Sunday, December 3, 2017


12967 Route 21
Desoto, Mo.

We wanted Mexican, decided to go to this place. Just a short drive down the road from our nearest Mexican joint, Los Portales in Hillsboro.
No real reason, just because.
For me it was that we hadn't been to Coyol in over three years, a lot can change in that slice of time. We'd been pretty happy with it in the past.
The Place:
In the same parking lot as KFC (the place we shop for Christmas dinners) and across the road from a Walgreen's, right along old 21.
'Coyol' is the name of a certain palm tree that grows from the southwest U.S. all the way down to Argentina. Since there are plam trees depicted on the  signage and the menus, I assume that's where the name comes from. Inside it was bright and nearly half full of patrons, even at this early hour (5:00 P.M.) on a Saturday night. The decor is all about shiny, lacquered primary collars. Bright reds, yellows and greens.
The walls and tables sported bright, Mexican-themed
murals. One could get swept away by the overhead music, 80's American pop. . . I didn't get that either. . . it made no sense to me culturally speaking.
I was in a Chinese restaurant a few years back. They played nothing but Sinatra songs. I was just as confused at Coyol. I wanted lively Mexican Corrido or Banda . . . But no, instead we had Huey Lewis and Pat Benatar. . . I was alive in the 80's and I'm pretty much over most of the music from that dark, wretched period. "Where's my Narcocorridos!" I shouted silently into my own head.
We were told to seat ourselves, so we went for a booth in the back. As we discussed who sat where, I pointed to the side that would have me looking out at the restaurant, my preferred vantage point. Our lady host witnessed this and said "Rock, paper, scissors?"
I had to answer. "I would never leave such an important decision up to a mere game of chance."  (I can be kind of a smart-ass when reaching for a chuckle.)
She seemed amused. By that I mean she didn't punch me in the throat or call the cops. She seemed friendly enough though. She introduced herself as Jackie or Jacky, I couldn't quite tell which from her pronunciation.(it also might have been Jacquey, I suppose)
She asked about drinks and as she did so, she dropped her pen. She unnecessarily explained that this was the third time she'd dropped it this shift.  Once again, I felt compelled to respond, because apparently, that's what 'lovable jerks'* tend to do.
"If it's happened three times today, there is a good chance that the problem is not with the pen itself. . . "
I let it hang there. She quickly caught on to the shtick and laughed and agreed. I fell in love with her right there on the spot.
We asked for un-sweet tea. She dropped a couple of gallons of tortilla chips on the table for us to gorge on. Along with the chips was the requisite salsa decanter and a couple of disposable aluminum ramekins. This was a seriously large amount of chips.
We started in on them.
Jackie returned with our tea and asked if we needed more time. Nope, we'd discussed this earlier in the car. We were on a mission, our destination was already pretty much decided. Usually, and by that I mean almost always, at Mexican places I ask for enchiladas. This time we were switching it up.
The Food:
Why? Well sometimes in this cutthroat business of reviewing eateries, you've just got to step out of your comfort zone. Besides,  as soon as Angel had mentioned it earlier, I was reminded of the sizzling, aromatic platters that passed us by at other Mexican restaurants. The 'some assembly required' aspect of it neither impressed or dissuaded me, but the the thought of wrapping a warm, soft tortilla around some sizzling chicken, beef and shrimp sounded like just the ticket.
Angel ordered the 'Texas Fajita' which included those three meats. I was having what she was having we told Jacky.
"Want to make it a double then?" She asked, explaining that this would be family style with separate side plates of beans, rice and salad. Yes, perfect!
We munched on more chips, but both of us stopped before a sixth of the chips were gone. We have been known to overdo it with these crispy, spicy delights and then have no appetite for the main course.
I sipped my unremarkable tea and looked around, trying to size up the joint. Somewhere along that time the music changed to a few short bursts of my beloved Mexican ballads. We thought they'd changed the dial on the music machine, but as it turned out, the kitchen crew had just cranked up the volume on their music, drowning out the wretched 80's pop. I didn't complain.
The food arrived in a reasonable amount of time. A twelve inch cast iron griddle sitting in a wooden tray, meat sizzling hot.
It looked gorgeous. Perfectly sauteed bell peppers and onions, and thin strips of meat along with some short, fat shrimps.
Though there seems to be a history of this dish going back to the 1930's, the original dish was pretty much only beef strip steak. Other proteins are fairly recent options. The first occurrence of the word 'fajita' appeared in 1971. Though it has Mexican roots, the dish as we know it and love it now was most likely Tex or Cali based.
The sides were delivered shortly after the sizzling platter. that luscious plate of refried beans, rice and the lettuce/sour cream/guacamole salad. Man I just love this stuff! I mixed it all together as I tend to do. I make this at home occasionally. I have a wonderful rice recipe and the beans I prefer to mash and re-fry myself from dry beans I've cooked up and flavored at a slow simmer. But that's a story for another time.
We were each given three, foil wrapped and warmed soft flour tortillas. I filled one up as fast as I
could with each of the meats and plenty of slippery, perfectly sauteed peppers and onions.
Angel did likewise and pretty soon the table was quiet. Both of us savoring the smoky meat and veggie mix. There wasn't a lot of spice to it, no pepper heat. That was just fine to me. The proteins were tender and moist, the shrimp was grilled to perfection.
Jackie stopped by a few times to check on us and keep an eye on our drink levels. As Angel and I sat back in a near stupor, she offered us a takeout box. She brought two, one for the remaining fajita mix, only about two thirds gone, and the one remaining tortilla, the other for the chips, which would not all fit. Yeah, there were that many chips.
Thumbs up all around! The food was fantastic, Jackie , a true pro. The price came in just under thirty bucks, not bad at all for all we could eat with enough leftover to have for lunch on Sunday.
So food, staff, price, all really good! Highly recommended!
Bonus: I now have a new go-to Mexican meal. Fajitas! Who knew?

