Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NewsFlash: City Paper is Too Cool for Tex-Mex

I'm calling you out, Washington City Paper. I'm pointing the finger squarely at you for tarnishing the image of my fair city. The next time some clueless I-paid-too-much-for-my-broomcloset-of-a-condo NYCer starts running his mouth about the cultural backwater that is the nation's capital, I'm sending him over immediately to talk with you. Why, you may ask? Simple:

The City Paper Best of DC Poll.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "The Best of DC poll? But that's always been rubbish." And I would agree. Raku is the region's best Asian restaurant? The hottest fashions in the District are to be found at Ann Taylor? The list of absurdities could go on and on. But, in their reach for biting irony, we now are blessed with this nugget from a CP staffer:

The Rockville Pike Chili's is the region's second-best Tex-Mex restaurant. According to said City Paper contributor, when it comes to Tex-Mex food:

Lamer is better. Tex-Mex is Mexican food tuned to sloppy, portion-crazed American palates[...]In short, the ideal second-best Tex-Mex place is the Chili’s in Rockville. Both because that’s what we deserve, and because it is reliably so-so-bordering-amazing every single time.

You can almost hear the snickering coming from the CP editor's desk as they reviewed that copy. "Yeah man, Tex-Mex food is so lame, let's demonstrate how lame it is by selecting a bland, freeway-food caliber chain restaurant that doesn't even purport to be a Tex-Mex restaurant as one of the region's best!"

Even in the annals of City Paper snarkiness, this is a new level.

And yes, I get that it's supposed to be ridiculous. I get that the writer was showing his general disdain for Tex-Mex food (and the constant fawning over DC establishment Lauriol Plaza) with his selection. But that ignores two important points: 1) not all Tex-Mex is created equally, and 2) there are a number of fine establishments doing it quite well here in DC. Alternately, skip right past the "Tex" portion altogether and head straight for one of our area's wonderful Mexican-oriented establishments.

For instance, head over to La Plaza or La Loma on Capitol Hill, or head up to La Lomita in Chevy Chase, for some Salvadoran-tinged Tex-Mex done pretty darn well. I'm sure other readers could submit their own, and the list would go on and on.

But no. The CP wasn't actually trying to give us good Tex-Mex recommendations, it was going to show everyone a thing or two about how uncool the whole Tex-Mex thing, and consequently DC's culinary proclivities, is. It's so uncool, in fact, that a nondescript strip mall joint that doesn't even serve Tex-Mex food is the poster child for for this gastronomical abomination. I mean, if that's the angle you're going for, at the very least put forth local chain California Tortilla and keep the recommendation local. But that would indicate that the CP actually cared about such things.

So, thanks for that CP. And thanks for reminding me that Starbucks is the second-best coffee shop in town, that Barnes & Noble is one of our best book stores, and that IKEA is one of our top furniture retailers. I'm so overwhelmed by this torrent of information, that I'm proposing a category of my own: Most Uselessly Bland Collection of Commercial and Culinary Recommendations. I think I might even have a winner.


okienoodler said...

Seriously, La Loma is your example of quality Tex-Mex? I love your blog, but I have to strongly disagree with you on this. La Loma, quite simply, is not good. Most of the time their taco shells are stale and their salsa, which I consider to be the measuring stick for any decent Tex-Mex, is dangerously close to a flavorless gazpacho. These are just two gripes regarding La Loma, I won't bore you with the rest.

The plain truth is: DC has a dearth of decent Tex-Mex.

Look at Lauriol Plaza, which does an unbelievable amount of business. In other major cities, especially in the Southwest, that place would be out of business in 6 months. (And please don't jump down my throat commenters. I am not attacking the DC restaurant scene on the whole, just the Tex-Mex scene.)

14th and You: I know you agree with me on the quality of Lauriol, but I also think it's popularity proves just how low the bar is set for Tex-Mex in DC.

Scenic Artisan said...

i recently tried that place on 9th. El Sol de America and thought it was pretty terrific.
but like most of us in dc, i'm totally east coast and realize i dont know shit about good mexican.

Mr. 14th & You said...

That's kind of the point, Scenic. Sure, compared to Texas or New Mexico, our Tex-Mex cuisine may not be up to snuff (however there are a number of Salvadoran restaurants here that do the standard Tex-Mex dishes quite well), but we CERTAINLY have better choices than Chilis, which isn't even Tex-Mex.

I realize that complaining about the City Paper can feel like spitting in the wind, but I just found this particular piece to be absurd--even by their standards.

sixfive said...

haha, excellent. I agree regarding the dearth, but going with Chilis was just a ridiculous move.

Anonymous said...

Mi Rancho in Silver Spring, Germantown, and Rockville has the best Tex-Mex in the area.

okienoodler said...

Oh yeah, don't get me wrong. The Washington City Paper putting Chili's on their list is beyond absurd. I am not debating that. I am, however, debating the argument that DC has a decent Tex-Mex scene. (I am not really sure what Salvadorean Tex-Mex is, though, so maybe I should stop right there.)

Never tried Mi Rancho, but will certainly give it a whirl.

Radman said...

tia queta in bethesda: great owner, roof top deck, good drinks, innovative cuisine.

el mariachi in rockville: family run (ask for sylvia as a waitress), best fajitas in dc area.

Sam said...

I thought that Best Buy as the best electronics store was really stupid too. If there is no real answer to the poll, then they just need to get rid of the category altogether.

Anyway, I would vote for Guapo's in Tenleytown as the best Tex Mex in DC.

Allison said...

I have to agree with okienoodler. The Tex-Mex "scene" is just about the only thing that is worse in DC than it is back home (Oklahoma). I've found it ranges between "fine" and "awful". Lauriol Plaza makes me sad inside.

There are obviously a lot of Central American restaurants to choose from, but if we're talking true Texan-Mexican food, I usually just hold out until my Christmas visit with my parents.

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Dijeta said...

Anyway, I would vote for Guapo's in Tenleytown as the best Tex Mex in DC.