I remember sitting on one side of the table and my sister and her friend, Laurie, sitting on the other side. I was a teenager, maybe around 15 or 16 and they took me to Luis’s Mexican Restaurant. I don’t remember why, I just remember being happy they took me. In my memory, it was one of those things I appreciated. Big sis and her friend letting me tag along.
The walls of the place were covered with pictures of Luis with famous people — boxers, actors, politicians. The restaurant was one of those places with different rooms that spread off of each other. We sat in one of the rooms in back.
I had never been to Luis’s before. We looked at the menus. We ordered our food. Ten seconds later, it arrived at our table. Seriously. The thing about Luis’s … well, it’s difficult to describe, but … the refried beans and rice were served by the scoop. Ice cream scoop, that is. Arriving in perfectly round balls. And the burritos and tacos were probably more traditionally Mexican food than what you get at modern Mexican restaurants. It was very simple, basic food — that apparently could be plated and served in 10 seconds or less.
In the years that followed, the group I hung out with a lot during my college years spent a lot of time at Luis’s. For a couple of years, we got together most Friday evenings and played a game of softball with however many of us showed up. Afterwards, we went to Denny’s or Luis’s. I have no idea why it came down to those two.
Another mystery was that when we could drink legally, we added pineapple daiquiris to our meals at Luis’s. Nope, not margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. Not cervezas. Pitchers of pineapple daiquiris. For some reason.
Luis’s closed down probably 10-15 years ago.
Another culinary tradition my sister and her friend Laurie handed off to me was the incredible combo burrito with green sauce at Taco Bell. It was probably right around the same time that they exposed me to this. And for something like 35 years, that’s been my go-to at Taco Bell. Yes, it’s fast food. It’s crap. It’s junk. I should stay away from it. But those Taco Bells are just about as ubiquitous in California as McDonald’s. For more than 20 years, the fast food restaurant closest to our house is a Taco Bell. It’s right there, and I have found it difficult to resist its siren call.
All these years later, it’s been all about the combo burrito with green sauce. With a slight wrinkle. When I was in college, another student who worked in the office where I toiled away agreed that the combo burrito was the thing, but insisted you had to get extra cheese. So, yeah, I added extra cheese to my order.
Every once in awhile, I branch out. I get a Mexican Pizza — if that doesn’t say Mexican food, what does? Or some of their other things — a few years, I went through a short phase with the Enchirito. Topnotch stuff that was. But more often than not, my order has consistently been two combo burritos with green sauce and extra cheese.
Something has changed. It just doesn’t sit well anymore, if you know what I mean. The truth is that is one of the consequences of Taco Bell. The not sitting well. When I travel and we need to stop and get a quick lunch and then keep going, I never get Taco Bell because you never know when it might make its presence felt. If you know what I mean.
But it’s more than that these days. I’ve started moving away from the tried and true combo burrito with …
I think it’s another sign of getting old. Pray for me. 😉