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October 08, 1998
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EL SOMBRERO

ANY RESTAURANT THAT’S REMAINED OPEN FOR 47 YEARS IS DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. WHEN IT HAS MANAGED TO DO SO IN A SEEDY PART OF TOWN WHILE NEVER SERVING ANYTHING OVER 10 BUCKS IS JUST SHORT OF A MIRACLE.

BUT ONE VISIT TO THE EL SOMBRERO CAFE WILL DEMONSTRATE HOW SUCH A PHENOMENON HAS HAPPENED RIGHT HERE IN THE FAKE FOOD CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. AND IN THE WORST LOCATION FOR A RESTAURANT I’VE EVER SEEN. AS SOME OF YOU KNOW, A TRIP TO THE NETHER REGION SOUTH OF FREMONT STREET IS AS SCENIC AND CUSTOMER FRIENDLY AS A TURKISH JAIL. UNLESS YOU NEED SOME INDUSTRIAL DRY-CLEANING, A SPOT-WELDING JOB, OR A $40 HOOKER, THERE’S LITTLE REASON TO GO THERE. BUT METRO DOES A FINE JOB OF KEEPING THE HOI POLLOI AWAY FROM THIS PLACE--ENSURING THAT MR. AND MRS. BMW FEEL SAFE WHEN THEY LEAVE THE CONFINES OF THEIR STUCCO FARM FOR SOME HONEST MEXICAN FOOD.

IN EVERYWAY POSSIBLE, EL SOMBRERO IS THE ANTITHESIS OF THE CARTOONISH CHAIN-LINKS WHICH HAVE DUMBED DOWN AND RUINED MEXICAN FOOD FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION OF AMERICANS. FFT TIP #26: ALL HYPER-THEMED CATTLE-TROUGHS---BE THEY THE FAT HOG CAFE OR THE LATEST FRESH-MEX EYESORE--DO JUST ONE THING RIGHT--THEY ENABLE REALLY RICH PEOPLE TO GET EVEN RICHER. REASON ENOUGH TO VENTURE TO SOUTH MAIN STREET THE NEXT TIME YOU’VE GOT A HANKERIN’ FOR SOME LETHAL SALSAS, AN INCREDIBLE BURRITO, OR A CHILI VERDE THAT’LL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. SO GOOD ARE ALL THE FRESH AND STEWED CHILIS HERE THAT YOU WILL EASILY REACH THAT STATE OF MASOCHISTIC GASTRONOMIC BLISS---WHERE PAIN AND PLEASURE INVADE YOUR SENSES SIMULTANEOUSLY. TRUE CHILI ARTISTRY.

IN 1950, HARRY TRUMAN WAS PRESIDENT, PEOPLE WERE STILL USING BLOCKS OF ICE TO REFRIGERATE THEIR FOOD, AND FRANK SINATRA WAS SUPPOSEDLY WASHED UP. IN THAT YEAR CLEMENTE GRIEGO OPENED A SMALL AND UNASSUMING MEXICAN CAFE ON MAIN STREET IN LAS VEGAS NEVADA. TODAY HIS NEPHEW, JOSE ARAGON, AND HIS WIFE TERESA, KEEP IT HUMMING IN THE SAME SPIRIT OF QUALITY AND FRIENDLINESS WITH WHICH IT STARTED. MOST EVERYTHING ABOUT AMERICA AND LAS VEGAS HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN. WE SHOULD ALL BE THANKFUL THAT THE EL SOMBERO HASN’T.

EL SOMBRERO IS LOCATED AT 807 S. MAIN ST., LAS VEGAS, NV 382-9234.

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