La Comida Del Raton

When Melanie and I see each other, we consider it our personal mission to seek out the most mediocre Mexican food we can possibly find. Now granted, we didn’t start out with that goal – we started out looking for Mexican food that was actually delicious – but after about five consecutive trips to Mexican restaurants where the definition of what constituted “cheese” was apparently up for grabs, we sort of embraced our ability to find food that is nothing more than absolutely adequate and in some cases completely inedible.

We have a gift, really.

So last night we were hanging out with our friend Annie, and we decided to go in search of some Mexican food here in Charlotte because 1) we value tradition and 2) we really wanted some chips and salsa. We didn’t know what Mexican restaurants were in our area since, you know, we don’t live here, so we relied on Annie’s GPS to direct us to the nearest restaurante.

The first two places we found were closed. Not closed because it was after business hours. Closed FOREVER. And just for the record, I believe that’s what you might call FORESHADOWING.

Fifteen minutes and several miles of unfamiliar roads later, we found another Mexican restaurant. There was an illustration of a small-ish rat with a tire on the sign, so we knew that it must be just the place for us.

(A quick FYI: unless you’re opening a restaurant that’s geared toward small children and features people dancing in animal costumes while distributing platters of mediocre pizza, I’m not so sure that I’d go with a RAT as my eating establishment’s mascot.)

(But what do I know? DIsney made a fortune off of a movie about a rat who happened to be a deeply gifted chef. So just scratch everything I said in the previous paragraph and feel free to launch as many rat-themed culinary ventures as you like.)

Anyway, after we sat down at the restaurant our sweet waitress brought us some chips and three (THREE!) different kinds of salsa. I was immediately beside myself with excitement because one of the salsas was green, and for just a moment I thought maybe it was going to be something along the lines of the green sauce from Ninfa’s, which is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.

Case in point: if I had to choose between green sauce and cream cheese, I would choose green sauce.

I KNOW. Those are some strong words, aren’t they?

Anyway, I got all excited about the maybe-green sauce, so I scooped up a whole bunch of it with a chip, popped the chip in my mouth, and y’all, I cannot explain what happened next in complete sentences because it was far too traumatic for me to think in anything other than short bursts, so here is what ran through my head over the course of the next four to five minutes while my taste buds got the smackdown of my life:

– hot
– oh, really hot
– suuuuuuuuuper hot
– thousand fiery suns
– thousand fiery suns in my mouth
– thousand fiery suns just exploded
– need water
– not enough water
– would speak but tongue would fall off
– tongue perhaps on fire
– more water
– definitely not green sauce
– possibly hottest food on planet earth
– entire mouth ablaze
– forget water need ice block

Apparently it was jalapeno sauce, not green sauce. And I can say without hesitation that if I ever eat jalapeno sauce again, I will not scoop it up enthusiastically. Oh no ma’am. Instead, I will apply it to a chip with an eye dropper. And then I will eat that chip very slowly over the span of approximately two to two and a half months, just as the good Lord intended.

Lesson learned, mis amigas.

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  1. I think I nearly hyperventilated reading this post…good grief it just makes my mornings! You must have brought much joy to the Mexican “establishment” that you visited!

  2. Oh dear God, I did this exact. same. thing. about 6 months ago! Also at a rather sketchy Mexican establishment, come to think of it. Except I dumped mine all over my taco salad.


    Lesson learned.

  3. Shelley says:

    This reminds me of when I was an exchange student in Mexico. The dad of my host family tried to talk me into eating the salsa verde. On any other occasion, I would have tried it, but he had had one too many Dos Equis, so I was skeptical about his over-the-top enthusiasm for green salsa. (The language barrier didn’t help either. For all I knew, he was trying to poison me.) I mean, I knew the family was excited about introducing me to new things, but NOBODY gets THAT excited about chopped vegetables, right? For the record, I did try it a few nights later, and I will NEVER forget it. I’m pretty sure I lost a few tastebuds as a result of that culinary experience.

  4. OH MY WORD! I just laughed so loudly that I think I woke my children up.

    Hope your mouth feels better :)

  5. So funny! I ate at a truck stop type restaurant last evening and agonized over whether or not to order the quesadilla (I might not know how to spell it, but I know how to eat them!). I tried to explain to my dining companions that mexican food can go either way – very, very good or very, very bad – their really is no middle ground. It was wonderful btw!

  6. I think I would have had the same thoughts in my head, and forgive me…but probably some non-kid, very non-PG, words as well! : )

    Enjoy your time at the conference!

    Will we get a quick recap of the Blogging 101 session? I loved it when you did that before and a refresher never hurts. : )

  7. I don’t know where you live but I know Melanie is from Texas. And Texas (at least Houston for sure) has the BEST mexican (TEX-MEX) food on the entire planet. What other people call Mexican food is a shame! I’m deeply sorry for your experience. Very truely deeply sorry. I want to cry for you, really I do…because bad Mexican food when what you really want is Ninfa’s or Pappasita’s is a crime against humanity. (Can you tell I love good Tex-Mex?)

