Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, September 29, 2005  

The End of Dos Mundos

It was perhaps ten years or so ago that I stumbled into a new, store front Mexican restaurant in a strip mall on Fulton Avenue a few miles from my house. I had been used to stopping there to eat at Classic Burgers, but this one afternoon, I thought Mexican sounded good.

I went in and was the only customer. The fare was typical taqueria: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chili rellenos, rice and beans -- you know the menu.

I ordered a combo of three kinds of tacos: pork, chicken and carne asada (beef). They each came in a double corn tortilla which were smaller than I usually saw, about three inches in diameter. Each taco had a different sauce and seasoning. Each was delicious. Better than any I had ever tasted. The man who made it was a genius. Even the Mexican rice was better than what I usually got elsewhere. The grains were flecked with orange along the light and beautifully split grains. The refried beans were ordinary, though, which was fine.

The cook happened to be sitting at a table with two others of the staff or his family while I ate (they had no other business). After I finished and paid a meager seven dollars or so total, I went to the table and told him his cooking was outstanding.

Since then I have been to Dos Mundos probably over a hundred times over the years. It was the best standard fare Mexican food I’ve ever eaten. I’ve had upscale Mexican food with their complex Mole sauces. I’ve had Mexican food in Tijuana (terribly greasy), Los Compradres, and any number of other Mexican restaurants from corner taco stands to the biggest restaurant in America in Denver, Casa Bonita, where men dive off a waterfall into a pool twenty feet below inside the restaurant.

I eat Mexican food everywhere I go, but since I’ve been going to Dos Mundos, I have always been disappointed by all the others. This is peasant food, but it’s the best Mexican peasant food I’ve ever had.

I once tried to see if I could duplicate the kind of Mexican rice I ate there. I went online and tried a number of recipes, but it never came out as light, dry, and with split grains.

I asked the son, who was a waiter whom I watched grow up over the years from about eight to sixteen, how his dad made the rice. He wouldn’t reveal his secret. He said his dad came to the States (whether legal or not I never knew or asked) and worked as a bus boy graduating to a cook and when he decided to open this restaurant relying on the secret recipes he had from his mother.

The only thing that he said his dad did differently that he would tell me was that he used papers.



He went away and my wife and I pondered what papers could be when it hit me: papers meant peppers.

The funny thing is that the entire ten years or so we went to the restaurant only two people ever served us. A young woman and the boy. The boy maintained a rather heavy accent although he must have been going to school here.

He was also the most sullen child. He looked every minute that he hated working in his dad’s restaurant. He never smiled. Ever.

At one time in our lives, my wife and I had a late appointment every Friday afternoon that took us past Dos Mundos when coming home so we’d stop for dinner regularly. Never once did the boy or young woman acknowledge that they remembered us from our previous visits.

This was not an enormously popular place. It did a decent lunch trade over time, and a good Friday and Saturday evening business, but it was never known as a unique dining establishment. The fact that these two people never seemed to notice that we were regular customers always astonished me.

Every time I walked in and the waiter or waitress approached us, I kept hoping for a little glimmer of, “hello, how are you, glad you would come again, nice to see you again, and so forth.”

Not once did it happen. Not once. But so what! The food was delicious enough to ignore the unintended slights or general obtuseness of some immigrants.

My wife would often say that she was going to have what she usually ordered and then proceeded to tell them, but neither would ever volunteer what her order might be before she spoke nor smiled in recognition. “Oh yes, you’re always like the same thing.”

But the food was so good. They took ordinary peasant food and took it “up a notch, BAM!” as Emeril would say. It made all the difference. And it was cheap! Our bill was usually about fifteen to seventeen dollars which I’d round off to a twenty for the tip.

Tonight when we went there, something was different. The waitress was new and she spoke English without an accent. The menu was the same, but the salsa which they allowed you to serve yourself from five varieties looked strange. The chips were the same, though.

I ordered my usual. A combo chicken enchilada and chili relleno dinner. It soon came, but it tasted different. It was not as good. My suspicions were aroused.

“I think they sold the restaurant,” I told my wife. “This isn’t the same food.”

We inquired and learned that Dos Mundos was no more. Cinco de Mayo was in its stead. The originators had sold out and moved back to Mexico where they bought a gas station to run.

And I shall never eat great Mexican food again. Woe is me.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:13 AM |