rice and beans; burrito, rice and beans, etc. The primary part of the menu focused on their unique entrees, some of which are still on the menu today.

But over the last few weeks, the 'typical' stuff has dropped from the menu all-together. They have nightly specials that have been different from every visit. I have to order the specials - they are the best deals.

The last special I got, well, I forgot the name, but it was three small corn tortillas, topped with beans, which was topped with carne asada chunks, which was topped with a barbecued shrimp, which was topped with avocado slices and then all was drizzled with a 'Mexican cream sauce'. Okay, let the imagination run wild, but IT WAS GOOD so I won't ask what was in the cream...

Along with the scrumptious dish was a choice of soup or salad. The soup is always different -- from the last visit's special to any other Mexican place in the area. Again, I don't recall the name of the soup, but it had corn in a very brothy broth, with Mexican cheese and other stuff that made it quite spicy, but not burning. At previous visits, I had a soup with Chorizo in it that was just as different and yummy. The salad is also quite good. The house dressing is some kind of cilantro vinaigrette that is to-die-for. The salad isn't iceberg either - a combination of quality greens that always includes some radishes (which seems to be a common garnish in many of their dishes).

The regular menu items are quite good and unique as well. The homemade tamales used to be a common request for me, but I just can't turn down the specials. They used to be wrapped individually in corn husks, but it's been awhile since I've had them, so I'm not sure they still do that. And although rice and beans are still the common sides, I strongly recommend the cilantro rice, which appears only on a few of the items on the menu, but can be requested as a sub to the regular rice.

Cilantro rice is green, most likely from the cilantro. It isn't very cilantro-tasting (to me), but instead, a nutty flavor overall. I can't have any other rice with my dishes except that.

Service is prompt and casual. We almost always have a male waiter who calls us 'amigos', as in "How's the food, amigos?" or "Can I get you some more alcohol, amigos?"

The downside: there are beautiful women working here but we always end up with a male waiter. But I don't think it's the restaurants fault, rather the curse that Tim carries with him, because we almost ALWAYS get a male waiter when we dine with him.

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