pancho villa.

There is a Mexican restaurant in my hometown named Pancho Villa. You have likely been to it before, even if you have never been to the small town of Lenoir, nestled in the North Carolina foothills. My experience with Mexcian restaurants is that most (but not all) of them are pretty much the same. The name, location, and the decor might be different, but the food is the same. In Boone, this restaurant was named Dos Amigos. In Winston-Salem, there were several, but the favorite was named La Carreta. They all had the same chips and salsa and the same lunch specials. I favored the Burrito Grande with steak, which is the #8 at Pancho Villa. It might be a different number at other places, but I assure you, they have it. Just like they have several burrito, enchilada, fajita, and quesadilla combos and something else called a Speedy Gonzalez.

There is nothing wrong with these places, of course. There is a place in my world for generic Mexican restaurants. They're cheap and reasonably tasty. Not spectacular, but consistently decent. I never go to one of these places on my own, but if I were going out to eat with other people that wanted to patronize one of these establishements, I would not mind. I would get the Burrito Grande and be happy with it.

The one in Lenoir has a giant margarita, which my parents were obsessed with for a while. It was served in a foot-tall stemmed glass, one meant for holding dinner mints or kittens or something less decadent than a tequila-based mixed drink. It was like buying a pitcher of margaritas, but in a great big silly glass. Every time my parents went to any other Mexican restaurant, say Dos Amigos or La Carreta or whatever it's called in your town, they would ask about the giant margarita. And though I spent a couple of paragraphs telling you that all of these Mexican restaurants are essentially the same, they do not all have giant margaritas. They have margaritas that taste exactly like the ones at Pancho Villa, and you can order them by the normal-sized glass or by the pitcher, but not by the giant novelty glass. I think my parents have finally gotten over the giant margarita, because they don't ask about it anymore. Now they are obsessed with the boot-shaped glass you can get at Texas Roadhouse if you order the Texas Iced Tea. They don't even like Texas Iced Tea, and yet they have ordered enough over several visits to supply themselves and each of their children with a boot glass. They tried to order a margarita in a boot glass once, but the waiter wouldn't allow it.

In any case, I am relieved that they are over the giant margarita, because it turns out that 27 is not too old to be embarrassed by your parents asking the waiter ridiculous questions about huge liquor drinks. I will let you know if I ever find out when too old for that is.

Anyway, the whole reason I started talking about generic Mexican restaurants is to tell you that you don't need to go to them anymore. I've found that learning to cook has absolutely ruined my desire to go out to eat. And let me tell you, I used to love to eat out. When I was growing up, we hardly ever ate out, because we were frugal and practical people. When I grew up, I was a frugal and practical person, but I had a serious weakness when it came to restaurants. I would force limits on myself, because, it's so stupidly expensive. But now I can cook, and I can just make for myself something that is as good as or better than a lot of restaurant food. It never even occurs to me to stop somewhere for a midweek dinner anymore, whereas I used to have to talk myself out of the unnecessary expense. It's not that I have more will power, but the appeal is gone.

Basically, I've turned into my mother. She never liked to eat out at places that served food that she could just as easily make herself. So we never went to Shoney's, and I don't think she likes Cracker Barrel much either. I feel the same way about those places. The better I get at cooking, the more restaurants I cross off my list. I crossed Pancho Villa (and Dos Amigos, La Carreta, etc.) off my list after the first time I made enchiladas.

I have two enchilada recipes in my regular cooking rotation. They are both better than the Burrito Grande and they make a lot of food. When I make enchiladas, I am prepared to eat them for lunch for days. Seeing as how they are so yummy, I am totally okay with that.

Beef Enchiladas
Instead of using her canned sauce variation, I make my own enchilada sauce from this 10-minute recipe. It makes just enough for two-thirds of the enchilada recipe, so I cut the rest of the ingredients accodingly. I also use flour tortillas, but I still fry them for a few seconds, like she recommends. The reason for that is just because I did it that way the first time, and I liked it. Using the giant burrito tortillas, this makes 10 enchiladas, which fit very snugly into a 9x13 baking dish.

Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas
I'm not sure if this is actually healthier, but it seems like it should be. I ended up baking three chicken breasts at 350 until cooked through in the spice and herb mix she recommends in the article, and it was yummy. I would like to experiment with other fillings besides fresh spinach, which is a bit pricey. Don't be scared by the homemade salsa verde and sour cream sauce - they are totally easy to make. You can get tomatillos at some regular grocery stores, but they are incredibly cheap at Latin grocery stores (as is cilantro).

And, just for my parents, here is my margarita recipe. You can serve it in whatever kind of glass you want.


MOM said...

I followed the link and downloaded the margarita recipe.
It is Daddy that is wild about the boot glasses.
And he always asks for "unsweetened water" at restaurants. That embarrasses me.

Carla said...

Cooking will start to wear on you after a while when 1 cooking session does not last you for 5 meals. We are getting to the point where I am having to 1.5 or double my recipes (not hard, of course) to get another meal's worth of leftovers, and it is my policy that leftovers are a very necessary thing. Preparing 3 meals from scratch in one day is tiring (not to mention the clean-up).

And I have to disagree w/ you on Pancho Villa. Doug and I love Mexican food and theirs is definitely a notch above the generic Mexican restaurant. The decor, location, and menu selection are the same (I prefer the Burrito California there), but the service is extremely fast and friendly and the entrees are very good. We try to go there every time we visit Lenoir.

I like eating out, though on trips I am sick of it by the 2nd day. I tell Doug I just want some "real food". Even if I have to make it myself.

I should send you my buffalo chicken wrap recipe. It is really yummy and easy.

Sandra said...

If the menu is the same, what's the difference?

I am sure you are right about cooking getting old when you're doing it for more than two adults. I'm glad that I learned to cook before I have any munchkins so that I can build up a repetoire. It gives me time to experiment with new things whenever I want.

Carla said...

The menu is the same but the food tastes better. Maybe it's fresher? You can get pizza at any number of places, including homemade, Papa John's, Little Caesar's, Domino's, or Pizza Hut. But if given a choice, I'll choose homemade or Pizza Hut (Domino's is acceptable). PJ always gives me some sort of intestinal discomfort and LC is just totally subpar. PV's food is flavorful w/o being so spicy you can barely stand to eat it w/o drinking a gallon of water along w/ it. I ate at Don Pablo's one time and everything was crazy spicy, even the refried beans!

Carla said...

I want to clarify that those aren't the only establishments that offer pizza, nor are they my preferred places (besides homemade). I find that the local, non-chain pizza joints usually offer the best pie.

Sandra said...

You should try dating a guy who works at an Italian restaurant. Last week he brought home a calzone and a veggie pizza.

Actually, you probably shouldn't try dating a guy who works anywhere. Your husband wouldn't like it.