One of the dreaded realities of life is a trip to the dentist. Each of us has our own favorite part to dread - from the lecture about flossing to the whine of the drill (and the smell of burning tooth). My complaint is the inability to talk back as the dentist opines about politics, movies, or the rising cost of silver (for fillings, of course).
I consider myself lucky, however, because my dentist has tastes similar to mine in politics and local culture. I just wish I could get a word in edgewise, at least more than a garbled acknowledgment that yes, indeed, Scott Matheson should run again for political office.On a recent visit, my head was nodding regularly and my cotton packed mouth moaning in agreement as he discussed the lackluster quality of Mexican food found in many restaurants around town. There is little question that this popular and versatile cuisine has been reduced, as one restaurant critic back East lamented, to "hot plates covered with lukewarm food with the texture of baby food that all seems to ooze together." In short, it has been standardized to ordinary predictability. What seems to matter most among many diners is getting the most for the cheapest price.
This standardization seems to be a trap that has befallen the Guadalajara Restaurant downtown. Even before diners can peruse the lengthy menu (at least what first appears to be a lengthy menu), flyers fall out plugging the "all you can eat fajita buffet" offered during luncheon and selected dinner hours.
As if 16 dinner specials, among which chimichangas, chile verde, quesadillas are offered, aren't enough, another page tries to top Casey Cassem's top 40. Another page lists over 40 combinations of such items as tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales, tostadas and rellenos, priced from $3.85 for one beef taco with rice and beans to $8.25 for the deluxe combination. An exhaustive menu does not always indicate a good restaurant. We were a bit exhausted trying to decide among the almost limitless combinations of standard dishes.
After nibbling the complimentary warm corn chips and somewhat watery though spicy salsa, we asked our waiter to recommend some of the specialities of the house. We also wanted a side order of the chile verde, one indicator of a Mexican restaurant's strengths.
He suggested the enchilada Acapulco ($6.95), a finely ground blend of red peppers and crab meat stuffed into a flour tortilla garnished with avocado slices, sour cream, olives and fresh tomato. It had little distinctive texture, though the crab meat filling was lively in flavor.
Another recommendation was the tacos de carnitas ($6.95), three soft-shell tacos filled with cubes of pork that appeared to have been grilled and then heated by frying. The meat had a dry and crusty consistency; the tacos were topped with guacamole and sour cream and bits of onion and tomato. Each of these dishes was served with an ample but bland portion of refried beans, also a bit on the soupy side, and pallid rice.
The side order of the chile verde, prepared with green tomato (or tomatillo, we presumed) according to the menu, was highlighted by green and sweet red bell pepper slices and chunks of onion. There was not a hint of the green tomato. It was very mild, though the chunks of pork were tender - an interesting contrast to the chewiness of the pork in the tacos.
Other entree specials include bistec Mexicano ($6.55), steak topped with tomato, bell pepper; carnita michuacanas ($6.75), pork chunks served with onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, guacamole and sour cream; pollo deshebrado ($6.50), shredded breast of chicken sauteed with tomato, onion, garlic and pepper; bistec en Rajitas ($6.55), marinated steak strips with salsa roja; grilled chicken ($5.95) and sirloin steak ($6.95), both seasoned with onions and bell peppers; and parrillada Aztec ($15.95), a combination fajita dish for two that includes shrimp, chicken and sirloin strips.
Other seafood items besides the enchilada Acapulco include halibut ($5.95) with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes; camarones del Golfo ($7.25), shrimps sauteed in a lemon-laced tomato sauce; and Javier's special ($7.95), a crab meat omelet with cheese and garnished with avocado, sour cream, tomato and olives.
Other offerings on the lengthy, though occasionally monotonous bill of fare, include crab, taco, and chicken salads as well as huevos rancheros, chorizo con huevos, and specialty soups with either shrimp or fish as well as menudo, offered on weekends.
Guadalajara Restaurant is adjacent to a club, from which emanates constant loud music. Like the music's recurrent beat, the fare we sampled lacked any originality.
Guadalajara Club and Restaurant, 200 West Second South, 359-8888. Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Dinner served until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, till 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. Accepts check with guarantee card and major credit cards.