Monday, July 14, 2014

Los Portales

201 2nd Street, Hillsboro, MO
Hillsboro, Mo.

I was again wearing my work leash, my turn in the on-call barrel. Automatic monitoring systems woke me up three times in two hours in the wee hours of the morning. I spent the rest of the day in a diminished mental state. The engine was running, but none of the gears seemed to want to catch.
Fortunately I'd already announced the weekend choice, our favorite Mexican hole in the wall. It's close, about ten minutes from the house, fast and inexpensive.
The Place:
In Hillsboro, that's all you need to know. If you find yourself in Hillsboro, it's right there. An old, remodeled single story joint. There's a patio area, no one was in it. Too hot.
Inside was busy, busier that I'm accustomed to seeing it so early. It's quite a popular watering hole for locals, most nights it's jumping.
The man at the bar, who seemed to be in charge, handed us menus and told us to find a seat, he'd be there shortly. I trusted this man. Over his head the flat screen was showing Brazil getting trounced by the Dutch. Just not Brazil's year.
Yes, I've been keeping an eye on the World Cup. But not for sports reasons.
You see, the systems I manage are mostly for our global users. There's another team that takes care of North America. My customers are in Russia, Mexico, Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina, etc. So the World Cup matters. I have working relationships with people in nearly all the countries playing in this month-long snooze fest. On the days that Brazil, especially, played, usage of my systems dipped noticeably, dramatically, lightening the load, so to speak.
I don't think I have users in the Netherlands, but I'm friends with a guy from there that I met nearly twenty years ago. I haven't heard from him lately, but he was a really neat guy. He once told me, in perfect English, that "Dutch is not a language, it's a throat disease."
Pedro, a Brazilian native that currently lives in  New York, IM'd me at the early stages of the games.
"Dennis, you excited about the World Cup?"
Me:   "(yawn)"
Pedro: "You don't like Soccer?"
Me: "I don't even care for or follow American football, why would I care one hoot about some second rate, foreign knock-off?"
It's okay, I talk to Pedro several times per week, he knows not to take me too seriously. On the day Brazil got pummeled by Germany, I IM'd him.
"Hey Pedro, how's that big soccer thing going?"
He didn't seem to be in a very good mood that day.
So I refused to root for either side this game. I didn't want to start an international incident amongst colleagues.
We took a booth by a big window.
Like I said, it was busier than usual. No one was watching the game though, because they were all Americans.
A couple of teen-twenty-something girls came in and sat nearby, I only noticed this because one of them was quite obviously OD'ing on eye makeup. She looked like she might be attractive without the clown mask, it was kind of like touching up a perfectly good, old masterpiece with glitter.
The Food:
We sat and true to his word, the man stopped by within a couple of minutes, loaded down with chips and salsa.
We asked for our drinks, tea, Diet Coke and Coke and dived into the chips. I almost immediately recalled that I had planned to have beer with the meal, but forgot. It's a problem I have, I'm always forgetting beer.
The menu was comprehensive, and in a few places, funny."Sure I'll have the Beer Taco as long as it truly is 'friend crisp!'"
I thought about ordering something new, something different, but I didn't. I like the enchiladas too much to go out on a limb. So once again, I asked for #1. Two enchiladas with re-fried beans and rice.
Adam asked for his tacos. One each, chicken and beef. Pretty much his standard order as well. Angel did not disappoint for once, she went with her perennial favorite as well, Enchiladas Del Mar, shrimp enchiladas. She did throw in a new variant though, more on that later.
We chomped through the chips, Angel and Adam e-deviced for a while. I leaned back and took in the ambiance. Mexican music played in the background, at once both happy, upbeat and forlorn. With a distinct rhythm and meter. I like Mexican music, It makes me feel.
The next best thing about LP is that it is fast. Angel had to leave to pick up a new client dog, so we were sort of pressed for time, another reason that this choice made sense.
At another table, a middle aged foursome was growing louder and happier as the nearly empty fruity drink goblets stacked up around them. One of the men was wearing a sleeveless tee shirt with a logo and enough correctly spelled words that I could make out that he was apparently a member of a gang called 'The Christian Motorcyclists Association'.  The slogan was 'Riding for the Son'. I thought this a bit odd, but, okay. Whatever it takes, I guess. I looked them up, they do charitable events, so that's not so bad.
The food came quickly. Melty, steamy, aromatic. My plate looked simply luscious.The cheese melting into the beans, the sauce kissing all the edges of the enchiladas, the rice, tanned and hot.
I chopped it all up and shoved it all together, that's just the way I roll. Every bite a combination of savory, spicy, cheesy delight.
Angel toyed with the extra 'side' she ordered, a roasted, sauced and cheese-laden poblano pepper.
She pronounced it quite good. I gave it a shot. Not bad at all. Not as spicy hot as I had imagined. It did taste like a roasted bell pepper, only slightly hotter, and the sauce and cheese were a great match for it. Near the end of the meal though, after she'd devoured the shrimp enchiladas, she said that after a while the pepper started tasting a little green 'grassy' as she called it. All in all she liked it, but didn't think it would stand up as well as a main course. "I absolutely love the shrimp enchiladas." She said a half dozen or so times.
About his tacos, which he finished off completely and very quickly, Adam merely said "Very Good, as usual."
Enchiladas del Mar

We were all filled and satisfied. The bill came to a modest $34.35. Overall I was feeling a little salty by the end of mine, but not nearly as bad as many places. The tea was quite good this time, a fresher batch that I usually encounter. The waiter/manager was quite helpful as well as efficient and attentive. Angel had some questions before ordering the poblano, he didn't seem to mind at all explaining to her the difference between that and a similar dish. I noticed he did the same for other people as well, they would point at an item and he'd kindly, proudly smile and tell them about it.
He also kept the foursome liquored up. LP has quite the local reputation for some of its enormous fruity drinks.
At other tables, some extended families with small kids, all local, seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.
Alas the poor creature that laments about hunger in a most famous Mexican corrido would not be so downtrodden here.
Ya se van los carrancistas,
ya se van por el alambre,
porque dicen los villistas,
que se estarĂ¡n muriendo de hambre.
No, no dying of hunger at Los Portales. the food is great, inexpensive and quick.

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