Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

4587 Hunter Lane
Byrnes Mill, MO

We went to this place a while back, nearly two years ago. It was good then, but two years is a long time in restaurant years. We’d probably go there more often except for the fact that it is on Highway 30, which is inconvenient. Highway 30 runs pretty much parallel with 21 and has more traffic lights. It turns into Gravois Road in St. Louis County. So there’s really no really good reason for us to use 30, unless we’re specifically looking for something on that road.
The Place:
We got to the restaurant, a free-standing building, and were immediately put on our guard. A banner was hanging from the front announcing “Under New Ownership”. This could be bad, it could be good.
It didn’t really look any different, though it had been two years and minor changes might have simply been unnoticed. We were seated and handed menus and asked about drinks.
The drinks, tea, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi along with the chips, warm, thin and crispy arrived shortly after that while we were still perusing. Along with the chips came a beaker of salsa and a salsa dipping bowl. Fierce crunching ensued. The salsa was medium spicy and pretty tasty.
The inside of the restaurant was adorned with typical Mexican restaurant stuff, sombreros on the walls, colorful wooden and plastic parrots swung from the ceiling, and Corona signage throughout. One wall was painted to appear to be a window looking out onto a beach, sand, waves, and parrots on branches.
It was busy, about half full, there was a large group with kids celebrating something, and behind us and to one side sat middle aged folks, mostly women having a little food and a lot of drink. The volume was especially high at one of the tables, liquored up laughter thundered throughout, too often to be sober.
There was music in the background, not quite what I expected, it was adult contemporary, REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You”, and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” stood out, yet clashed with the parrots and sombreros. There we a couple of TV’s mounted and muted, all playing the Lifetime Channel, which is about the worst channel on TV. A movie with Kathy Bates, whom I like, and Jennifer Aniston, who I do not. Kevin Kostner popped up as well, I can go either way with him. Tattooed to the screen was a note declaring “Love! Love Marathon!”  Which, if I was forced to watch it, would have motivated me to run away at least 26 miles and 385 yards in the other direction.
The Food:
There was plenty to choose from, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, etc. There were three or four things that I would have been happy with. I settled, on a whim, on the Mexicali Cheese Steak. Angel picked the Enchilada Missouri, which for reasons I can’t quite grasp, was filled with shrimp. I’m pretty sure theses weren’t Missouri shrimp, I don’t even think the Show Me State has indigenous shrimp.
Adam opted more traditionally, a combo of a beef taco and a chicken burrito. We munched on our chips for a while, the second basket had arrived. We didn’t have long to wait. The plates steamed and sizzled.
Mexicali Cheese Steak
Mine was chunks of beef, mushrooms, onions and bell pepper chunks on a soft tortilla, covered in white cheese. Also on the plate were rice and about a half cup of sour cream. The rice was not the rich red, tomato-y style we expected. This rice was more brownish and contained green peas and corn kernels. Interesting. The taste was a little on the bland side. Not bad, it just didn’t stand out.
Taco-Burrito combo
The beef was moist and tender, the peppers and mushrooms were excellent. The first few bites were rich, the sweet cheese was almost, but not quite, too sweet. Had the portions been larger the cheese would have been eventually overpowering.
Angel picked through her enchiladas, savoring the spicy grilled shrimp, even offering me a taste. I liked it. She made the same observation about the rice and mentioned the really rich cheese.
Enchiladas Missouri
Adam’s more traditional dishes fared well, though he insisted that it just wasn’t as good as Los Portales. “Fine, just not the same.”
Angel asked about the tea. She recalled that on our previous trip that it was awful, flowery. We’d mentioned it at the time and the waiter told us that it was not made in-house, but was delivered by a service. I sipped it, the stuff under new ownership was okay. It tasted like everyone else’s tea, not bad, but pretty much tasteless.
Not bad, not bad at all. Certainly better than some of the Mexican joints we’ve tried. I agree with Adam that Los Portales is just a bit better. The price was as good, thirty one bucks, we didn’t even need a coupon. The new ownership issue didn’t seem to cause any problems, the staff was plentiful and efficient, the food good and the place was clean. If I had any suggestions it would be about the rice. It may have been someone’s favorite recipe, but it just wasn’t tasty enough.
And then there’s the cheese. I think they might use Provel, that St. Louis area favorite. I’ve riled up a few fans out there by saying this, but Provel is just too sweet for me. The taste builds up and becomes the only note in the orchestra after a while.
So there, I’ve said it again.
Otherwise, the place is pretty decent.

El Cinco de Mayo on Urbanspoon

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