Sunday Mexican. More often than not, at some point on a Sunday the boys and I will go out for a taco or two. It’s cheap, delicious and usually fast. We have our favorites (or so we thought) and rank them in order of salsa quality, friendliness of staff, proximity to home and, of course, the overall quality of the food. Cleanliness is way down the list of criteria. So is the number of televisions playing 24-hour soccer.
But something is happening to Sunday Mexican in this city. It’s as if suddenly it isn’t important anymore. It most certainly isn’t what it used to be. Allow me to set the scene for a recent Sunday outing.
It was a beautiful day, a day that urges you to go outside and do something. We walked out of church and basked in the bright rays of sunshine, and all seemed right in the world. We spent some time monkeying around and enjoyed a light lunch at home, took in a bike ride and worked up an appetite for dinner.
Late afternoon/early evening I got the phone call that the gang was getting together for south-of-the-border fare. Almost everyone was coming, including Snake, 549, Rob, Lucas, Graham and myself. It was looking as if dinner would be a hoot. At the very least it would be an almost familial event, with Bubble and Rasp being the only people missing from this sunset get-together.
The closest Mexican restaurant worth its salsa is Taqueria Mexico on Airport next to Guitar Center. I am a fan of their authentic tacos and Coctel de Camarones, but have almost worn out my welcome there. It was time to shake things up a bit. The consensus was that the group should drive to our old favorite, Los Arcos.
Los Arcos on Old Shell is one of the perfect Mexican restaurants when you are seeking variety. This is a very important factor with two young ones in tow. We appreciate Los Arcos not only for their “normal” Mexican food, but also for their incredible Indian/Costa Rican fusion menu. I had my heart set on a tandoori item as well as ceviche or a tamale wrapped in a banana leaf, as my kids were dead set on seeing the gigantic Mexican hot dog (not in any way is that a metaphor).
But when we arrived on the scene that same heart sank. We’d driven across town to an empty parking lot and a “closed” sign on the door. I swear I used to go there on Sundays. What happened? In my time of need you turned your back on me, Los Arcos. Is it because I haven’t visited enough? I promise to be a better patron.
So, with tears in our eyes, we banged a left on University and made it to the corner of Airport for our second stop, La Cocina. Known for its intimate seating and stellar margaritas (of no interest to me tonight as I was driving and still had work to do when I got back home), this place finds itself consistently in my top five.
With a moderately full parking lot and a couple of people standing outside the door as if they were waiting for a table, we knew we’d found the right substitute. We were told there was a 10-minute wait so we put our name on the list. That turned into a 15-minute wait. We watched as people who arrived after us replaced the outgoing flow of traffic.
The hostess informed us there was a larger party that needed seating first. Apparently there was a 10-top ahead of us but only three of them were there. After 20 minutes of secondhand parking lot smoke with our fellow diners on “the list” and no sign of the other seven in the big party that delayed our dinner, we thought it best to cut our losses and go somewhere else.
Our two vehicles hungrily sped east on Airport as we communicated via cellphone. There was a new (to us) Mexican restaurant in the same parking lot as Bojangles on Azalea Road. Surely this trendy Cinco De Mayo Mexican Cantina would be able to accommodate us. We drove up, parking lot fairly full, no line at the door and thought it would be nice to try something different for a change.
Walking from the car, we hear some fairly loud booty-shaking music and could see disco lights inside our intended eatery. The sidewalk sign let us know there was an event with a cover charge. No thank you. I don’t need to expose my children to a Mexican party with bad American music played at ear-splitting levels in broad Sunday daylight.
From there we made our way back to Airport Boulevard and took the frontage road to a place I am certain you’ve already guessed. Yes, that’s right, we ate at Taqueria Mexico. It was a round trip that began at Florida Street, traveled through Spring Hill, over to West Mobile and back to the place that’s just over the interstate from my house.
This begs the question: What is going on with our Mexican restaurants on Sundays? Do these places just quit trying after lunch? Have good reliable tacos in the Midtown area and you can print your own money. So the moral of the story is that we should have taken the easy path to the first place that popped into our minds. We ended up with a dinner that couldn’t be beat, but there was a part of me that was a little ticked off about the whole affair. The silver lining (aside from the awesome tacos) was at least we had a short ride home.