The cheeseburger, pizza and burrito are a lot like those friends you have that everyone seems to like. You can take them to any social gathering and they will get along just fine. These three friends in the food world are simple yet good, which has turned them into staples on fast food menus and college campuses across America. They, like your socially nimble friend, are unflinchingly dependable. So, when someone suggests Mexican food, you pretty much know you can expect tacos, enchiladas and fajitas. Sometimes, however, even the simplest foods can reach for the sublime. For example, it is the rare burger that has it all going on: A perfect bun to meat ratio, exacting combinations of condiments—when all the stars align, a bite into the perfect burger is omnivorous bliss. Such is the case with the trusty burrito. When it's just right, nothing is better.
In this valley, where Mexican restaurants abound, a new one must break onto the scene with one of three qualities; really good food, really cheap food or an especially convenient location. Two out of three ain't bad, and the trifecta equals staying power.
Amigos Mexican Restaurant has been open just shy of a year, and after two visits, I found it serves up a healthy combination of all three qualities.
I recently dropped in around noontime to find the small but clean and welcoming space filled with the din of a hungry-looking lunch crowd.
I chose the special of the day, The Big Burrito with pork ($8.50), and ordered a vegetarian tamale ($3.50) off the reasonably priced a la carte menu, which includes tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas and chile rellenos, as well as beans, rice and guacamole.
The food arrived in short order. The Big Burrito was certainly mas grande, filled with enough food for dos amigos and spanning the length of a large oval dinner plate. Stuffed chock full with rice, beans and meat, it was artfully topped with a stripe of smooth sour cream, tomatoes, guacamole and melted cheese.
The veggie tamale was sadly de-husked and drowned in a bland tomato sauce (I love uncovering tamales myself). It tasted OK, though I will opt for the meat version next time as I was surprised (and a bit perplexed) by the lima bean I found perched on my fork.
As I tried to come to some conclusion about what I had just eaten, I felt a bit like a figure-skating judge, giving out too many points for presentation and not enough for substance. Nothing was bad, but there was nothing especially exciting about it either—dependable, as it should be. Happily, when I returned a few days later and tried a chile relleno a la carte ($4.25) and fish tacos ($8.75), which came with rice and a side of pot beans, I found I had more to say.
The warm beans served as an excellent complement to the fish taco. The flaky white fish was lightly browned (not too oily) and had a delicate herb flavor. Combined with fresh cold, crunchy lettuce and dabs of guacamole, the taco effectively lit up various sets of taste buds.
The presentation of the chile relleno was more French than south of the border. The long curving stem—left attached—broke elegantly through the egg and cheese encased pepper. It was cooked to a golden brown and covered with a smooth, bright-red tomato sauce. Three peas from the filling were nonchalantly dribbled on top, like capers or bits of caviar. Unlike the tamale, the vegetable filling of the pepper was savory and nicely complemented the earthy pungency of the pepper.
I ordered flan to go, which turned out to be excellent: sturdy but smooth in texture with that almost-burnt caramelized flavor fans of the flan adore.
On both visits service was impeccable, the waiter hospitable and helpful. Combined with the comfortable atmosphere, good food, low prices and close distance to downtown, Amigos is a dependable place to meet up with your own trusty friends.
—Anne Henderson's food friends make her very popular at parties.