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November 18, 1999


La Taqueria

If you listened last week you know that I had a jolly-good time trashing Taco Bell. True, it was like shooting fish--or bad tacos--in a barrel, but there's only so much alimentary effrontery my system can stand. Now I think I could digest a brick without discomfort, providing it was properly seasoned. But, after two meals there, yes, I said two (even Taco Bell got my customary second visit) I can now speak with confidence about what Alexander Wolcott referred to as "giving consequence to the common people at play", or in this case, giving no consequence to what mindless people with no taste or money are having for dinner. And if the flavors weren't bad enough, the sociological implications of Taco Bell being the world's largest restaurant franchise is almost enough to turn me into a bald, saffron-robed dali. Just try saying that after two Chaplupa and an exploding Gorditia sometime. But rather than spend any more time bemoaning the corporate dumbing down of our restaurant culture, I thought I'd mention some alternatives to what may be the worst excuse for a meal in the United States. We are fortunate to have a number of family-run, locally owned or small regional franchises like Rigo's Tacos, Tacos Mexico, and Roberto's which, at their worst, have the personality, flavors and authenticity that corporate America will never be interested in. About the only place you'll see them advertising is on Telemundo or Univision (those are Spanish-speaking stations for all you gringos out there) and by the way, those TV channels are great late-night watching and are a fine source for finding where Mexican-Americans like to eat. I don’t understand a word, but all the Spanish programming is full of passion, music and big-chested women. Throw in a few homemade restaurant commercials, and I am one happy illiterate--and hungry--insomniac. Next week where all this late night research has taken me and why you may have to go where gringos fear to tread if you want to wipe the Taco Bell blight from you mind.

This is Juan Curtas.

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