    By the way, I’m coming out of delurking status to talk about Mexican food…cuz that’s how much I love it. I found your blog through Melanie’s. Very cute blog!

  8. Oh, my! LOLOLOL I believe you got a great big mouthful of what Mexican Americans call “chile” (pronounced “chee-lay”). My former mother-in-law makes it (since she is Mexican American). In fact, she has one pot she uses for nothing but that (and I’m sure you can see why). I once accidentally used that particular pot to make Cream of Wheat.

    It was quite interesting, that Cream of Wheat.

    Anyhoo, I’d ask you how the rest of the meal was, but I’m willing to bet you may not know. How long did it take to regain any feeling in your mouth?

  9. Ha ha ha! This was hilarious! My hubby and my 10-year old son both like the hottest habanero hot sauce, and they scoop it up with their chips with reckless abandon. I think just waving the chip through the fumes wafting above the bowl is enough heat for me. Glad you survived…


  10. LOL This is too funny, I about died with your comment – thousand fiery suns just exploded… and then the fact you needed an ice block. Oh my goodness!!!
    What did Melanie and Annie do when you/they realized you just put fire in your mouth? Thanks for the laughs this morning. Although I’m sure this is funnier now than last night… Be careful up there in NC. Have a great time tonight at Deeper Still. I can’t wait for them to be in Orlando.

  11. And that would be a HOT lesson learned!!!! haha!!!!

  12. I’m a new mom, and I love the fact that you’re taking time to search out Mexican restaurants! I assume the kids were at home? You’re an inspiration for me!

  13. My in-laws live in Phoenix, and have introduced me to Viper Venom Salsa. I love, love, LOVE it… in very small quantities. :)

  14. Milk is what you needed. From now on, I trust you will start things out with a smaller sample. :)

  15. So stinking funny! I’m dying laughing over here and my coworker is looking at me all funny!

  16. Oh, BooMam! I am so sorry. I did not realize this was the weekend you were in Charlotte. Okay, you and Melanie must go to a Mexican restaurant in Concord. If your conference is at Concord Mills/Speedway Blvd. (I think it was there last year), then what you should do is hop onto I-85 N and get off on exit 55 (the Concord/Kannapolis exit). Go right like you are going to Concord. You will see a mall on your left (that I do not recommend your shopping at–of course it would give you & Melanie some really good material about the local “flavor” :). The restaurant is on the right in a shopping center (I think it is called El Vallarte or El Valle–sorry, I can find out if you e-mail me). As soon as you sit they give you a really good bean/cheese dip. They have great chicken tortilla soup :). Their fajitas are also good as well as their “Vanessa” special. And, the prices are great. I hope that helps. Of course, you may not want Mexican for a while if your mouth is on fire!

  17. Sorry, I just realize that I called you BOOMAM!

  18. HA! Are you going to Deeper Still, also? I am leaving today and am meeting my mom and 3 sisters there tonight!! G’boro is where I am from. I hope you are enjoying NC as much as I do–sorry about the awful humidity this weekend!

  19. Oh, and for the record. The 2 Mexican restaurants that are on Concord Mills Blvd. are two of the worst in town (I have a really bad story about the one across from the Embassy Suites…I hope you did not eat there. I hope it is the one that is now closed :). Okay, there will be no more comments from me today!!!

  20. It cracked me up reading both your description and Melanie’s of this incident . . . oh Mexican restaurants, how I love thee.

  21. That is too funny!!

  22. Ow!

  23. You should have asked for some sour cream sauce to wash it down with. Maybe that would have put out the fiyah!!!

  24. Beware of the double burn… burns going in and burns coming out. Memorable experience coming from someone who lives in the land of salsas and habaneros.

  25. Bless your heart! i hope your taste buds did not experience permanent damage and that you can taste bacon again.

  26. …and just think… jalapenos are considered to be a MILD type of pepper! Good thing it wasn’t habanero sauce (but then it would’ve been orange, and you wouldn’t have been so easily deceived.

  27. crying I am laughing so hard. i believe people in my office now think something is seriously wrong with me.

  28. I nearly broke a rib laughing at “thousand fiery suns in my mouth!” That is too funny! You needed some cream cheese to put out that fire!

  29. Oh, Ninfas!!!! My mouth just watered!!!

  30. I’m crying and laughing … out loud … at work … at a FUNERAL HOME!!

  31. Mexican food is my fav, but hard to find any that isn’t mediocre since leaving California and moving to the midwest. Sorry about your run in with jalepeno sauce, but thanks for sharing. :)

  32. Oh, what a disappointment!

    And Jennie’s comment cracks me up…glad to hear there is laughter in funeral homes.

