I love food. Did you know that? All kinds, actually. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. I love Italian, Thai, Japanese, and Dominican food… but who would I be if I didn’t like Mexican food?
Now, let me clarify. I have never been to Mexico. For all I know, the meaty, colorful deliciousness that I’ve been consuming in massive quantities for the last few years is entirely faux-Mexican, but whatever. It’s good.
And again… I understand that there are three types of “Mexican” restaurants to be found in the US. First, there is the true-blue Mexican joint, which is usually found attached to an ethnic grocery store (in Rome, Celia’s has the best chorizo taco you’ll ever have in your life). Most of the time these are owned and run by real-life-from-Mexico-Mexicans and they know what they’re doing in the kitchen. Hand-made tomatillo, hour-long-simmered bowls of menudo, creamy horchata… the whole nine yards. Once you have a smoked chicken taco with a tuft of pico de gallo, cilantro, and onions on top… you’ll never go back. To what? I don’t know. Taco Bell, maybe?
Seriously, go there.
Then there’s the Tex-Mex joint. They range from Moe’s and Chipotle to places like Across the Border. These places feature more chili and Rotel dip than the average Mexican probably consumes, but still — not bad. I won’t go too much into detail here because, in reality, these are mostly chain restaurants that throw meat and company into a tortilla and call it a burrito.
Like I said, though… I won’t turn it down.
And then there’s the American-Mexican restaurant. By that I don’t mean that they serve fries with their tacos (although, some do), I mean all Mexican restaurants below the Mason-Dixon line (Northerners: amend this, if necessary). The re-fried beans are a little pool of awesome with a little Jack cheese sprinkled on top, and the fajitas and margaritas are half-off on Wednesday nights. D’ya get it now?
Since I can remember, the go-to place for that kind of Mexican food in Rome has been Las Palmas. I can almost hear your applause, if you’re a Roman reading this. It’s one of those hometown favorites, ya know? Everyone has “that” restaurant in their hometown that they always have to visit after they’ve moved away, and that never ever changes. I promise, fifteen years later, everything tastes the same — delightful.
Of course, the menu has been redesigned about a hundred times, but when you open it, the same comforting items await you. Knowing that thirty years from now, Las Palmas will serve you a plate of shredded chicken nachos that taste the same as yesterday, is like getting a hug from your plate.
Are we on the same page now? You know, the places that always serve you watery salsa and corn chips right when you sit down?
It’s not exactly the most gourmet culinary experience, but the comfort it provides makes it taste all that much better.
They do occasionally attempt to fancy themselves up a bit with new menu items. A lot fail and eventually find themselves left off the new and improved menu, but some thrive — like their freshly made (at your table) guacamole. We get ours with extra cilantro and lime. My mouth is watering right now.
It’s one of those places where it’s okay to go back and forth between your two favorite things, every time. Why bother with new stuff? New stuff is for new restaurants! I mean seriously, have you ever been hugged by a burrito?
Best. feeling. ever.
See? And Taco Bell never even hit our radar.