Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where "Extreme" Means "Excess"

Marianito's Extreme Tex-Mex Grill
2102 Bandera Road
(a block south of the Evers Road crossing)
Cash Only!

People in television like to pretend that their programs are without unintended consequences. They may be right, I don't know; but looking around the dining room at Marianito's Extreme Tex-Mex Grill makes me wonder. It contains, and I do not exaggerate, the highest concentration of morbidly obese people that I have seen in San Antonio (a city known nation-wide for its fat people). I'm no lightweight myself, but in that dining room, I definitely felt myself to be in the bottom half of the blubber curve.

Marianito's was* on a Food Network program called "Outrageous Food" because of its signature menu item, the Extreme Grizzly, a seven-pound burrito. Eat it in an hour and it's free; otherwise it's $24.95. Well, everyone knows that truly outrageous come-ons like that are only really meant to attract attention, and if it didn't work, people wouldn't keep doing it. So I have no qualm about this kind of binge-eating tease, though I do feel some pity for the people who are driven to take up such a lose-lose challenge.

The walls are decorated with graffiti claiming victory over the Grizzly, or more often loss, and with endorsements by a host of other customers, claiming to have come from Wisconsin and Indiana and other Ends Of The Earth for the great food at Marianito's; one person claimed to have come all the way from downtown, but I discount that one as not credible. [Imagine the appropriate emoticon here.] Another came from Kentucky with his cousin, soon to be his wife; that one, I believe. Some Pittsburgh Steelers left their mark, as did some Dallas Cowboys, and no doubt if I'd've looked further I would have found ringing praises from Spurs and Rockets and possibly some Mavericks, no doubt written on the ceiling without the aid of a stepstool. But most of the inscriptions were from ordinary folk, scribbled in what passes for orthography in this LMAO age. Having something to do while waiting for your order is never an issue at this place.

The service was good, in a casual, down-home way, as though our waiter would pull up a chair and have a beer with us when he got the chance, except they don't have a beer license. The place is family-friendly, and I suspect they feel that adding beer and wine to the offerings might attract, you know, the wrong sort. No problem, they have water and plenty of soft drinks, and let's be honest: you ain't gonna have room for no beer when you've eaten here.

The chips and salsa were on the table right away. The salsa is very much to my liking, with just the right degree of chunkiness and the perfect degree of viscosity, and an exquisite flavour blend of tomato, onion, peppers and just a hint of cilantro. The chips, though, seemed on their way to being stale. The same chips were used in the Philly Cheese Steak Nachos, and were one of two failings in that otherwise very good dish. The other failing I noted was that the assembly of the plate was uneven, so that the chips around the edge, and on the bottom, were unimproved, while others near the center and top were so loaded down with shaved meat, white cheese, and grilled peppers and onions, that they could barely support the weight.

My companion for the evening had ordered the jalapeño pepper-jack burger. Marianito's cooks its burgers well-done, which was fine with my friend; and even I, who customarily order such things medium-rare, have to admit that the meat pattie was still juicy despite being so cooked. The other ingredients were fresh, and plentiful, and the bun was soft and tasty. Kudos for the burger. And also for the steak fries, which were perfectly cooked as well, with a crispy edge and plenty of fluffy potato taste inside.

Last city inspection: December 2011
12 demerits
My burrito was less perfect. Even the baby burritos here are massive things. I ordered a Gila Monster, which turns out to be a cheeseburger wrapped in a tortilla instead of a bun. All the ingredients were good, right down to the Dijon mustard, but, my word, there was a lot of it. This thing, forlornly presented alone on an large oval platter, was at least fifteen inches long, four inches wide, and three inches high. (If my gay readers will stop sniggering, I will say that I had to have a go-box for half of it, and that it was just as good cold, the next day.) Cutting the thing into bite-sized pieces proved to be quite a challenge: it was impossible to cut with a fork, and difficult to cut with a knife. If I could have held it in my two hands I could have bitten chunks off, but in addition to the size of it, it was hot, and greasy. The tortilla was folded so thick on one side that it was practically fused into a solid lumpy seam of bread, which only grudgingly yielded to the dull steel of a table knife.

If I were not still ambitious about losing some weight, I would have loved to try the desserts here. They sound delicious. When I get thin (notice that I say "when," despite eating out so often) I may come back here and splurge on a Tex-Mex cannoli or a dose of fried ice cream. Until then, though, I'll just think about it.

Marianito's Extreme Tex-Mex Grill on Urbanspoon
* or maybe will be; the network's website lists March 12 as the broadcast date, but the restaurant already has it on their business cards.

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