Qué Onda Güero? – A Thorough Evisceration of the Mexican “Bistro”

Is there any quicker way to tell if your neighborhood Mexican restaurant is bullshit than if the food there is described as zesty? How about chalkboard wall menus detailing various brunch specials? Or perhaps the mere presence of brunch specials at all? For what purpose are there rotating taps of craft beer? Surely we all know at this point that Modelo is the only acceptable non-margarita beverage for Mexican cuisine. Look around you. Is that an all-white wait staff? I guess she’s kind of tan—nope, nope. This place is boojie as fuck. Taco Tuesday used to mean something, dammit!

Below you will find a very thorough breakdown on all the things wrong with Tex Mex bistros, divided into key points, and starting with:

The Aesthetic

There’s this strange trend in 2016 where we all have to spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to make things look minimal (like those shitty new websites that everyone has these days. You know, the ones that scroll all weird). The thing is though, Mexican restaurants are supposed to be ostentatious.

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Their menus are supposed to be one million pages long, jam packed with endless permutations of roughly the same nine dishes; the music is supposed to be a deafening blend of mariachi sounds, not X Ambassadors Pandora set to a reasonable volume; and the walls are supposed to be a cacophony of cheap bad artwork, not gallery space for some yutz named Tristan’s expensive bad artwork.

Chips & Salsa

I don’t care that you grow your own tomatoes and herbs out back—it’s against the law to charge for chips & salsa! Furthermore if you do charge for said salsa it better not taste like you just dumped a can of V8 in a bowl and called it a day. Farm-to-table is cool and all but it’s not a substitute for actual flavor.

The Margaritas

Get that “artisan” bullshit out of here. If I wanted alcoholic limeade I’d… I’d… I actually can’t think of any reason that would ever sound appealing. Seriously, Tristan, just because I watched you actually squeeze the lime over ice doesn’t prove anything to me other than that you have a working set of arms. Go back and make it again, this time use sour mix like God intended. Motherfucker, you smell like La Croix.

That Fucking Logo

Hamburger Helper earned a place among the gods this year with their surprisingly dope Hamburger Helper-themed mixtape, but that is the only success story you will ever hear from a brand trying too hard. Incongruous mustaches, tweeting out words like bae and lit—leave that stuff to Applebee’s or Fridays or any of the other god-awful chain restaurants impermeable to shame. Nothing screams Agency PR Douche louder than if your business logo incorporates a mustache.

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Pretty much any place that calls itself a cantina and doesn’t have at least six shady looking dudes smoking cigars is not worth its [pink Himalayan] salt.

The Food

Unsurprisingly if you add the right mix of avocados, cheese, and spices you really can’t go wrong. So mazeltov, you serve good food. Here’s the thing though, Tex Mex is only as delicious as its authentic counterpart. For as much as they church that shit up it needs to be more than just as good as the same burritos the good people over at Senor Diablo’s have been feeding their own family for the past five generations.

The Portions

There is an agreed upon size for a burrito exceeding the $6 price mark. A good rule of thumb is if you were to hypothetically throw it out of a moving car onto an adjacent Jack Black, would it cause him to dismount his motorbike?

Location

What’s the rent like for the nearest apartment complex? Are the bike racks stacked with $800+ fixed gears? Have you noticed any artisanal soap shops nearby? Bad sign. Usually the shittiest looking strip malls have the best Mexican restaurants. If the sign makes you feel vaguely racist for eating there then the food is going to be spectacular.

Pro Tip if the strip mall has a drive though carryout then you know it’s about to be gooder than hell.

Pro Tip: if the strip mall has a “drive thru” carryout then you know it’s about to be gooder than hell.

Mason Jars?

Hard pass. While we’re at it, let’s quit with the reclaimed pallet wood shelving too, yeah?

Author: Brian Fox

Brian's waking hours are dominated by pop culture, interspersed with humankind’s search for meaning. He founded this site out of contempt for excessive consumerism as well as a futile effort to reclaim culture from the 1990's blood-soaked talons. You can blame him on Ohio.

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