El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant
Mexican food has really been diluted and been stretched so far from what its actually supposed to be, even more so than Italian food from The Olive Garden. So, its very refreshing to find a true gem in a small town. Naturally, one of the best places to go that is not expensive, is an ethnic neighborhood in a small town or city. Do you think you would ever see a wall painting the size and length of a full wall in some of the popular Mexican restaurant chains? Of course not, they want to keep it neutral for all patrons, and not “offend” someone with the idea that they are in a place where Catholics and religion also dwell. But this is the thing that impresses me most… from the wall paintings, to the Mexican music playing lightly in the background, this is part of the culture, take it or leave it and move on to Taco Bell the next town over.
If you are in an Italian restaurant you would expect bread to be immediately delivered to the table along with a menu. But here you will get fresh tortillas with two different types of condiments, spicy salsa and salsa verde. And of course, you have literally half a dozen of hot sauces to choose from, ranging from slightly masochistic to all together sadistic. And, just to warn you, the green is not mild by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, its the hottest. The Chipotle is the least hot, but very smokey. And, if you are looking for a balance, use the Buflao which is sweet but packs a little bit of heat. This is actually my favorite, though I typically love hot, but these even test my limits. Always start with a mere drop and allow it at least a minute as many of these have a heat that creeps up on you. It might not seem all that hot at first, but after 30 seconds or more, you will want to reach for the water or beer, but neither will help, you need to offset the burn with something like more tortilla chips since there is no bread on the table. If there is sour cream or cheese, grab that too, but never water, that will only intensify the pain.
There may have been no cream, but what arrived just in time was a very creamy silky but chunky black bean soup. Here is what sets Authentic Mexican apart from the popular chains – real cheese, not your shredded American white cheese, used just as the way it would as if it were Parmesan cheese from an Italian restaurant.
I know Peru is known for its ceviche but on the Western region of Mexico by the city of Guadalajara, they make something just as delicious with plenty of fresh cut tomato, onion, cilantro and avocado. Its a great starter. However, if you like your food cooked by traditional heat, you can start with the black bean soup which is the best I’ve ever had. They sprinkle the top with queso (cheese), and its more like a grated dry parmesan than what you will often get anywhere else, shredded white American cheese.
We brought our own beer from across the street since they do not serve alcohol. Tecate is always a favorite Mexican choice. One of these cans goes for $2.50 – but its nearly a pint and half, so that is basically 2 beers. The best part is, the alcohol content is only about half that of its competitor brands which means you get the same great taste with half the alcohol if you have to return to work, or even if not, who wants to spend the last of the afternoon sleeping unless those were you plans for the day, and if so, then by all means get a Corona, Dos Equis, or Modelo.
Now its time to get serious. 3 main courses are coming, and that is a good thing because neither me nor my friend have had breakfast and now its well after 2pm and we are HUNGRY.
So in come the chicken and shredded pork soft flour tortillas. I was surprised that they were actually two thin tortillas because one would not be able to hold it without causing a mess. And of course, topped with a generous amount of cilantro. Both were delicious.
The main dish was everything you can ever want in a Mexican platter, refried beans and rice along with freshly made guacamole and 3 crunchy and perfectly fried tacos filled with beef. Forgive me if I don’t name these dishes correctly, but as you can see, they are all delicious, all authentic, and no matter what you order, I don’t see how you would be disappointed.
The best part about this place, is the one element no one ever considers, the ambiance and that would include the music. No cheesy 1980s hair bands, but pleasant, tranquil Mexican music to set the mood. Nothing can be better. It takes you out of the rat race just outside the office or the small or big city streets and into a more authentic land where food, friends, friendly service are present. You can stay inside here for hours, never wanting to leave or go back outside into the real world, unless it was the Mexican coast itself.