Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Texas Ribs At Altozano Morelia

Costillas Tequila-Serrano, image from Texas Ribs web site
It was with gleeful anticipation that I recently read of the opening of the Texas Ribs restaurant at Paseo Altozano in Morelia. In fact, with the nearly concurrent opening of the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) in the same vast shopping center in its mountain top aerie, preceded by a Carl's Jr. restaurant; the American presence truly has more than a foothold in the Michoacán capital city. Some expats exult at these developments while others recoil in horror. Imagine your shame when your expat friends see smears of bbq sauce on your face or pancake syrup stains on your shirt!

I replied to all that cultural angst with the comment that IHOP does not send out press gangs to roam the streets, seizing unwilling persons and carrying them to its lair in order to force feed them pancakes.  Neither does Texas Ribs stretch its captives on a rack of ribs. You go there only if you want to.

As I am 100% free of encumbering cultural prejudices, I wanted to visit both the IHOP and the Texas Ribs (but not in the same day, thanks). We'd eaten at Carl's Jr at an earlier date, and were not pleased with the food, especially considering the prices. I am not a worshipper of the Goddess of Fast Food.

Santa Hamburguesa
Let it be understood that although I'm a real bbq aficionado, but I'm still quite willing to degrade myself in an orgy of hands on rib gnawing and finger licking, even in a non-authentic venue in a modern shopping center high on a mountaintop in Michoacán. The mall appears to be pet friendly.

Where're the pickup trucks?
Here's a photo of a real BBQ shack:
Add caption

We three, Jennifer Rose, Sra. Cuevas and myself easily found a seat in a booth at the back of the large restaurant. At 2:30 p.m. on a Thursday, the dining room was empty of customers. A glass door leads to a smoker's area, which was deserted at the time, with large windows offering a spectacular view of Morelia and several saucy posters of Jane Russell in "The Outlaw". The windows were admitting strong blasts of cold air and the staff eventually closed then all.

View over Morelia 
I always respond to the statement, "nice view": "You can't eat the view." So let's turn now to the food.

Our young, earnest but rather unpolished waiter inquired if we wanted to order an appetizer. We'd scarcely opened the menus. When we had a moment, we decided we had to have Aros de Cebolla— Onion Rings. As some of you may recall, I have extensive experience with onion rings. While we waited for our onion rings, we got our drinks. The beers are served in frosted mugs. They ought to be, as they are $42 pesos each.

The onion rings are presented in a Nouvelle Drive-In style: a vertical tower on a platter squizzled decoratively with bbq sauce. These rings are pretty good, if more than a little greasy, and not quite brown enough. $109 pesos!

Aros de Cebolla
The condiments arrayed on the table were extensive and varied. A caddy of six bottles of bbq sauces offered different tastes but in reality not dissimilar.

Your choice of sauce, as long as it's sweet
Both Sra. Cuevas and Ms Rose decided to have the signature Baby Back Ribs ($189 pesos) and I las Costillas de Res Brontosáuricas ($209). (Available in larger portions. I can't imagine it.)

Each plato fuerte is accompanied by your choice of two sides. Ms Rose had steamed mixed vegetables and fried mixed sweet and white potatoes. Sra. Cuevas the mixed potatoes and some frijoles bbq style. In a continued effort to be authentic, I had French Fries and a dish of frijoles bbq. I'm not sure if I saw cole slaw on the menu.

Baby Back Rips with healthy sides
The ribs were excellent; the baby back ribs came with a light coating of sauce. I ordered my beef ribs without sauce. They were massive and they looked good. Unfortunately, they were not hot. I asked that they be taken back and heated. It was only 5 or so minutes that they returned, beautifully charred and willing to be seized, nibbled, devoured and licked. The French Fries were crisp and delicious. The frijoles were pretty good. I liked it all, but especially the ribs.

Costillas de Res. From Texas Ribs website
We looked at the dessert and coffees menu but were not tempted. The color photos of the desserts made them appear industrially manufactured, average cost $89. We went instead to Starbucks for coffee and a light dessert.

An unexpected touch of luxury was when our waiter came with warm, moist towels for us to clean our faces and hands.

Ms Rose and I later exchanged emails discussing the positives as well as the negatives of the restaurant. We agreed that the dessert menu needed serious revamping. As to the composition of the clientele, that was more difficult. I hope that we can continue that discussion here.

We got our check; $850 pesos. There was a dollar conversion below the peso total. $70 USD. Oiga, Señor; estamos en México. Aquí pagamos en pesos.

The Ratings:

Food: *** 1/2

Service: *** (Earnest, tried hard, needs polish)

Costs: $$$ 1/2 Drinks, apps and desserts greatly drive up the cost.

Restrooms: Super sparkling clean and modern. Multiple recipients.

Bottom line #1: I would return, but not frequently. Very enjoyable experience overall.
Bottom line #2: Remember, we are not really in Texas, or any other United State.

Location: Av Montaña Monarca Norte 1000,
Jesus del Monte Altozano
Morelia (Paseo Altozano)

LUN-JUE 13:00 hrs. a 00:00 hrs.
VIE-SAB 13:00 hrs. a 1:00 hrs.
DOM 12:00 hrs. a 22:00 hrs

(01) 443 2041302
(01) 443 2040744


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Bagels Can't Be Choosers

Us Mexpats seem to be preoccupied with cravings for favorite foods that are unavailable here. I am not immune. But sometimes,  when an item is made available, they still seem unsatisfied because it doesn't meet certain standards of authenticity.

A recent example was a discussion on the Expat Mexico Forum* of where to buy bagels in Querétaro. Suggestions were quickly offered to the bagel hungry expat that, among other places, one could get them at Costco. We know those bagels. They are pretty good, in spite of being neither hand made nor boiled. Wake up! We're not in Brooklyn. These bagels, made by Einstein Bros. under Costco's Kirkland label toast nicely and taste good. We've seen them available at the Morelia Costco in Plain, Sesame and Asiago flavors. Am I going to whine that they don't have Poppy? Nor do they offer Everything topping? I'm happier yet they there are no Chocolate Chip or Blueberry bagels here. Those are abominations.

NO! I'm happy with these facsimile bagels. They are a lot better than the Mexico City baked bagels I used to buy from the freezer case at Mega Comercial. Those were borderline acceptable. I ate them grudgingly. Einstein-Kirkland's are much better. If I want authentic, water boiled and even handmade bagels, I get all I want when we visit family in New Jersey. And while I'm in New Jersey, I refrain from dining in Mexican restaurants, because I don't want to be disappointed by a lack of authentic technique and ingredients.

*The Expat Forum Mexico is unique, in that it doesn't allow the use of Spanish in Forum posts. Or any other language other than English. I was shocked when an innocuous post of mine was deleted, according to Rule # 6. Posts shall be in English. But going 'way off topic—as I have done here— is no problem. You just gotta love 'em.

Now, for an authentic bagel experience, I offer you the Hot Bagels in Brooklyn video. Eat and be happy you got a bagel at all.