*Lovable jerk: Earlier in the week I asked my many, many Facebook friends to help me write a bio for my new place of work. One of my so-called friends, Mary, a lady I worked with at a large beer company a few years back, commented with a single bullet point: 'Lovable jerk.'
Fortunately I know Mary pretty well and understood and appreciated it immediately. Of course, she could have been serious too, but that's okay as well. I've never heard it actually said about me, and  I have never really thought of myself as 'lovable' but I guess there are worse things to be called, like 'poetry lover'. For this insult I have to thank my writer's group friend Kim. That was just mean.

Coyol Mexican Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dog House

605 S. 2nd Street

DeSoto, Mo.
On Facebook

There was a TV news clip going around the local social media groups this week. It looked intriguing, their Facebook page showed over six thousand followers, very surprising being as the 2016 population listing for the city of DeSoto is just over six thousand. So it was set.
Saturday was cold and gray all day, the kind of day that simply drains me of all motivation to do anything. I had played with my power tools in the garage for a while, then I made an apple pie. . . well that was about it. Finally it was time to go.

The Place:
At the corner of Miller and Second Street downtown, the sign for the bakery is much more prominent in the almost too-small parking lot. The signage was simple and understated for a place with over six thousand followers. I mean I don't even have six thousand followers and I consider myself quite the thing.
Parking was tight, but doable, since Angel was driving. We looked in and saw that it was packed even at just after 5 P.M. Part of the pack-ness was due to its size. It is not at all a large place. It only held eight or nine standard sized 4-tops. There were a couple of couples standing and waiting, a bad sign for us. We've walked away from many a place due to there being a line. However fate rang the bell and a large group occupying two tables got up to leave just seconds after we entered. I looked around and did the math and we decided to go ahead and stay.
The place was diner/dive like, not dirty, just 'lived-in'. The walls were decorated by
anthropomorphized (dressed like humans) dogs and other dog-ish things. In one corner sat a large gentleman wolfing down an enormous donut burger, which is  exactly what you think it is.
The wait wasn't very long at all. We were shown a seat in the back corner, directly below the shop's only speaker and the gender-indifferent restroom. (a one-seater I assume)

The speaker was the real inconvenience for me. It was pumping out twangs loud enough to be heard throughout the room over the considerable din of local families dining and chatting. This meant it was, directly over my head as it was, a bit too loud, but the bigger issue for me was that it was pumping out country music. Outlaw country, I believe, Waylon, Willie and Hank Junior, etc.. Not my favorite flavor of my near least favorite music genre. 
We sat at our black and white checked, vinyl cloth covered wooden tables in our standard wooden chairs and ordered our food. Nothing fancy.
The Food:
Since I'd first looked at the place on line, I knew what I would be ordering. Oddly enough, not one of their famous burgers, but the catfish sandwich. I don't mind a good burger, but I like catfish better. Plus, the listed size of their burgers, 3/4 pounds told me that I would not be able to finish even half of it anyhow. The menu listed my choice as 'Catfish sandwich with cheese'. I asked the server about this and said yes, I could have it without the cheese. Actually I didn't wan the bread either, I just wanted catfish and fries. Yes, they did also offer Tartar sauce, so were good to go. Angel asked for a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings. We'd heard about the onion rings.
The food was served in a reasonable amount of time. In a dog bowl. Yeah, that's the
gimmick that got this place a spot on the TV news. All food is served in big, plastic dog bowls. Entirely by coincidence, I happened to be wearing a Canine Life Skills (Angel's company) tee-shirt. The back of the shirt reads:  "Where sit happens." Get it?  "sit happens", because she trains. . . I'm sure you get it. So I don't mind a little gimmickry here and there.
The single fish filet was about ten inches long on a five inch square Texas toast bun. The toast had been branded with a doggy paw print. Cute. But the resulting sandwich looked a little out of whack as most of the fish was not on the bread at all, but sticking out either side. For me, this was not a problem since, as I said earlier, I didn't even want the bread. The fries were crinkle cut, pretty much my favorite kind of fries. I scooted the bread aside and cleared a hole in the massive pile of fries and squirted in  some fancy ketchup. I know it was fancy ketchup since that's exactly what the bottle said.

