Sunday, October 7, 2012

Los Portales

201 Main Street
Hillsboro Mo.

Gray skies of October

This weekend was different. Several things merged which I’ll admit up front may have made me a little out of whack and off my game.
Angel was out of town, somewhere in Indiana for a dog training seminar or convention. She left Friday afternoon and was scheduled back home late on Monday. 
Also I’d had a tense and extremely busy week at work and by Friday night I was essentially comatose with exhaustion. Saturday morning I went through the motions of weekend errands somewhat robotically. My beautifully sculpted brain was mostly on vacation. On top of that, a co-worker that I sit near spent most of Thursday sniffling sneezing, wheezing and coughing. The early signs of a team-stifling bug. She stayed at home on Friday and even reported in that she would be going in to see a doctor. So Saturday I found myself dim of brain and sniffling. Either I’d picked up the bug or was succumbing to the wild weather changes that affected the area late in the week. Only early October, the skies were heavy, gray, wet, and cold. Not the pretty, crisp bright blue skies of October that I love, but the dreary, stark, wintry cold of a day like you imagine funerals should take place.
So this was the stage, a recipe for disappointment.
Adam was tending to the dogs. Diana, Angel’s part-time trainer, stopped by to conduct Saturday class and work with a couple of the pooches. I, without Angel’s gentle guidance and counsel, myself, limp of brain, moped about rudderless and somewhat puny.
When it came time to decide on dinner, I suggested to Adam that we just grab a burger or a couple of pizzas and to not worry about a review. This took the pressure off. So after I awoke from an extended nap, I asked if he had any thoughts on the matter.
The Place:
  He suggested this and I immediately accepted the recommendation. It allowed me not to think about it much and it had the added advantage of being close by. I went out and cleaned off the passenger seat of my unimpressive little commuter car. Since no one ever rides with me the passenger seat doubles as a desk, dining table, pantry and closet.  Paperwork, snack crackers, lists, insurance reports, hats, gloves and three or four books, along with an embarrassing amount of small trash.
Los Portales is about the closest restaurant to our front door, beating Hardee’s by about a hundred feet. It’s across the street from the courthouse at the town’s busiest intersection. It takes about seven minutes to get there, but in my lethargic condition, this time we made it in about ten.
There was already a fair crowd inside, mostly small families with kids crunching on chips and moms and dads sipping bright, colorful adult beverages.
We were told to find a seat on our own, a heavy responsibility without Angel as a guide. I chose a booth by a window, one that was about as far away from the other patrons as possible. I had taken the camera and notebook with me, “just in case” I told Adam. A true writer/journalist does this, it simply can’t be helped. For a good writer/journalist never knows when a review-able dining experience might pop up out of nowhere.
Shortly, the always bustling and ample in number, pink-shirted staff took our drink order and delivered the menus and obligatory chips and salsa.
Taco Salad, with added tomato.
The Food:
The menu was daunting. There seemed to be a thousand choices, none actually sounding that appetizing. I realized that I should be hungry, not having snacked or lunched at all since my weekend-morning ritual coffee and breakfast biscuit at Hardee’s, but I wasn't. Stress, exhaustion and the flu all have a similar effect on me, though so does the occasional extreme change in weather. I’m as fragile as a thoroughbred horse that way, the slightest bit of out-of-whackness causes me to lose my appetite, though I usually make up for it in spades later. (I am also like a thoroughbred horse in other ways, a big heart and flimsy knees to name a few. How I respond to a whip or spurs is not open for discussion in this venue.)
I teetered between the enchiladas, which I’d had there before and always enjoyed, and a simple taco salad, which seemed somehow kinder and gentler. By the time our order was taken, I was on the salad swing of that pendulum. Adam chose a nacho dish, the Nachos Supreme. “No tomatoes please.” He clearly added.
We munched on the chips, and tried to conduct a conversation. Angel said “                ”    because she wasn't there, which left a major, nearly insurmountable gap in the discourse. I tried to think of something she might say, but came up blank.
So we discussed evening entertainment options, movies, neither of us knew if there was anything out yet that we wanted to see. “But mom would want to watch them too.” Adam said, not wanting to watch something without her that she’d like to see. That was fair, but it seriously reduced our coming up with anything.
Nachos Supreme, tomato removed.
Our drinks were in front of us, tasteless, colorless, lifeless tea for me, which suited my condition, and Coke for Adam.
It wasn't long before the plates arrived.
In my mind I was thinking of the kind of taco salad we frequently have at home. We use Fritos, Catalina dressing, lettuce, olives, onions, tomatoes, refried beans, bright yellow shredded cheese, sour cream, taco sauce, and seasoned ground beef. To call it a salad is a little ridiculous since the only thing ‘salad’ about it, is the quantity of lettuce.
This one looked different. It had the crispy flour tortilla bowl, lettuce, white shredded cheese, sour cream, and shredded, almost puréed spiced chicken. The bowl was glued to the plate by a dollop of refried beans.
Adam’s nachos came with a tomato, which he had specifically asked to be omitted. I took it, chopped it up and put it on my salad to give it, if nothing else, a bit of color.
I noticed that around the base of the bowl, that a milky, soupy stream had formed around the refried beans. I assumed it to be the excess liquid from the sour cream and chicken, etc. dripping out of the bottom of the crispy bowl.  It didn't look very appetizing, so I ignored it.
The salad tasted fine, but seemed to be missing a few ingredients. Adam seemed to enjoy his nachos pretty well, once he’d removed the offensive tomato.
The puddle grew bigger. Only a quarter of the way into the salad, the milky, soupy puddle grew and threatened to breach the rim of the plate. It also saturated the bottom half of the tortilla, eliminating completely, the crunch. My salad was turning into mushy breakfast cereal.
Being as my tummy was timid anyhow with whatever anomalies or combination of anomalies that were occurring inside me, I stopped eating about one third of the way into the salad. By this time the soup had indeed breached the plate and as the staff member took it away it left a trail on the table and the floor all the way back to the kitchen.
I munched on a couple of more chips, Adam finished his nachos, and we settled up.
The puddle grows, seeping from the inside.
The tab was light. Los Portales is a pretty cheap place to eat. The bill came to a paltry fifteen bucks and change.
We've been to LP many times, this was the first time I had experienced anything like disappointment. I do not know if it was the nature of the salad itself, just a bad job of serving it up, or something else entirely. Like I said though, I was not in the best of shape. However, salads are not supposed to turn into soup, this one did; a milky, sickly beige gazpacho, a room-temperature puke-like broth. I cannot imagine this is what the chef had in mind, I cannot imagine that if this is what it was supposed to be, that anyone would ever order it more than once.
We'll go back. LP has pleased us plenty in the past, but I simply cannot recommend the taco salad.


I am writing this on Saturday evening, a time I usually use to just open up the blog and upload the photos and little else, leaving the bulk of the task to Sunday afternoon between laundry cycles. However due to the increasing nature of the sniffles and mind-numbness, I thought I’d better knock out as much as I could in case the viruses, or whatever, overwhelmed me. So if this  review seems off-kilter, rushed, and weak, I apologize. My brain activity is diminished significantly, to the point to where my current mental capacity is significantly reduced, almost to the point of being like everyone else’s.  I apologize for any reduction of entertainment and enlightenment this may cause.

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