  33. And milk will cut the heat next time…

  34. It’s a travesty that you didn’t find good Mexican food in Charlotte because we have it in abundance! My family is hardwired to need Mexican food at least once a week. Some of the best restaurants are dives southeast of Charlotte in Matthews and Monroe. There is a significant Mexican- and Latin-American population here. Should you choose to try again, shoot me a note and I’ll give you some names or even meet and treat you for a redemptive Mexican food experience!

  35. Hahahaha… I’m sorry, I need to be excused for just a moment. Oh lawd.. I’m so sorry to laugh so hard at your pain that I nearly need new clothing. Seriously, I think we’ve all done that sometime or another. I remember going to the World’s Fair (do they even have those anymore?) in Knoxville in 1982 and eating at a Chinese restaurant (and at a World’s Fair, it is authentic, for realz). I got something that was supposed to be spicy, and it was, in a perfect way. Until I ate a bite that included a small, nonedescript pepper that was brownish and sort of charred. And that had obviously been hoarding it’s firey heat for the past two thousand years in an earthen vat somewhere in China, only to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting American at that exact time. The world certainly stopped for ME at that point in time, and it is nothing short of a miracle that I can still blow bubbles and tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue. Oh, I feel your pain.. and still, I laugh….

  36. I live in Charlotte and my absolute favorite restaurant is a Mexican place called Cantina 1511 on South Blvd. You have GOT to try it before you leave town, it’s wonderful.

  37. My husband always gets the green sauce..and sits there and breaks out in a sweat all over his face while insisting it is the best stuff ever…
    I dont understand..

  38. Welcome to NC, Sophie!!!

    I don’t know if you read Scribbit’s blog or not, so I had to share this link with you, just in case:

    Wanna hint? Bacon.

  39. I feel your pain Sophie. I popped what I thought was a green bean into my mouth at an Indian restaurant once. You can guess what happened. Cleared out my sinuses for the next three years.

    And the hubby once took what he thought was a bite of avocado but turned out to be a chunk of wasabi. He turned red, his nose began to run, his eyes to water, and he ceased to breathe for approximately 2 minutes.

    For some reason he hyperventilates at the mere suggestion of going to a sushi restaurant.

  40. Oh, come on! You left us hanging! Was the rest of the food as exciting as the three different kinds of salsa, or just mediocre?

  41. How about the block of cream cheese with some of Ninfas green sauce poured on top? Is your head exploding with the possibilities?

  42. but was it good? the rest of the story please!!! =)

  43. Sally Green says:

    Oh girl you have a gift. You are too funny with your description. I mean this will keep me laughing the rest of the day!
    Hope all goes well!

  44. Okay I read your blog every day in my reader but never click over to comment (I know! Bad bad bad!!), but I just have to comment today and thank you for making me laugh so hard I’m crying.

    I hope you can laugh this hard at your jalapeno dip dilemma once you get the feeling back on your tongue!

  45. You have caused me to cry off all my eye makeup with laughter.

  46. shannon says:

    After hearing the same story from Big Mama….and seeing the photo, I’m pretty sure that’s not a tire, but the rat’s sombrero. Albeit a poorly drawn sombrero. Hee-hee.

  47. Which causes one of my favorite Lyle Lovett songs to pop into my head:

  48. Oh dear. As soon as I read “scooped up a whole bunch of it with my chip” I knew exactly where the story was going. My husband and I love eating at Mexican restaurants, but I have little tolerance for spicy foods and I never-ever-ever-ever touch the green salsa. I am so sorry you had to learn the hard way!

  49. My father made the same mistake with wasabi peas. He grabbed a handful of my wasabi peas without knowing what they were. I tried to stop him before he threw them into his mouth (all, at the same time), but I didn’t try too hard since he hadn’t asked me first. I’ll admit that I laughed as I watched him run like the wind to the kitchen faucet. When he came back I tried to convince him that I was laughing with him and not at him, but he may have sensed a lack of sincerity on my part. So he retaliated with a comment along the lines of he couldn’t like someone that liked those things. It was a special father/daughter moment.

  50. Oh my soul. If I had been thinking I’d have sent you info on Mexican restaurants in Charlotte. I lived there for five years. Let me know if you wanna eat Mexican in Greensboro. (I live there now. Well, actually I live here now.) Anywho, love, love, love me some La Hacienda on Wendover. Enjoy my lovely Tar Heel state.

  51. May my husband NEVER connect the words “jalapeno” and “sauce” because he is the chef and I fear said sauce would find it’s way into all our dinner entrees, thereby rendering them inedible (to myself and the children).

    Are you all so steeped in this wacky tradition that going to a CHAIN mexican place is so far out of the question?