Angel's eyes got huge when she peered into her burger. It was large, comically large and thick, If I saw saw something like that in our fridge I would assume we were having meat loaf. But there it was,also between two thick slices of branded Texas toast.
The onion rings were also huge, impaled atop the burger with a vampire-ready wooden stake.
Without a doubt the food was really good, especially those onion rings. "I like that they weren't too heavily breaded." Angel said. I agreed that this allowed the natural, moist sweetness of the perfectly cooked onion shine through. The fish was crispy and moist as well, delightful. Angel really liked the burger, what she could eat of it. about two thirds of it came home with us in a 'doggy' bag, the only appropriate way
to travel with food from the Dog House.
She shared a ring with me and I returned the generous favor by handing her a fistful of fries. I finished the yummy fish and about half of the remaining fries before I too declared defeat.

Though it was loud, the kids noisy and the music was (to me) horrific, we had a good time. The good food overshadowed the discomfort of those ancillary things. The bill came to a paltry twenty two bucks and change, so there was no dissatisfaction with that part of the transaction either. The biggest issue with the food was, for me, the portion size. Too much food though, is really an anti-problem, like being very full and busy. I don't judge these things harshly, because I am quite aware that I just can't eat a lot in one sitting and I tend to shy (run) away from crowded, noisy places. These are
Yes, I made this. It was great!
my issues, not the restaurant's. As my friend Bernard stated on my earlier FB post about this place: ". . . you sure won't go away hungry!"
Inexpensive and tasty in a fun, lively environment, how could it not have six thousand followers?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Si Senor

Mexican Bar and Grill
227 Arnold Crossroads Ctr.
Arnold, Mo.
On The Web

There's a lively, vocal and active local FaceBook group I belong to called Jeffco411 that occasionally posts a link to this fine site. This week Angel and I were struggling to come up with something different to try. I had an idea. Mexican, but not the ones we've been to already. So I posted a note on Jeffco411:
"Eat and Critique! Is looking to review the best Mexican restaurants in Jefferson County. Where should we go?
P.S. we've already reviewed Los Portales in Hillsboro, several times.
To my mild surprise and delight, there were about 125 replies in the first 24 hours.
Scrolling scientifically down the list, one place started to be a standout.
This one. Not by a lot, but those posting about this place seemed more articulate and better looking than most of the others. Yes, being attractive will get my attention. I never said that this operation was a democracy, or fair, or unbiased. I set my own standards here and rule over the site with an iron fist, a velvet-y, handsome iron fist.

The Place:
Since this was in Arnold, we invited Adam to join, he agreed. He lives in South St. Louis County and works in Arnold, so this was less of a drive for him than us. It's located in one of that city's many, many shopping center. Arnold is Jefferson County's largest city. It's location at the northeast corner make it basically a suburb of St. Louis. I've mentioned before that I don't particularly like Arnold, but that's mostly because of the often very heavy traffic and confounding intersections. They do have a lot of nice places to eat and shop. So as long as Angel drives, I can tolerate it.
Just as we entered, the staff was finishing off a singing, clapping Happy Birthday tribute to some snot nosed kid. Adam and I looked at each other, his eyes wide. (see the post about Texas Roadhouse a few weeks back and you'll see why.) I decided to keep an open mind though, for at least a little longer. I wanted some enchiladas.
On the inside, the place was brightly and boldly painted and mural-ized floor to ceiling. Colorful parrots, lizards throughout, even on the booths, chairs and tables. It was quite busy as well, in terms of people. Nearly every table filled to capacity with families, groups of seniors, and just about every kind of person you can imagine. There was a buzz, a  din if you will, but not really too bad. It barely drowned out the Mexican music playing faintly in the overhead speakers. We were seated at the very front, next to a window.
We were greeted by a handsome young man named 'Carlos' if his name tag was to be believed. Very gracious and polite, he asked about drinks just as the chips and salsa were delivered by another handsome young man. The entire staff were in neat black shirts and they all looked busy, competent and efficient.
There were TV's on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, all muted. Golf, some kind of golf game was underway. In my mind the only thing more excruciatingly boring than golf on TV is the actual game itself. My in-laws watch a lot of TV golf, they even play golf. It is the one and only thing I don't care for about my in-laws. . . lets just leave it at that.
The Food:
The chips were perfect. The salsa, beautifully, refreshingly fresh with a slight, but noticeable sweat inducing bite to it. Not overpoweringly hot, just right on that narrow edge between pleasure and discomfort. You know the sensation, right?
We gobbled them down, all three of us love this part of a Mexican meal.
Carlos returned with our drinks, one tea and two Diet Dr. Peppers. He carefully took our orders making sure and rechecking that he had it right. His accent had a thickness to it but we managed just fine. I'm currently learning to speak a foreign language myself, I know how difficult it can be, the nuances and oddly shaped syllables. The answer to your question is of course, 'Icelandic.'
Not really a handy language to know, there are only about 300,000 native speakers of it and almost all of them also speak English.
This was not helpful with Carlos, I got the impression that he was not Icelandic. My perfectly practiced "Hvað segir þú gott?" just bounced right off of him.

