Tuesday, April 27, 2010

El Cinco de Mayo

4587 Hunter Lane
Byrnes Mill, MO

We decided to go to a barbecue joint in the House Springs area, We’d seen it driving by on highway 30 a few times. We pulled into the parking lot and noticed that it was right next door to a bigger, prettier establishment. We suddenly felt in the mood for Mexican again.
El Cinco de Mayo, translated is “The Cinco de Mayo.” or “Toukokuun Viisi” in Finnish.

The Place: (El Lugar)

The building was bright adobe mission style, with a Byrnes Mill police cruiser parked in front. I saw that as a good sign because I’m one of those guys that believe for no real reason that cops always know the best local places to eat.
We were greeted inside and led immediately to a booth to the right of the entrance. The restaurant was separated, a large dining area to the right, another to the left, leaving the entry and the kitchen in the middle. There was no one in the left side. We sit about halfway back; I chose a view of the front, so I could keep an eye on the cop. He was middle aged neat, crisp with authoritarian short gray hair and a department issued mustache. Beside him sat a woman and a couple of adolescent children. I immediately assumed that these were some violent criminals he’d brought in to question, looking back on it now though it could have just been his family. He sat at a large table near the front keeping a close eye on me. I’m used to that, cops always assume I’m a world class master villain, out to pillage their town and have my way with their women and livestock.
The walls were bright lemon yellow, only sparsely decorated with sombreros and beer signs. ‘Corona’ was a painted in black on the far wall. There were booths along the walls and tables in between. The carpet was burgundy and worn down, the booths themselves brown and red. The music was pleasant, soulful Mexican ballads, hardly lively enough to make me want to dance around a hat.
The basket of chips arrived quickly along with the menus. We ordered our drinks, tea, tea and (spoiler alert!) tea. That’s right Adam ordered tea, sweetened of course. Tea would result in high drama later on in the evening.
The menus were thick laminated and about six pages long. Much less complicated than Senor Nacho, which was a good thing. I decided, and was reminded, not to order the biggest thing they had. As we waited for or food, three more, younger BM cops wandered in looking all official and fierce. They sat opposite the first one, in obvious subservient positions. The chief had called in reinforcements. That was going to make busting out of there more difficult. The younger officers played their part well, pretending to not pay attention to me at all. The sergeant kept his Bluetooth device clipped to his ear, ready to call in SWAT should I try to take hostages.

The Food (Los Alimentos):
We each ordered a three-choice combo. I chose a taco, an enchilada and a burrito. Angel , an enchilada, tamale and taco, and Adam a chalupa, a taco and a burrito. Angel went all beef with hers, I went all chicken, except for the taco, Adam about the same. The combos included rice and refried beans.
We munched down on the chips promising (with our mouths full) not to eat too many this time. That didn’t last, the salsa was excellent. A couple of minutes into the second basket, our meals arrived. In the mean time the place had started filling up. The cops didn’t seem concerned by this; I assumed that meant that these people were all plain-clothes or undercover detectives, or maybe even the Feds.
To my delight my meal was served up on a single plate. As the plates were put down Angel shocked and embarrassed us. “Excuse me,” She rudely snapped at the poor, defenseless waiter. “Could I please have some water, I’m afraid I don’t care for the tea.”
I KNOW! Can you believe she would humiliate us like that? I squirmed as the cops went for their guns… or as it turned out, their forks. I apologized for her rudeness, then Adam and I, to save face, started to make fun of her, calling her a ‘petty extremist snoot’ and other such swears. It was all we could do publicly, especially with the cops already on my tail.
“After lo these many months of harping on me for griping about tea, it’s YOU that actually unleashes the real fury!” I railed at her, wagging my finger in condemnation. Adam shook his head in abject shame and horror.
We dived into the food and were for the most part quite pleased. Adam didn’t like the ingredients in his chalupa, but had nothing but good things to say about the taco. Mine was fine all around Angel agreed adding that her tamale was perfect in size and taste. Adam also added that the taco meat was not too salty; referring to the recent disappointments we had at La Pachanga and Senor Nacho’s.
The beans could have been lumpier, the rice was just fine, if not a little too tame. The tea did have a distinct flavor, either some herb or berry, or it might have just been old.

Summary (Resumen):

The place is quite large; I noticed an outdoor patio area as we left. It was not in use, perhaps because of the tornado that had touched down up the road a couple hours earlier. It is also plenty popular, even among non-law-enforcement folks.
The bill came to thirty one dollars and change, including the deduction for Angel’s tea. This is precisely comparable to all the other Mexican places we’ve tried so there’s obviously some illegal price fixing going on.
The food was pretty good, not great, but perfectly fine. The restaurant was clean, the service was prompt. We can indeed recommend it and will probably eat there again should Los Portales in Hillsboro ever burn down. We came to a unanimous decision, that though it was not quite as good as Los Portales, it was considerably better than the all the others.
As we left I made a point to flip off the Chief of Police and his toadies. (By flipping off I mean I extended all the fingers of my right hand with my palm pointing toward them, that way it actually looks like I’m waving, but the joke’s really on them.) I assume they didn’t come after us because they had witnessed something they didn’t anticipate, the fiery, roaring rage of Angel not liking her tea and my immediate and commanding rebuke. No way would they step into that certain bloody tempest with only four armed men.


* As it turned out the gentlemen who took our money from us said he didn’t really care for the tea either, that it was brewed elsewhere and brought in already made. I certainly can’t condone Angel’s extreme and obnoxious behavior but it may have frightened the staff, if not the entire region, just enough to prompt a change.

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