I've had Mexican food all my life. Both of my parents were from southern Arizona and, in the days before McD's, Mexican food was their fast food. When they moved to the Midwest, they decided to make their own. As surprising as it might seem today, there were no restaurants serving this cuisine. You couldn't even get tortillas at the market. So I learned to do it all, from tacos to tostadas to enchiladas. We made piles of it.
As a result, I'm always excited to try a new Mexican restaurant. We drove about 40 minutes to Bevis in western Hamilton County to find Xochimilco (so-chee-MIL-co), which means "place of flowers." The name is recognizable to anyone from Mexico because it is a famous canal region of Mexico City.
The place was fairly busy when we arrived, and it remained steady all evening. The server arrived and seemed annoyed that we weren't ready to order when we got there, as I am sure a regular would be. She gave us a little time and provided us with tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were commercially prepared and a bit stale, but the salsa was spicy and fresh. We ordered the cheese dip ($2.25), which wasn't melted yellow cheese food, but a pleasant white cheese, stringy and lumpy, which was obviously cheese once upon a time.
As I looked around, the surroundings were pleasant enough, flowers and piñatas all around, albeit plastic and dusty. We ordered a Quesadilla with Chicken ($2.75) which arrived in no time, a flour tortilla with cheese, salsa and chicken, heated up, folded over and chucked on a plate.
For dinner my wife had the Chicken Fajitas ($9), huge, big-as-your-head chunks of red and green peppers, onions and chicken on the obligatory sizzle plate with a side of beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. It came with warm flour tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil. If all this seems like just a list of ingredients, that's because that's all it was. The chicken wasn't even cooked on the sizzle plate. (My guess is that Xochimilco's kitchen cooks all the chicken at once for all their various chicken needs.) It was difficult to build our fajitas because the pepper chunks were so big, overwhelming the taste of everything else so powerfully we took to shredding them with the aforementioned very dull knife.
I had a big-ass combo dinner, called "Special Dinner Estilo Chihuahua" ($9.75). This consists of an enchilada (a bit dry, crying for more red sauce), a chile relleno (tasty and meaty but this one was weeping for a molé sauce and squirted out all over when I smashed it with my very dull knife), rice (oddly enough, pink) and beans (authentic and probably made from scratch) all on one plate. Another plate had a taco (the shell tasted like the box it came in, although the meat was good), a passable chalupa (corn tortilla topped with beans lettuce and guacamole -- we called them tostadas when I was a kid) and a bomb of a tamale (huge, very dry and tough). Will somebody give me a sharp knife?
We ordered a fried ice cream for dessert, which I suspect was never near the fryer. But it was a good sundae. Really.
Honestly, all the food was, well, pedestrian, which Random House defines as "lacking in vitality, imagination, or distinction; commonplace." Which pretty much sums it up. It wasn't bad; I ate most of it. It just wasn't alive or vibrant. It was ingredients, and it looked like every other Mexican restaurant's food.
Except for one place in Phoenix, which had nearly the same menu as every Mexican restaurant. But, man, the salsas were fresh, the tortillas homemade, guacamole from avocados, not cans, meats fresh, fish fresher, everything spicy and exotic.
My guess is that there's a Mexican restaurant near you. I'd suggest you try it. And if you live in Bevis, you should go to Xochimilco.
I'm still waiting for a Mexican place to surprise me around here. I know it can be done. ©
Go: 3547 Springdale Road, Bevis
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Payment: Major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty of vegetarian dishes
Accessibility: Handicap parking only