I'd researched the menu beforehand so the choice was pretty much made already. Angel and Adam didn't struggle long either.
Me: Combo; one chicken enchilada and two beef flautas. The combo came with beans, rice and a 'corn cake'. I ordered the flautas specifically so I could say 'flautas'* out loud and write it several times. It's not what you think. Flautas is Spanish for 'flute'. It is a wheat wrap rolled into a long cylinder shape, filled with. . . something, then fried.
Adam: Chipotle Chicken Chimichanga.
Angel: Steak and shrimp. This was weird and surprising. On Saturday I'd commandeered the kitchen and prepared us a five course dinner. Grilled steak and shrimp, garlic toast, salad and roasted potatoes. She loved it, there was even enough left over for her to have steak and shrimp for Sunday lunch as well.
This was to be her third steak and shrimp meal in a row. I guess I'd really dialed in on her tastes. . .
Then the Si Senor staff made a mistake. Angel's plate was delivered in just a few minutes.
Have you ever gone to lunch or dinner with people from work and you all order but the food comes out in incomplete batches? Someone, usually me, is stuck sitting there at a blank spot on the table while everyone else politely watches, as their lobsters start to approach room temperature waiting for every one else's food to arrive. . .
Well, that's what happened here. Angel's plate arrived then, for about five or more minutes, nothing else. Fortunately for Angel we're all familiar family so she went ahead and un-apologetically dug right in. Adam and I didn't mind, we just wanted our food. Still it was a notable gaff, though not a fatal one.
One could say that the meals were worth the wait, because they were very, very good.
The chicken inside the enchilada was lightly spiced and quite moist. Usually at Mexican joints the bulk-cooked and steamer-warmed shredded meat ends up being quite dry. Not here. The light coating of enchilada sauce made me want more of it, a gallon or so would have been good. To my surprise and giggly delight, the flautas was quite tasty. The beef was also lightly spiced and quite smoky tasting. A very good little finger food. As always, I chopped up my enchilada and stirred it around into the cheesy beans and rice. I love that combination, when it is prepared right, and this was. Once again they'd held off on overdoing it. They let the beans and rice speak for themselves without going all Taco-Bell with the seasonings. The corn cake, a mush of corn meal with actual sweet kernels embedded in it was quite good as well.
There was absolutely nothing I did not like about the meal.
Angel too was quite impressed. "They grilled the broccoli instead of just steaming it." And "The shrimp is beautifully spiced."
Adam didn't have to say much, I know when he likes and doesn't like things. He loved this. "The chicken is very good." He even sawed off a chunk to let me try. Yep, he was right.
"I didn't share my shrimp." Angel said, unnecessarily.
There was that one and only one misstep. Staggered serving time. Easily fixable, but it would be annoying if it turned into a regular occurrence.
Angel said she'd already decided what to order next time. The seafood soup. She had seen it on the menu but passed over it for the same stuff she'd had twice before in less than 24 hours. Someone else had ordered the soup and she saw it delivered, long crab legs dangling out the side of the bowl.
The food itself was really, really good. I hear they make a pretty good margarita as well.
Now about the price. There was some mention on the Facebook group about Si Senor being a bit pricey. Well, compared to some of the other Mexican restaurants in the area, I suppose that it was. However, at forty nine bucks for three meals, it's cheaper than the popular chain places like Applebee's or Ruby T's or Olive Garden. The restaurant was very clean, the ingredients were all fresh and the staff was well trained and polite. Some of the local Mexican places are essentially dingy dives with pretty drinks. This place worried about its food, they didn't just pop open some cans and fry down some ground beef saturated with powdered taco seasoning.
This was much, much better than that. They've set the bar pretty high for a very reasonable price. In the coming months other places that were recommended will be visited, I'd have to say though, they are going to have to really impress me to beat Si Senor.

*Flautas. You need permanently juvenile male brain parts to giggle at this. In case you don't get it 'flautas' looks and sounds like the word 'flatus' which is a fancy word for 'stomach' gas.  You know. . . farts.