Along with a Dollar General and a generations old gas station, no Southern town would be complete without a Mexican restaurant. I practically grew up on “cheese dip” and fuh-gee-tas served in dimly lit cantinas decorated with ceramic peppers and sombreros. And Taco Bell…c’est magnifique! It is therefore no surprise my tastes are hardwired to Uncle Sam’s selective and rudimentary attempts at “authentic” Mexican cuisine.
Bearing this in mind, I was slightly concerned when my friend Chandler Moore approached me Wednesday, Oct. 9, and suggested Los Amigos for lunch. Los Amigos is a grocery and cafe restaurant nestled in the corner of Clinton Square on Highway 80 mere moments away from campus. It sells authentic Mexican groceries, and, the rumor goes, authentic Mexican food. Several faculty and students have lauded the place for the rare and exceptional delicacy of their menu.
Our lunch was a late one at about 1:30 in the afternoon. To our surprise, the store’s lunch rush was still in full swing. The place was alive with conversations, mostly in Spanish, and a steady sizzle poured into the crowded air from the kitchen in the corner. The diners were seated in the midst of the shelves overflowing with sundry products; some brands were familiar, but the majority were not. I was, however, very familiar with Jarritos, a brand of soda made with real cane sugar unlike its American counterparts. Drinks are not on the menu, so I grabbed a glass bottle Jarritos cola from the fridge and sat down at a table. Chandler grabbed a Mountain Dew equivalent and joined me.
Perusing the menu, which was written in Spanish, I found several of the favorites I’ve known my whole life: quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas; but also ones I never heard of, like tortas and chilaquiles. Chandler ordered two chorizo tacos in soft shells. I figured I could be safe and order a chicken quesadilla, like so many of my forebears in Instagram stories have, or I could branch out and try one of their specialties. I opted for the latter, and asked our waitress what was her favorite. The answer was a hearty endorsement of the enchiladas with grilled chicken. I agreed, and our waitress took our orders in shorthand on a note to the kitchen behind us.
Chandler’s arrived first. His tacos overflowed with blackened chorizo, shreds of lettuce, and a garnish of white cheese. A small side of spicy guacamole/salsa verde came with it, along with a half of a lime. After dressing the tacos thus, Chandler took a bite. “It slaps, it’s really good,” he said before finishing them off like a starved animal, clearly relishing the delicacy.
Mine arrived in state on a rectangular platter. The three enchiladas were covered in a green salsa verde – and looked very, very good. I took a bite and was immediately hooked by the perfect smokiness of the chicken and the refreshing zest of the salsa. Unlike my cohort, I savored mine slowly for the flavor and for the speed by which they filled me up. I could only make it through two, so I gave the last to Chandler for him to try. They were just too delicious.
I will be returning to try some of their other house specialties. For substantial and savory Mexican food for around $10 a lunch, head to Los Amigos!