    Although, hubby and I did have an excellent dining experience recently at a Taqueria El Mexicano #9 which, at first smell, was suspect, but turned out to be delicious. So I take back what I said and bless your continued search for hole-in-the-wal mexican food. I recommend the numbered places!

  52. Kelly in Carrollton says:

    oh dear, friend. that rat is not holding a TIRE, he is holding his SOMBRERO!!! : )

  53. Veronica Mitchell says:

    My husband once popped some wasabi in his mouth that was so hot, he STOPPED BREATHING. Scared me to death. Then he coughed, breathed, and started laughing and sweating. He thought it was great. I did not.

  54. Sister,
    May I remind you that you’ve never had a gift for figuring out logos? Por ejemplo, the “rat” is probably a mouse, à la Speedy Gonzalez, the fastest mouse in all of Mexico (Hello? Looney Tunes cartoons?). And while you may think it would be very logical for a mouse to being holding a TIRE, I believe you will find he is holding a SOMBRERO, which makes a little more sense in the grand scheme of things, sí? :) xo

  55. And p.s., if you thought it was a rat holding a tire, why on EARTH did y’all stop and eat there? Rat+holding+tire=get outta there muy rápido!

  56. LOL! I think that sometimes life is a bit like that mighty burning sauce you ate. We really should stop and investigate. We really should see what God has to say about it before acting … but instead we embrace the excitement and jump right in … mouth first – we speak when we should not have … hands first- we physically do something we should not have … head first- and thoughts we should not even entertain flow wildly … _________ first – and __________. I am sure that we could all fill in the blanks with more examples. We just seem to act … and then react as the consequences hit … and they burn. I just know that God is watching knowing that the burn is a comin’ … shaking His head … and wondering if we will take the opportunity to not only learn from it … but to actually change our behavior and choose differently next time. The great thing is that we can learn from each other as well … when we choose to share our humanness and the ways that God saves us. :)

    I have learned from your post my funny blogging sister in Christ. I will forever more test the green sauce … and will think of your story the next time I hesitate in life and ponder should I?

    May God’s warn embrace be upon you like a sweet wind.


  57. Growing up in PR, any food sign in the the island that featured a rat probably included one. If you ever go to PR and go out onto the Island – order a ham and cheese sandwich. PR food is not spicy. It is wonderful. I miss the smells. I miss the taste. Just don’t order anything but ham and cheese out on the island.

  58. Ouch.

    I would have done the same thing, only in hopes that it was Tomatillo Sauce like they have at Moe’s – my favorite “Mexican” substance on earth.

    (I have already informed my husband that if I ever get pregnant again, that will be what I crave.)

    At any rate, I feel your pain.

    Well, actually I don’t and I’m glad of it, but I’m sorry you had to feel it.

  59. Just a little hint. If you ever find yourself in that situation, your mouth on fire, eat a packet of sugar (real sugar not the sweetener) and it will cut the burn. My husband lived in Las Cruces, NM and learned that little trick there. Have fun at the conference.

  60. Oh my – you are just too funny. And of course, we are all laughing WITH you, not AT you. :) But now I’m hungry for some good Mexican food…

  61. Totally belly laughing over here
    Not at you of course ;)
    Hope you and your tongue are ok!!
    Much love

  62. hahahaha.. you’re hillarious!

    I love it too because my friend Melissa and I always have to get Mexican when we are together. It’s the best.

    I hope your tongues isn’t scarred for life.

  63. Apparently the rat from the Disney movie is not the chef there.

  64. That was hilarious. Thank you for bringing tears to my eyes.

  65. Laughing with you, Boo. Laughing with you.

    I’ll think of you and Big Mama when I eat my leftovers from last night which include enchiladas and some yummy yellow rice with Rotel.

    The first time I made the yellow rice/Rotel dish (which includes Zatarain’s Yellow Rice because it’s the best, and a little cilantro) I used original Rotel. Original. But for some reason when original Rotel is mixed with Zatarain’s yellow rice is becomes HOT! ON FIRE HOT! I don’t get it. I use the original in lots of dishes including quesos. But this dish must have mild.

    Back to your Mexican restaurant saga. Look for La Carretas next time. IF you find one you will be sure to have a better experience.

  66. Funny! You guys do have a the market cornered on bad Mexican food. Have you thought about Italian? I’m just saying…

    BTW, I love Annie! We have a few mutual friends and I got to spend the weekend with her at a woman’s retreat a few years ago. She’s amazing! Wish I could have been there, bad Mexican food and all!

  67. I am crying from laughter! I hope your mouth is better. And for the record… Bojangles is BEST at breakfast. Bojangles on a Sunday morning before church? You might as well go on to heaven now.

  68. BM, you need to try the jalepeno cream dip from Chuy’s in Austin, which is apparently expanding into the Nashville market this fall. It’s so popular that people started asking for it with their chips, so now they just serve it by default with the salsa. It’ll cure what ails you.