Monday, April 23, 2012

Just a Couple of Kids at Heart

More on that later.

Sometimes you get food cravings and on this day mine was for Mexican. Now I realize that the best one can probably do in Louisiana is the kind of gringo Mexican we had at La Posta in Lafayette.
But I still wanted Mexican and one of the restaurants on my “must visit” list was Juan’s Flying Burrito.

There are two Juan’s in New Orleans. One is a trendy and funky “hole in the wall” on Magazine Street and the other a more conventional looking (from the outside) spot on Carrollton Avenue. Since we surmised that finding parking would be easier near Carrollton, we decided to sacrifice funky for practicality.

That is not to say that the Carrollton Juan’s was totally lacking in funk. The walls were full of chalkboards advertising their drink and other specials. The light fixtures along one wall bore a decided resemblance to the luche libre (Mexican professional wrestling) masks that adorned a restaurant by the same name in San Diego. And the wait staff and diners both sported a respectable number of tats.

Juan’s bills itself as a Creole Taqueria, although I am not sure why. The menu didn’t contain a jambalaya burrito nor did it contain gumbo enchiladas. I am sure that the owners had a reason, but not one that I can determine.

And while Juan’s offers the full range of Mexican staples, they are most famous for their giant burritos. These include: The Flying Burrito with grilled steak, gulf shrimp, and chicken with cheddar and jack cheese, black beans, yellow rice, salsa, sour cream, and
guacamole rolled in a grilled tortilla; Jerk Chicken with cheddar and jack cheeses, black beans, yellow rice, salsa, sour cream, and avocado in a lightly grilled tortilla; Al Pastor with slow-cooked shredded pork, grilled onions, pineapple salsa, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, pinto beans, and yellow rice; The Wet Burrito with beans, rice, lettuce, and salsa smothered in red enchilada sauce and melted cheese and then topped with sour cream and jalapenos; The Super Green with grilled mixed vegetables, green chile, spinach, onion, peppers, broccoli, jalapenos, mushroom, avocado, and salsa wrapped in a lightly grilled spinach tortilla.

The Al Pastor sounded delicious, but I fortunately saw the size of the burritos before ordering and knew that this would be way too much food. So both Chuck and I went in a different direction.

First, we started with an order of chips and salsa. This was an un-
cooked salsa fresca or salsa crude and was made with chopped tomato, red onion, and, to give it a moderate level of heat, some chopped pickled jalapenos. The tortilla chips were thin and crisp, but I suspect were not prepared in-house.

And Chuck and Kitty Humbug, believing in the adage that “it’s five o’clock somewhere,” shared a bottle of Negro Modelo, which is
described at boston phoenix. com as a “crisp, full-bodied beer. It’s deeper and more complex than Dos Equis (or Sam Adams), and its malty, slightly chocolate flavor offers the right counterpoint to a spicy mole sauce—or even just chips and salsa—on a humid day.” Beer writers are sounding more like Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate.

When it was time for our entrees, we both went with tacos. My choice was the plate of three Blackened Redfish Tacos with creamy
cilantro slaw and salsa fresca and served on grilled flour tortillas. These were, to again quote Guy Fieri:
“Bananas. And bananas is good.” The blackening spice along with the use of a fish common to Louisiana was the closest thing to Creole that I saw on the menu. The tacos contained a good portion of moist and flakey fish pieces and a lightly dressed green and red cabbage slaw. My only complaint is that I would have liked a more pronounced cilantro flavor to the slaw.

Chuck also ordered tacos, but mixed his plate to include: one Pork N
Slaw with shredded pork, jack and cheddar cheese, and spicy slaw in grilled tortillas with salsa fresca; one Mardi Gras Indians with roasted corn, pinto beans, and grilled squash with jack and cheddar cheese, and spicy slaw on grilled corn tortillas; and one Juan’s Taco with ground beef, beans, cheese, lettuce, and salsa in grilled tortillas. I didn’t get the opportunity to taste them, but he seemed to enjoy all three—especially the Pork N Slaw.

As we were finishing our meal, I looked around the restaurant and remarked to Chuck that we frequently are the oldest patrons at many of the spots we visit. And Juan’s was no exception.

Now the Carrollton Juan’s is just a block from Angelo Brocato’s, our favorite gelateria and we were planning on a short walk for dessert. And then Chuck spied one of the. chalkboards. “What are pop stars?” he asked.

“I don’t know” I replied. “Maybe they’re like jello shots.” So we asked our server and learned that they are Juan’s house-made popsicles.

That’s all we needed to hear. Time for a change of plans. It was the mango and lemongrass pop star for me

and the raspberry and lemon meringue for Chuck. So there we sat. Two old people slurping on popsicles and channeling our inner children.

I won’t claim that Juan’s serves authentic Mexican, but sometimes you take what you can get, and we got more than we expected with this 4.0 Addie lunch.

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