The word “princess” does not exactly evoke words like “affordable,” down to earth” or “reasonable.” So, when I found out we were going out for Mexican food at a place called La Hacienda at the Fairmount Scottsdale Princess Hotel, I braced for the worse in terms of how expensive the meal would be. I truly just can’t understand the purpose of expensive Mexican food unless the place is blazing new trails. I hoped that La Hacienda would do just that.
There’s something about this time of year that just makes me wants Mexican food. Is it because of Cinco de Mayo? Probably not. In fact, it is probably just that I always want Mexican food. It is a curse, but one that I hoped to find the cure for at Casa Reyna in the Strip District. You see, the Strip District is ethnic food central, so I figured it would have passable Mexican, especially considering Casa Reyna is an extension of a Mexican grocery store.
San Francisco’s Financial District may not be lauded for their Mexican food (that distinction belongs to the Mission from what I hear), yet somehow I found myself at Tropisueño getting down with Mexico. A far cry from a simple taqueria, Tropisueño is a pretty classy place, with mood lighting and menu prices somewhat reflecting a neighborhood that calls itself the Financial District.
As a city with only 2.3% of its population claiming Hispanic or Latino as its ancestry, Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a hub of south-of-the-border cuisine. Yet, I had heard rumors of a delicious upscale Mexican restaurant called Verde in an area of town called Garfield and headed there one night when my momma took me out to dinner. After all, upscale as a student is typically only in the lexicon when parents are around.
Out in the suburbs of Minneapolis is a place called St. Louis Park. Within that park is the West End, a mall containing, well, you know what malls have. This one, though, had a restaurant called Rojo. Mexican in theme, the place was slightly upscale and was kind of what is expected from Mexican restaurants so far from the border. Nothing was particular creative or exciting-looking, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For a friend’s birthday, we headed out to Salsa and Beer in Lake Balboa to eat some birthday Mexican food. Having never really been to Lake Balboa and having mostly heard sketchy things about that part of town, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Salsa and Beer. Yet, some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had has come from sketchy places, so my expectations were somewhat mixed.
As soon as I walked in, though, I had a feeling this was going to be a great meal. Looking around, I saw happy faces and giant platters of Mexican food. On top of that, my sense of smell was sending me strong messages. Once the rest of our group arrived, I finally got a chance to look at the menu and was floored. First I was floored by the sheer size of the menu. Figuring out what to eat wasn’t going to easy. Once I started looking around, I realized the prices weren’t going to make things any easier, because everything was damn cheap.
Heading into La Sirena Grill in Laguna Beach, I really had no idea what to expect. I had followed a friend there and hoped for the best. Walking in, we were somehow immediately in line to order from the counter. The line wasn’t terribly fast, though, so I had some time to figure out what to order. I was pretty impressed to see that the place used only grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. I don’t usually go out of my way to find restaurants like these, but I’m always happy when I do. Most importantly, though, the price of the food hadn’t been jacked up like it usually is when something is green or organic.
After a long drive back from Phoenix, I was willing to eat about anything. Luckily in Ontario, we came across El Torito, a Mexican sit-down restaurant that is all over California. I actually saw El Torito in Istanbul, which has kept me from going for a long time because I question their authenticity. Nonetheless, I had put off El Torito for long enough and I was so damn hungry.