isn’t it?” we asked ourselves with, I admit, no real degree of enthusiasm.
On previous visits to Tucson we have eaten at El Charro Café and Mi Nidito—the latter of Adam Richman and Man v. Food fame. And we thoroughly enjoyed both but wanted to try something new. After a Google search, I found Guadalajara Original Grill that promised me my new favorite Mexican menu item—the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail.
“Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Emma Yolanda Vera was inspired to open and operate the original Guadalajara Grill in Tucson, Arizona. Since 2002, The Guadalajara Grill has been offering a wide variety of the best Mexican food, including favorite dishes and innovative fresh dishes that keep…customers coming back. A colorful and warm ambiance surrounds you with original art and décor…” (guadalajaraoriginalgrill.com).
Open Table promised us “Original Mexican cuisine from Guadalajara…. Traditional favorites, innovative appetizers, outstanding seafood dishes, fresh original chile rellenos, endless combinations, chimichangas, sizzlin’ fajitas, delectable desserts, fresh made margaritas, 50 + tequilas, table-side fresh salsa, and evening live music. You'll feel as though walked right in the lively and festive atmosphere of the city of Guadalajara itself…” (opentable.com). The tableside salsa and mariachi music are only available at night and one of their giant margaritas at lunch would have been the end of me for the rest of the day.
When we pulled in to the parking lot, we noticed that it was almost full.
After being seated, the reason was clear. Next to us was a long table at which were seated about twenty or so men “of a certain age.” (Nice way to say old like us.) I do hope that they didn’t ask for separate checks.
Shortly after we were seated, a basket of tortilla chips and dish of salsa appeared on our table. While this wasn’t the award winning tableside salsa (Tucson Weekly Best from 2006 to 2012), it was still very good and was spicier than that found at most Mexican restaurants with a heat that hit in the back of the mouth and had noticeable bits of jalapeno—along with the seeds. It was uncooked and had the distinct taste of Mexican oregano.
It took some time to read through the long menu, but finally Chuck decided to order the Taquitos con Papas! (Yes. You read that right. Papas = potatoes.) Three fresh corn tortillas were stuffed with mashed garlic potatoes and then rolled and lightly fried. Lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo were served on the side and the taquitos were accompanied by beans, rice, guacamole, and sour cream.
“Now most Americans don’t get the carb-on-carb obsession found in many Latin American cuisines. A few good examples are: Pambazo (a Mexican antojito [Ed. Note: street food] consisting of bread with potatoes inside and deep fried), quesadilla de papa, and…taquitos de papa. Frequently found in weekend tianguis [Ed. Note: an open air market or bazaar that is traditionally held on certain market days] and at street fairs in Mexico (and also known as tacos dorados), these puppies are delicious” (vivirlatino.com).
So were “these puppies” delicious? Not so much. There was absolutely no detectable taste of garlic in the potatoes, and therefore the taquitos were very bland—even to Mr. Potato. The application of a bit of salsa helped but did not redeem the blandness of the dish. He did like the refried beans, and the rice was, well, it was your basic Mexican restaurant rice.
One of these days, he is going to decide that he likes guacamole, and on that day, I will be in trouble. But that hasn’t happened yet, so I got to eat the guacamole that Tucson Weekly named as the best in 2009, 2010, and 2012. “Guadalajara's guacamole is a perfect appetizer. Heck, it could even be a perfect meal—it is that good. This simple ‘guac’ has a great texture that can be addicting and hard to resist. It is the perfect thing on a hot Arizona day, especially when paired with crunchy chips and some spicy…salsa. One reason why the guacamole here is the best? The folks at Guadalajara Grill make the stuff fresh twice a day!” (tucsonweekly.com).
I was ready to order my shrimp cocktail when I noticed that this was “Huarache Wednesday.” “What is a huarache?” I asked our server. While I really didn’t understand her explanation, I decided to go for it. “Huarache is a popular Mexican dish consisting of an oblong, fried masa base, with a variety of toppings. The name ‘Huarache’ is derived from the shape of the masa, similar to the popular sandals of the same name….
“Huaraches are topped with green or red salsa, onions, potato, cilantro and any manner of protein such as ground beef or tongue, and then finished with queso fresco cheese. This dish is most popular in its hometown, Mexico City. However, Huaraches have branched out to cities with Mexican-American populations like Chicago, New York, or Houston, but have yet to become widely available across the entire United States.
“Huaraches originated in Mexico City in about the early 1930’s. Their origin was related with a stall at the shore of the La Viga navigation channel, where Mrs. Carmen Gomez Medina prepared tlacoyos [Ed. Note: an oval shaped fried or toasted cake made of masa]…” (wikipedia.org).
The huarache base had been fried to the point of hardness. I couldn’t cut most of it with a knife. One half was topped with pork cooked in chile verde. While the pork was extremely tender, some pieces had more fat that I would have liked. The other half held equally tender beef in a mild red Mexican chile sauce. And dividing the two halves was shredded cheese and pico de gallo. I wish I had ordered the shrimp cocktail.
While Guadalajara Original Grill received four (of five) stars on yelp.com and tripadvisor.com, we were not impressed and only can award 2.5 Addies.
And do you notice something unusual here (photo, left). I wonder what is different about Monday?
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.