Thursday, February 16, 2012

Excursion Along Hildebrand, Part II

My friend Rick and I went to have lunch at Dirty Dogz today, the hotdog place in The Yard. Unfortunately, it's owned and operated by a full-time student who occasionally has to, like, show up at school (!) when she should be waiting behind the counter at her restaurant in case I show up, and be ready to dish up those delicious frankfurter assemblies she sells.  Well. Is there an ironic emoticon for the pompous umbrage felt by a disaffected bombast? If so, imagine it here.

So as we stood out in the parking lot, debating at the last minute where to go when our carefully considered decision has been frustrated (and that's a rare thing ... not the frustration, but the carefully considered decision; usually we decide such things on impulse), I remembered that, several months ago, I decided to peruse all the Mexican restaurants in the Hildebrand Corridor. That in mind, we headed on down McCullough and stopped at the first Mexican place that I hadn't already reviewed.

La Cabaña de Jalisco
727 West Hildebrand
(between Blanco and San Pedro)

The building is only a couple of years old, but this is already the third Mexican restaurant to inhabit it. The interior is still sparkling-clean, attractively done, with dark, rich-looking walls; much of the décor is for sale, including some amusing metal statues that would be perfect for that flea-market eclecticism certain persons near and dear to me regard as desirable for back yards. If I had been here before Valentine's Day instead of just after, I might have left with a two-foot-high juggling rodeo clown, but was just able to restrain my impulse. Seriously.

We had our choice of seating. The place isn't particularly small, but neither is it as large as it looks from outside. The first dining room is well-lit with floor-to-ceiling windows on the street side; the back dining room, on the right side in the photo, has two much smaller windows facing a side parking lot. The rear of the building, from end to end, is taken up by the kitchen; it's separated from the front dining room by a wall pierced by a couple of service windows, while in the back dining room, the separation is achieved by a partial wall. I mention this because, in that part of the kitchen, there is what appears to be a gigantic ice machine, and the noise of its motor provided an unrelenting whine to mask, unsuccessfully, the mildly irritating chatter from a commercial-laden Spanish-language radio talk show that was blaring too loudly from the speaker above our heads. 

The lunch rush, if there is one at this restaurant, had not yet started, and we were the only people there when we arrived just after 11 a.m. By the time we were done, business had picked up to a respectable level, indicating that the place has a chance of surviving the difficult first year.

I went for my usual first-visit meal, one chilaquile taco and one machacado taco, in corn tortillas. Rick chose something a little different from his usual, the tacos al carbon plate, asking for the tacos in flour tortillas. We were served chips and house-made salsa, which were on the high side of acceptable. The chips had an unusual, but not unpleasant, aftertaste; the salsa had a good flavour, though not too piquant, but was pretty thin. Not so entirely liquid that I'd call it watery, but it could do with a little more substance. 
No city inspection yet.

My tacos were also slightly better than average, and I claim high standards for these foods, so average has to be pretty good. The machacado meat was dry, as it should be, yet surprisingly tender, and the mixture of egg and vegetables in which is was cooked retained a good amount of moisture, so that the overall texture was substantially better than average. Although not heavily seasoned, the flavours, too, were good, and in that assessment I include the corn tortillas. The chilaquiles were, I thought, a little on the bland side, as the veggies had been diced so finely that they barely registered on the taste buds. The dominant flavours were simply egg, which is really the flavour of the fat they're cooked in; cheese (cheddar, in this case, shredded and applied in almost too great a quantity ... though judging from the popularity of a certain purveyor of greasy, cheese-laden burgers not far away, that might be intentional); corn, from the tortilla; and just the slightest hint of flavour (and texture) from the fried tortilla chips, the chilaquiles themselves. I would rate this chilaquile taco only average. 

Rick's plate of tacos al carbon was similarly good but not outstanding. The three tacos were served to him in  corn tortillas, even though the waitress had made a point of asking him his preference, which was for flour. Still, he was disinclined to complain, as he considered these corn tortillas to be much better than what he usually experiences. (He almost never gets corn tortillas. Take what you will from that.) The filling consisted of strips of grilled beef, pico de gallo, and avocado, all of which were reasonably fresh and flavourful. He particularly noted the presentation, which I agree was done with a shade more aplomb than is customary in a Tex-Mex restaurant. The accompaniments were also better than average, especially the borracho beans, which might be among the best of that species.

The service was adequate. When we arrived, there were two waitresses on duty. One, though, only brought us menus before returning to a table near the kitchen, where she spent most of the remainder of our visit on her cellphone, leaving the other waitress to do all the work, even after the place started to fill up. Just before we left, the two waitresses switched positions. I find it odd that restaurant employees' breaks would come just as the lunch rush begins. But then, what do I know about it?
La Cabana de Jalisco on Urbanspoon

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