Growing up in Toledo, OH, I had no exposure to Mexican food. That all changed in my early 20s when I became a member of Roadshow Entertainers, a group made up of two doctors and two or three women. We played public and special events, as well as private parties with a repertoire of pop, folk and foreign language music. It was great fun. Dr. Fidenzio (Phil) insisted that we join him for dinner at Loma Linda, a tiny Mexican joint out by Toledo Express Airport. Phil ordered sampler plates (which back then were glazed pottery) for all of us and circled the table merrily dosing our food with salsa, some of which was green, with a suspicious oily black surface. I was in love.
In the year before Andy and I got married, Loma Linda was one of our crowd's favorite haunts. Prior to getting a table, you were usually packed into the waiting area enjoying margaritas and nachos topped with a slice of jalapeno. As a result of waiting for an hour or so, we would be fairly sloshed by the time we got a table. My family started going there, although my pediatrician father noted that the guacamole looked like something he'd seen in a diaper. My brothers would only order tacos, but we enjoyed exploring the menu.
Andy and I moved from Toledo to Denver, where we found some great Mexican places, including the Chili Pepper, which overlooked Bronco Stadium and the Riviera, kind of a dive with pool tables in the back. Later, it was Philadelphia and Delaware, where the choices were limited, although there were a few places we enjoyed. When we visited family in Toledo, we always made a pilgrimage to Loma's so our kids could try what we had been talking about for years. The owners decided to tear down the original restaurant and build a big new one. We purchased little brass plaques with our names and those of or friends that would be displayed in the lobby of the new place.
In 2014, I retired and we moved to the suburbs of Dallas to be closer to our two daughters and our grandchildren. Voila! There were Mexican restaurants everywhere, including about a dozen (not including Taco Bell) in our small town of Rowlett. We quickly learned where the best ones were, including our favorite, a family-run place called Arborledas. Andy loves the chile relleno, stuffed with meat or cheese, as well as carnitas, pork slow-cooked until it falls apart. We often make Mexican food at home like chicken or beef enchiladas or quesadillas. Our three grandchildren, all born here, were raised on nachos, refried beans and tacos.
Note: My son-in-law Reagan says I'm living in the wrong state because I hate cilantro (Julia Child hated it, too) which is ubiquitous in Mexican dishes. I ask for no cilantro on my food, but usually end up picking it out of the pico de gallo (a mix of chopped tomatoes, onion, cilanto and jalapeno).
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.