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September 10, 1998
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EL CALDERON

HERE'S SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT. IT MAY JUST BE THE HARDEST-TO-FIND RESTAURANT IN CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA. OFFICIALLY, IT'S NAME IS EL CALDERON (THE CAULDRON). UNOFFICIALLY, YOU WILL FIND IT NEXT TO THE FAST BREAK LOUNGE ON NORTH DECATUR BLVD. SO EVEN MORE UNOFFICIALLY, LET'S CALL IT THE UNLIT DOOR UNDER THE BARLEY-LIT SIGN NEXT TO THE UNDER-LIT FAST BREAK LOUNGE ON NORTH DECATUR. EVEN WITH THESE CLUES TO GUIDE YOU, I GUARANTEE, YOU'LL HAVE TROUBLE FINDING IT. ILLUMINATION, BE IT OF THE RESTAURANT SIGN OR GENERALLY EXCELLENT MEXICAN FOOD, DOES NOT SEEM TO BE OWNER ERNIE VEGA'S STRONG SUIT. TO MY MIND, HE APPEARS TO BE HIDING EITHER FROM HIS CUSTOMERS, THE GOVERNMENT, OR THE ADULATION OF THE RESTAURANT PUBLIC, SHOULD WORD EVER GET OUT JUST HOW EXTRAORDINARY HIS FOOD IS. FANS OF THE OLD VEGA'S CAFE ON WEST CHARLESTON WILL REMEMBER HOW EXTRAORDINARY HIS BEEF MACHACA BURRITOS, CHILI VERDE, AND FRESH FRIED FLOUR TORTILLA CHIPS WERE. THE BIG SECRET IS THAT THEY ARE IN THE PAST NO LONGER AND HAVE BEEN SAFELY ENSCONCED IN THIS REMOTE AND HIDDEN LOCATION FOR YEARS NOW JUST WAITING TO BE REDISCOVERED BY FANS OF TRULY AUTHENTIC AND FRESHLY-PREPARED MEXICAN FOOD.

ON THE MENU, ERNIE'S CHILI VERDE IS LISTED AS VERY DIFFERENT AND VERY HOT. HE MEANS WHAT HE SAYS. IF YOU LIKE TENDER PORK CHUNKS IN A WARM, CLEAR, INCENDIARY BROTH, SERVED WITH ABSOLUTELY FRESH-MADE TORTILLAS, AND TWO PERFECTLY CONTRASTING SALSAS, THEN YOU'VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE. BOTH SALSAS, ONE SMOKY, THIN AND PIQUANT, THE OTHER A FRESH TOMATO, CILANTRO AND ONION STEW, ARE PREFECT FOILS FOR THE MEATS, CHIPS AND TORTILLA CONCOCTIONS WHICH MADE ERNIE VEGA FAMOUS DECADES AGO.

THE CAULDRON HAS SUCCESSFULLY REVIVED THE BEST OF VEGA'S COOKING IN A NON-DESCRIPT ATMOSPHERE AMIDST EVEN LESS DESCRIPT DECOR ON A REMOTE SECTION OF NORTH DECATUR WHICH NO ONE HEADS TO UNLESS THIS SLEAZY STRETCH OF VIDEO POKER BARS IS ALL THE ENTERTAINMENT ONE REQUIRES. BUT THERE ARE OTHER REASONS TO MAKE THIS TRIP BESIDES THE TAWDRY TAVERNS. EL CALDERON KEEPS A TRADITION OF FINE MEXICAN FOOD ALIVE FOR THOSE OF US THAT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. IT SHOULD BE A MUST STOP ON ANYONE'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT TOUR.

EL CALDERON IS LOCATED AT 2245 N. DECATUR BLVD., LAS VEGAS, NV 648-0848.

THIS IS JOHN CURTAS

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