Monday, November 24, 2014

Los Portales

201 Second Street
Hillsboro, Mo.

The weekend prior to this one, it had snowed. This weekend it was warmer, but windier and it had started to rain. After that snowfall, Angel had to sweep and scrape the snow and ice off of her windshield, rather aggressively. As we started into Hillsboro she turned on the wipers. The one on the passenger started making a funny noise and was soon flopping around like a snake on fire. She pulled over and shoved it back onto it's stem, got back in and drove another half mile. Then the drivers side wiper started doing the same thing. She stopped, got out and corrected it. About two miles later, just down the hill from Hillsboro, the first one started flopping again. She must have damaged them removing the snow and ice earlier in the week.
"Why don't you try your luck this time?" She urged. She pulled over, again. It took me a few moments to get out of the car, I couldn't figure out the door lock. She'd obviously called on a master mechanic to solve the wiper problem.
After comparing this wiper with the other one, I determined there was a critical piece missing. Perhaps its exhaust manifold or timing chain, or one of those other car parts I've heard about on 'Car Talk' and 'Top Gear'. I stood the bare stem upright so it wouldn't scrape the glass. The bare arm jogged back and forth. I suggested we put a glove on it so people would think we were waving. Angel was in no mood for my rapier wit. She was mumbling curses at the car. "I just paid it off, now it's just going to fall apart." and "You have one simple job you B&%$#!! wipers, one *^#$$ job."
We half-wiped and waved the last mile and found a parking spot on the street. Angel was in a mood. I dared not cross her the rest of the evening.
The Place:
Los Portales is the closest restaurant, in any direction, from our house. We were on a tight time frame, dog arrivals and departures were scheduled. We'd been often enough to know it was fast, cheap and satisfying.
The boys were with us again, Larry had never been to LP. I'm not even sure they have Mexican food in his hometown in central Tennessee. Adam, also a picky eater, had convinced him that there would be stuff he would like.
We went in and were led through the smoking area/bar to the main dining area. We took a booth, I picked one with the brightest beer neon in the window above it. I needed more than the ambient room light to take high quality photos with my magic tablet device.
We were handed menus, like we really needed them, and asked about drinks. I always forget that they make lousy tea, so I always order it. This night was no different.
Soon the drinks, chips and salsa arrived. I could sit there for nothing else but a good drink, maybe a margarita, I heard they make the best in the area, and the chips and salsa. But that would be rude.
Larry ate a bare chip. I looked at him accusingly. "I'm not a salsa person." he answered. Tennesseans, what curious fools they are. 
We ordered our meals and munched on chips. I listened to the always authentic music overhead. I asked Adam to 'Shazam' the music. Shazam is an app that listens to music, then goes out to the interwebs and finds the song and artist. I have it on my awesome tablet machine, but Los Portales has no WiFi. Adam has one of those 'smart' cellular telephones you may have heard about. These things not only make telephone calls, but they run apps as well. What will they think of next? He harrumphed at me at the thought, but like a good, decent if not completely filial son, he fired it up. It found the song and performer in mere seconds. 'El Siete Leguas' by Antonio Aguilar.  The title refers to a story about  Pancho Villa. Siete Leguas (Seven Leagues) was his horse's name, the story having to do with corruption, coercion and gunfights. A real lively number, trumpets, guitars, male crooners, the usual. I love it.
Another song started up. Shazam found it quickly as well, 'El Parrandero Enamorado' (Roughly, 'The Love Spree.'  That sounds dirty.) By the group 'Control.' Also a very upbeat and lively song.
Yeah, I could sit here, sip a fruity beverage, munch on chips and just bang my head to the great music.
The Food:
Me: #5 One chicken enchilada, one taco, beans and rice.
Angel: Enchiladas Supreme, Three enchiladas, one chesse, one bean, one beef, topped with lettuce and Ranchera sauce.
Adam: Half order of nachos and a chicken taco.
Larry: 3 beef enchiladas, a beef taco and a side of fries. Yeah, French fries. . . Tennesseans.
Food delivery is pretty quick at Los Portales. Most of the stuff is made in batches and assembled and plated to order. We hadn't even finished the chips when the meals arrived.
There's nothing fancy or dolled up on these plates, the food is simple, basic and deliberately not too spicy hot. The menu rather firmly states that ". . . all dishes are meticulously prepared with an authentic, but mild flavor. For those who like it hot we put hot sauce on the table."
I don't mind, I prefer it mild.
Lots of beans and rice on my plate, topped with that oozy, melty white cheese. A rich red sauce coated the enchilada, cheese and beef, the only ingredients in the taco, fell out the side of a crispy, thin shell.
Angel's was a real plateful. Lots of chopped lettuce and tomato and sour cream over the enchiladas, little nuggets of cheese scattered around. I didn't think she'd be able to finish it. She launched into it like a hungry sailor though, this seemed to assuage her foul mood a little.  "Always good, I like my three kinds of enchiladas."
Adam ran out of actual nacho chips well before the lettuce, etc. were used up. "It's hard to complain though." He said, pointing to the half full basket of chips in front of us. He loves the way LP prepares the chicken.
Larry was less vocal and enthusiastic. We'd all tried his fries and decided that though well fried, they were once frozen. They had that distinct one-off taste and texture you get with frozen potato products. Larry shrugged his shoulders though. Adam pointed out that this was a Mexican restaurant, not a burger chain. To complain about the fries here would be like complaining about the soup at a pizza joint. Otherwise he was more happy with the taco than the enchiladas.
I'm going to disqualify myself from the judgment round. I didn't come even close to finishing my meal. I'd made a strategic mistake earlier in the day. I had lunch. I don't usually eat lunch on Saturdays before these meals, but I broke this time. Angel had made up a big batch of Cream of Crab soup on Friday. Need I say more? I'd rather have cream of crab soup than most every other food, most sex, most good books, most years of my life. I couldn't not have some, the last creamy drop, for lunch. I had buttery crackers with it as well, since it was Saturday, so I was still carb-crammed by the time the evening meal came around. I really just wasn't hungry. When you're not really hungry, food just doesn't taste right. Well, except for pie. Pie, and by that I mean apple pie, since I am an American. Pie is good any time. If I were in charge of my life I would have coffee and pie twice or more per day, every day. Sure it would fatten me up and clog my arteries and eventually kill me, but I will have died after having plenty of pie. There are far sadder, sillier and more senseless ways to die.
Summary:
Larry was not overly impressed. Angel was delighted, Adam loves the way they prepare their chicken, I like the music. The food is probably not the best there is, but it is good, close to  home and cheap. Four full meals for thirty six bucks. The service is okay, they take care of things and check for refills and such. They kind of vanished when it was time for the ticket, but we just went up to the counter/bar and they dug it out.
It is certainly the best Mexican food in town, in fact, for several miles in any direction. I've heard from a few contacts about bad experiences there, but have never had a significant problem myself. The place is smokey, so if that is an issue for you then there might be a problem. It's a very popular get together joint and watering hole, so it has a solid, steady clientele.
Still recommended!

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Epilogue: On Sunday I went to the finest auto parts store I know of in the area, Walmart, and picked out a brand new pair of wipers for her SUV, the most expensive brand in the store, since high price=high quality. I even installed them for her, in the rain. Well, she did have to show me how to get the old one off,  but after that I finished the installation all by myself. Nothing but the best for My sweetie!



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