Ah, Cinco de Mayo. A day to commemorate the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla. A holiday that is celebrated predominantly in the state of Puebla, and the U.S. But I guess that makes perfect sense in a country that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish, Chinese New Year and of course Oktoberfest. We Americans can’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate a culture with food and libations. So who am I to do any differently? In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I put my work aside, and made my way to the nearest Mexican restaurante to tip my cup, and say Salud in the celebration of Mexican culture.
For me, the nearest establishment is the Taqueria Tequila in Greenwood. I have lived in the area for going on 4 years now, driven by the Taqueria hundreds of times, and have yet to stop in. Today, however, I made it a point to go, I no longer had any good excuses. Plus, when I checked it out online, I saw some pretty good reviews. So, after my run, I grabbed my computer and headed out to the Taqueria in search of food and drink.
Arriving at the Taqueria, I didn’t find any parking. I thought that this was a good sign, meaning that there were many people here (nothing worse than an empty Taqueria on Cinco de Mayo). After parking up the street a little ways, I made my way in. I found out that the Taqueria is divided into two parts, the main restaurant and the bar. In the main restaurant, the tables were full, so I went next door to the bar where I found a seat. While waiting for a bartender to reappear, I made some observations. First, it was surprisingly quiet. I would think at 7:30 on Cinco de Mayo, there would be a lot more people, or at least some loud mariachi music playing. Second, there weren’t that many people. And third, considering how few people there were, it sure was taking a long time for me to get noticed and get a beer. Finally, after about five minutes the bar tender noticed me and I was able to order my Dos Equis. A couple minutes after that, two tables opened up, so I moved down from the bar to grab one.
After perusing the menu for a few minutes that was in no particular order (appetizers started at number 30), I decided I would start with a couple of the highly reviewed carnitas tacos as appetizers and go with the Plato Tequila for the main course. I closed my menu and tried to get one of the two waitresses to notice me so I could place my order.
Once I was finally able to place my order, it didn’t take long for the food to arrive…all at once. Oh well, no big deal I thought. The tacos were not that big, and everything would still be at least warm when I was ready to dive in. So, I rearranged myself, and took a bite of the first carnitas taco. I would say I was happy with the first bite. The tacos were very simple, consisting of the pork, onion and cilantro in two corn tortillas (not sure why I got two tortillas). The meat had a nice flavor to it, but wasn’t super juicy, and combined with the two tortillas it was a little dry overall. This was not something that was running down my arm juicy, that’s for sure. But, I did enjoy the tacos and thought that the meal was off to a pretty good start. I quickly downed the second taco and got ready to dive into my Plato Tequila.
The Plato Tequila was a simple combination platter that consisted of carne asada, a chile relleno, and the traditional refried beans and rice that you get at so many family Mexican restaurants. I also got some flour tortillas (though I’m pretty sure I ordered corn) that seemed to be store bought. Anyway, the real driver in my decision was the chile relleno. As I’ve gotten into more of my own cooking, and working through recipes from the likes of Bobby Flay and Rick Bayless, I’ve been using different chiles more often, and really acquiring a taste for them. I was looking forward to seeing what they had done with the poblano chile, but first, I wanted to get a little sample of everything else. I started with the rice and beans, and they were the same rice and beans I’ve had hundreds of times before. A little bland, nothing super exciting, just kind of there. So, I moved to the carne asada. Again, it was ok, but nothing I haven’t had before. The sauce was good, but it was masking meat that was again a tad overcooked. That left only the chile, which I was hoping would save the meal. I cut into it, took my first bite, and was disappointed. There was something off with the flavor of the chile. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with them not roasting it or skinning it, or if it was just the quality of the chile, but the flavor was not good. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I took another couple of bites before I had to stop. I just couldn’t finish it.
After finishing my beer, I paid my check which came to $26, which just bummed me out even more. For that price I could have bought all the ingredients I needed to make Enchiladas de Coloraditos again, or something else far more flavorful from Rick Bayless’ cookbook. The meal was a let down; a collection of slow service and bland food. There wasn’t a spice to be found in anything.
It took me four years to go here the first time, and it will probably be the last time. Something like Gordito’s far exceeded what I got tonight in terms of flavor and value. Tacos Guaymas provides a similar type of food (maybe a bit better), but has always had a fun Cinco de Mayo atmosphere. Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled in that I was able to have truly authentic Mexican food at Frontera Grill so everything else is a bit of a let down. But even if my expectation was what has become the slightly watered down “family-owned” Mexican that we find across the country in towns like Cheyenne, Wyoming, I would have been let down.
Final Verdict – 1.5 Stars