Abuelo’s: A Mexican Dinner

img_3004Last night my wife and I went to a Mexican restaurant called Abuelo’s, which means grandfather in Spanish, and it was quickly apparent why in Mexican culture the cooking is traditionally done by women. Overall, it’s been the worst Mexican restaurant I’ve been to since moving to Memphis, not that all aspects of the meal were bad. The waitress we had was very good and incredibly nice, Leigh I think her name was. She could have been in a bad mood because we showed up half an hour before they closed but she was awesome and made us comfortable despite being a couple of only a handful of people in the restaurant at that time. She was quick on with the refills, something I hold in high regard, and when she found out it was our first time there she gave us some recommendations and was very personable. To start, the waitress brought out salsa but unlike most of the other Mexican restaurants I’d been to it wasn’t just a bowl of salsa but rather a sampler bowl with three different compartments holding different kinds of salsa. The first was a traditional salsa, the second was tomatillo and pineapple based, and the third was the hottest one with charred jalapeños. I enjoyed the traditional salsa although to me that was the hottest of the three, and the verde salsa was very good too with it’s subtle hints of sweetness masking very little spice. I was looking forward to the spicy option but all I could taste was the charred pepper and the spice which wasn’t the greatest flavor so I only had the one bite.

We also ordered a cheese dip and it was okay, with nothing really standing out about it. It was cold and I wondered if it was possibly the result of being so close to closing time that we were just being served food that had been sitting out for a while rather than making something fresh, a common question my wife and I discussed throughout the evening. I ordered the Laredo plate which came with two enchiladas, one beef and one cheese, a beef crunchy taco, refried beans, and papas con chile, a side I chose over rice and would be the best thing about my meal. My wife ordered a steak fajita chimichanga that looked really good on the menu and on the plate, but we all know that looks can be deceiving, especially in the culinary world.

Two full plates of food arrived before us and I was very eager to dig in. I started with the papas con chile and worked my way around the plate counter clockwise, tasting and analyzing each aspect of the food and this is what I was discovered. The papas is a mashed red potato dish with chopped peppers, cheese, and sour cream and was by far and away the best thing on my plate. It’s a very telling sign when the side dish is the best aspect of a meal, a side dish by the way that had no business being on the menu at a Mexican restaurant, but was delicious nonetheless. I tasted the refried beans and while they tasted okay, something about the texture was off. A layer of film made of congealed beans made up the top layer of the traditional side and once again I felt as though we’d been given reheated leftovers. The cheese enchilada was my favorite of the main dish items solely because of the good flavors coming from the melty cheese inside the tortilla. The sauce on top was alright but nothing spectacular and the tortilla which wasn’t heated, threatened to make the dish horrible, but as it does with so many things, melted cheese came through and drastically improved the situation.

The beef enchilada had the same sauce and same underrated tortilla but didn’t have the same redeeming flavors that his counterpart to the right had. The absolute worst thing on my plate at Abeulo’s last night was the crunchy beef taco. For as long as I can remember I’ve always preferred a soft flour or corn tortilla when it comes to eating tacos and the awful taco I had last night justified my preference. The taco shell was stale and left a horrible after taste in my mouth but the worst part was the meat on the inside. It was clear that the beef had been sitting out for a while as there were visible bits of hardened, congealed grease stuck to the meat. It was somewhat warm so there had been an attempt made to reheat the meat but it was a very poor attempt that failed miserably. My wife’s chimichanga was cold and there was an overall artificial flavor about the dish that I wasn’t able to pin down where it was coming from. It was cool, again giving us the impression that it wasn’t prepared fresh.

Overall I’ll rate it a four out of ten because of the excellent service, the modern comfortable decor and atmosphere, and the papas con chile which had no business being on my plate but was the most delicious thing on there. I can’t say enough good things about the waitress and while I thought the food was pretty terrible it was very obvious that she loved it and really enjoyed working there, which is always nice to see. Once we got to the car my wife and I both agreed how terrible it was and that we would never go back. There are several good Mexican restaurants that we’ve been to so far in Memphis and this was not one of them, so we won’t be wasting out time or our money at Abuelo’s ever again.

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