Except that my kids are hungry people. And when they get hungry? My people get cranky. And we don’t always bring enough snacks. SO we sometimes have to stop to eat, and we sometimes stop where no fast food is available, or when we’re just sick to death of the stuff.
This happened to us one week as we came home from Georgia. We stopped at one of the Auburn, Alabama, exits because we knew if we didn’t Sam was going to eat his sister or vice versa. For reasons unknown, I had a yen for Mexican food. Oh. Wait. The reasons weren’t unknown. I wanted a fucking margarita to survive the backseat passengers and found it unlikely that I’d get one at Micky D’s.
So when we drove past an actual honest to God MEXICAN RESTAURANT while I experienced this need, I pretty well ripped the steering wheel from Scott’s bleeding hands to direct us to the establishment, called El Dorado.
Now, if we’d checked online first, I wouldn’t have done anything of the kind. The most polite thing reviewers can say about El Dorado is that it has kickass margaritas. (But guess why I was really there?) Reportedly, glaciers are faster than the food service, and the flavor is awful and about as native to Mexico as fortune cookies are native to China, which is to say not at all. And if I had known those things, I would have overlooked my alcohol yen and suffered through another trip to McDonald’s.
I would never have taken my restless, hungry (but picky), autistic children to a grown up restaurant with promises of slow service and bad food.
I’m SO glad I hadn’t done any research.
Because seriously, the place ruled. They didn’t object to Sam, who ran around like a maniac until he was fed. (It helped that we were four of the sixteen people in there.) They didn’t make us wait to eat (possibly because of Sam). And the food was fine. I won’t call it five star cuisine, or particularly realistic Mexican dining, but it was excellent college-town fare. In fact, about the only thing online reviewers and I agree about is the margaritas. Big. Ass kicking big. Two thumbs way up.
Beyond that, though, I think the other people who ate there dined at so-dead-thirty or got their restaurants mixed up. Hell, the kids even ate and enjoyed the food. They ate the MEAT in their soft tacos and asked for more. (My kids frequently reject meat.) The large screen TV mesmerized Caroline. (Aside: even now that we own a TV, my kids are so program deprived that they would, as Scott points out, watch a test pattern. Proof? They watch the weirdo happy yoga program with the strange little woman with overly bright pink cheeks when no cartoons have yet come on Saturday mornings. And they totally watched random soccer in El Dorado.)
We’ve been back two more times since that initial visit, both times with good results. Time before last, Sam got under a neighboring table long enough to dump an entire container of salt AND an entire container of pepper into a heap (kerchew! anybody?) They thought he was hilarious even as I fussed at him for the behavior. And this last time, we ordered ahead and then got dessert. And for dessert, we had a sopapilla.
If you’ve never had a sopapilla, it’s a puffed flour dish lavished in cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Typically, they are served as little triangles, but this one came as a big round circle. And it wasn’t puffed. Yeah, I suspect that the ‘un-Mexican” critique was earned, even though the wait staff obviously speak primarily Spanish. Whatever. It was glorious. It reminded me of my childhood. So I texted my Dad. And I’ll leave you with the conversation that sopapilla engendered between the two of us:
Me: What was that Mexican restaurant in Cincinnati you used to take me to when i was 4 or 5? I am brewing a sopapilla blog entry.
Dad: Sylvias. It was in Newport. Remember, I used to drive in just to get their salsa and bring it to the farm. Eventually shut down for bringing in herbs ( I think you smoked them ) that were illegal.
Me: Well I never smoked them, but that is exactly who I meant.
Dad: Maybe that’s why I liked the salsa so much. I thought it was cilantro. I liked the big chunks of onions and other big chunk stuff in the salsa too. I had forgotten we went there. That’s great!
Me: Haha! Cilantro will forever be a euphemism in my vocabulary, now.
Dad: There had to be cilantro in there. And it was great. They really did fly their spices in from Mexico.
Me: Yes, it sounds like that is exactly what they did! I loved their cheese enchiladas and sopapillas.
Dad: What a bite in the butt if really good pot is an ingredient in really good Mexican salsa and food and they weren’t smoking it but cooking up Mexican dishes from the ninth ring of hell.
Me: It would be pretty cold coming from the 9th ring. But the 7th circle now, that would be muy caliente.
PS: For the record, I have had plenty of excellent pot free Mexican food. So I rather think Dad’s off his rocker. But in the most endearing and hilarious way.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.