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Dining

[The Mexican Food Issue]

That’s not Mexican food: Defending our guilty pleasures

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Even in Mexico, sometimes a guy just needs Chili’s chicken fajitas.

THE CALL OF TEX-MEX

I was embarrassed to ask, but nostalgia was calling, and its name was Chili’s chicken fajitas.

I was living in Guadalajara, Mexico, after college, and my Mexican girlfriend and I had gone to the movies and emerged ready for dinner. There was a Chili’s on the ground floor of the multiplex, and although I embraced real Mexican food—tongue tacos from a local puesto, the city’s signature torta ahogada—the guilty pleasure of franchise fajitas beckoned.

One of the first Chili’s in my hometown of Baltimore opened mere blocks from my childhood home, and my brother and I loved the endless free soda refills and the chicken fajitas. In my teens, friends and I would hit Chili’s before heading to the movies.

So, I mustered the courage and meekly asked my girlfriend if we could go to Chili’s for dinner. “Of course,” she responded, indicating not a shred of offense at my desire to eat this Americanized version of her country’s cuisine. “It’s not Mexican food, it’s Tex-Mex,” she declared. “They’re entirely different.” –Tovin Lapan

THE PERFECT BREAKFAST

All breakfast burritos are equal, but some breakfast burritos are more equal than others. George Orwell never ate at Fausto’s, but I’ve been to the Henderson taco shop enough to cover his share and then some. I mostly swing by on lazy Sundays, for the can’t-get-it-anywhere-else (that I know of) omelet burrito—diced ham, melted cheddar and tangy pico de gallo wrapped within a layer of egg cocooned inside a flour tortilla. Far from the jumble of your average breakfast wrap, this thing’s consistent bite-to-bite. Pro tip: Splurge for an 85-cent side of sour cream, and dab it as you go. –Spencer Patterson

It might be 88 percent beef, but it's 100 percent delicious.

GOING LOCO

Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos taco is the dish that has created 15,000 jobs since its inception … at least according to Taco Bell, and I am proud to be a job creator, even if it is for a soulless corporate entity. If you’re going to sell your soul, go down the Cool Ranch path. And if you’re concerned with the fact that this taco meat might be only 88 percent beef, don’t forget that it’s 100 percent delicious! –Jim Begley

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