I just returned from eating at Rio Loco for the third time in five days. Today’s selections: Combo 16 (chile relleno, chalupa, enchilada) and Rio Loco Dip (white cheese dip with pico de gallo and taco meat mixed in). A real chalupa, served by a fine Mexican restaurant, is nothing like the chalupas sold at Taco Bell (although I eat those too). Their chalupa was a flat tortilla topped with beans, lettuce, guacamole, and tomato.
Now, sometimes I like to torture myself by posing hypothetical questions to myself. And I thought up a good one at lunch.
But first, a little background: Up until this month, the only option downtowners had for Mexican food (and I use that term loosely) was Pancho’s. I mean, I don’t have a problem with them calling their fare “Mexican,” but it’s the word “food” that I consider questionable. Every week, they receive shipments from Sysco, cardboard boxes full of tortillas and taco meat. It tastes like they throw that stuff away and cook the cardboard boxes instead.
But now, Rio Loco is here, which has excellent food even compared to Mexican restaurants in other parts of the city, like Cafe Ole and El Porton. I see myself hitting Rio Loco 2-3 times a week as long as they and I are both downtown, which hopefully will be for a long time.
So, here’s the hypothetical question: Let’s say that one day I walk out the front door and head down the Main Street Mall toward Rio Loco, trying to decide what I will have to eat. Shrimp nachos? Tilapia? Carne asada? Hmmm… And then, suddenly, off in the distance, I hear, “Paul!”
I turn around and see two girls, a brunette and a blonde, running toward me. As they get closer I realize that it’s the Romanians!!!! They’ve come back to Memphis!
The brunette reaches me first. “Oh, Paul, you are one of the people I have missed most about Memphis,” she tells me as she gives me a big hug. Then the blonde gives me a similarly big hug. Just to tease her a little, I turn my head slightly as though I am going to give her a kiss. Her face turns bright red, and her eyes get big as saucers.
I tell them I’m thrilled to see them, and ask how long they are in town. “We are once again here for our college break,” they tell me. “We are living downtown and working at Pancho’s. You are going to come in and visit us, yes?”
So, here’s the question: If that were to happen, would Rio Loco ever see me again? Would I sacrifice my taste buds and become a regular at Pancho’s?
I have a feeling I already know the answer to that question.