Thursday, June 12, 2014
South of the Border
There are certain things I look for in a Mexican restaurant.
Most of them have nothing to do with food.
I want to hear ranchero music. Not piped in through some high fidelity system with the latest quadraphonic K9000 stereo speakers.
No. I want it blasted from the kitchen. On an AM-FM radio. With a crooked coat hanger fashioned into an antenna.
I want authentic Mexican art. Not the crap sold to tourists down on Olvera street. Or anything whitewashed enough to make it gringo-friendly or Epcot Center appropriate.
I want Dia de Muertos in all its jagged uncomfortable beauty. I want skulls. I want angry looking men with mustaches bigger than my own. I want crucifixes, lots of crucifixes. I want art hung by a guy who was going for symmetry but didn't have the tools or the patience to achieve it.
I want hot-tempered restaurant workers who yell at each other in Spanish. The kind of Spanish that I understand…
"Chinga su madre."
"Chupame mi verga."
"Me cago en todo lo que se menea!"
And I want a salsa bar with a full accompaniment of intimidating raw peppers.
Jalapeños are nice, if you're 7 years old. Serranos have some kick, but are actually best when fried in salt and butter. Habaneros are what I'm looking for. I like the exotic ones grown in the Hunucma region of the Yucatan for maximum burnosity.
Granted, I've built up a tolerance and have what many call an iron gut. But habaneros are the only peppers that meet my high standards.
They're hot twice.
And on exit.
If a Mexican restaurant has all that, and Pinches in Culver City does, the food has to be good. Because the only way to make authentic Mexican food bad is to make it unauthentic.
Oh yeah, my mamma didn't raise no fool, there's one more thing I look for.