Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 7 a.m.
Why we just had to get away during one of the busiest travel times of the year is anyone's guess, but somehow taking a road trip over Christmas seemed logical when we booked the hotel room in Orlando a few months ago. Granted, it was a fun getaway for a while, excepting the outlet mall traffic, but then on the ride back, I realized I was getting mentally and physically ill from road food. One more overcooked burger, oily taco, or gingerbread latte doubled with a missing manhole cover on the highway would most certainly cause hell to break loose.
So when we exited the Turnpike on PGA to give our legs a break, seeing Cantina Laredo
in the still-developing Midtown area made me feel as if I just read Apple was giving away the next generation of iPhones free to loyal MacBook users as a gratuity. (Sorry, techies, I just made that up. Cruel, I know.)
A big sandwich sign greeted us before we could even reach the door handles. On it was a photo of a monstrous, twirled, multicolored concoction. Mr. Persnickety and I decided we would indulge. After all, splitting one lousy margarita wouldn't exactly make us want to don a sombrero and dance around saying "Ole!" right?
As our hostess escorted us to a big, puffy booth, we noticed each table had a red bowl on it with two avocados. Nice decorating touch, I thought, until I noticed that the menu offered a tableside guac offering for $9.49. Ahh, suggestive selling. Now I know avocados aren't too cheap this time of year, but that still seemed a little pricey for two people to split. So we looked over the rest of the platillos Mexicanos, especialidades, sopas y ensaladas and found everything we were considering before: chile relleno, enchilada Veracruz (chicken, Monterey jack and cojita, tomatillo, and marinated vegetables), and a chicken poblano chimichanga. But then we recalled all the fried, greasy, super-fattening items we'd been eating all weekend and decided to opt instead for the pollo chipotle and honey shrimp salad.
The dishes took a while to arrive, but as we looked around this warmly decorated restaurant with a fireplace and all, we were satiated with a bowl of paper-thin corn chips--the good kind that are just salty enough and leave no oily residue in the back of our mouths--and two types of salsa. Our La Bandera margarita also arrived quickly, and I couldn't wait to suck it down. At the bottom of the glass was a small pool of bright green Midori, topped with a swirled serving of margarita blended with Cointreau and red Hiram Walker Pomegranate. I could barely spare the time to take a picture (ah, the sacrifices I make for my readers!) before plunging a straw in and slurping. Delish.
By the time my salad arrived, I had already downed more than half of the Bandera and I was feeling the effects. Granted, I could still tell that the shrimp on my salad was marinated and grilled properly, the goat cheese was nice and creamy, the greens seemed fresh, and the dressing was not too sweet. Jicama strands were more on the squishy than crunchy side, but they still added a nice touch, as did the small hunks of mango.
Mr. P. found the chipotle-wine sauce on his chicken a little too fiery (thanks to the server for warning us and providing it on the side), but he silently ate his way through the chicken, rice and marinated vegetables, so I took his near empty plate and grunting to mean he was satisfied.
All that I remember after putting my fork down for the final time was being woken up as we pulled into the driveway of my house. But my boyfriend says the story was quite different. He claims that the waitress arrived with a tray of plasticized desserts--flan, crepes, chocolate cake, Mexican apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream, and a Mexican brownie with pecans--and I broke into a giggling fit, poking at the desserts and wondering aloud whether plastic flan would actually taste better than the real thing. Slightly embarrassed, he declined the postres, paid the check, and practically carried me out to the parking lot. He says there I made some kind of joke about self-defense and he thought he'd humor me by showing me his Krav Maga
skills. Unfortunately, by the time he got the words, "Pretend like you're choking me," out of his mouth, I had already given him a Reebok to the groin and had doubled over laughing. He didn't find it so funny, but had fully recovered and forgiven my drunken ass by the time we arrived back home. I think he gave me a "Get Out of Jail Free" card since my dining suggestion kept him from eating another hot dog/French fry/chocolate cookie/Coke combo meal and polishing off another quart of Mylanta.
Cantina Laredo is located at 4635 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. Call 561-622-1223 or visit cantinalaredo.com.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.