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July 18, 2009

Tex-Mex raises its ugly head again



I’m still getting e-mails from people wanting to know where to get Tex-Mex around here. I feel a Top 10 is inevitable.

Nothing against Tex-Mex, in spite of my headline. When you're in the mood, fajitas and a margarita hit the spot. But I am going to have trouble coming up with a Top 10 list. 

Here's Erin, for instance:





My husband and I recently moved to Odenton after living in Dallas and Austin, Texas for over 35 years - and we are in search of some good Tex-Mex food.  We've been to all the chains - On The Border, Chevy's and Don Pablo's - but not surprisingly, they all pale in comparison to what we were accustomed to down in Texas.  Also, my husband thinks Don Pablo's adds a lot of MSG to either their salsa or their tomatillo sauce because he has a tendency to get a migraine after he's had MSG and he's gotten one the last two times we ate at D/P (which is a shame because I like their Slenderita margarita that they make with Splenda)

Do you know of any good Mexican places our way?  We've been to Annapolis a few times...also, we've been planning to get out and explore Baltimore - can you recommend any good places there?

Maybe I ought to do a Top 10 Places to Get a Great Margarita instead. Also, hasn't the MSG thing being disproven? I should try to find a link so Erin can have her Slenderita margarita again.

(Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer)
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:05 AM | | Comments (54)


I like their Slenderita margarita that they make with Splenda)

Ah yes, where oh where to get an authentic Tex-Mex Spenda margarita.

What are you saying here, EL? That MSG doesn't cause headaches in certain people? News to me!

If they live in Odenton, they need to check out Pachanga Grill for Mexican food.

Austin Grill at the American Can Company in Canton. Yes, it's part of a small chain, but it's very nice and the food is good.

I don't think Baltimore has (FITB with your favorite adjective) TexMex and hasn't had any since about a year before The Cultured Pearl closed in 1998.

hmm posting has been odd lately; if this is a dupe I apologize. Does anyone else have to re-enter all their basic data with every post?

I don't think that Baltimore has had (FITB with your favorite adjective) TexMex since The Cultured Pearl closed back in 1998.

A few places do an OK job with one or two menu items and that may be about as much as we can expect.

On the food science show hosted by Ted Allen (QEFTSG) the MSG thing was disproven.

In "real" life I believe there are still plenty who differ with those results.

Why can't the Baltimore area fix this issue? We have the technology!

Really it doesn't take much more than a restauranteur recognizing the demand and then bringing a Texas-based kitchen crew over to train or stay and work.

After my recent visits to Texas I must say that a lot of the problem lies with the flour tortilla. You can't screw that up... If you get the tortilla wrong, it doesn't matter how savory of a filling you put inside.

Of course if there is a top 10 for Tex-Mex, there will be complaining from the vocal minority who will ask for equal time. So, you best start compiling a top ten list for Sonora restaurants. You may need to broaden your scope beyond the metro region in order to complete this list.

Hummm... Why would anyone want Tex-Mex when there are steamed crabs, fat soft crabs, and jumbo lump crab cakes available? Get with the program, you are now in the Land Of Pleasent Living. :-) Has Texas left the Union yet?

MSG: For many years I got killer headaches after eating at many Asian restaurants; I mean real misery. I don't know what else it could have been, but it seems to have disappeared the last few years. Is MSG-free food more prevalent now or was it me?

I want to meet whoever thinks he's disproven MSG causing migraines!

I'm not all that impressed with Austin Grill. Just........not.

Slenderita Margarita? Do we have to pretend to take this woman seriously?

I really don't understand the attraction of margaritas or tequila for that matter.

RoCK, I made Lime Tequila Shrimp for a party last night, and they seemed to be pretty popular!

Got take away from Tijuana Tacos last night, and my Texan buddy said his fajitas were very good. The onions and peppers were grilled, not steamed.

(He also said their spicing was more southern Mexican than border.)

Erin - I just had two fantastic Tex-Mex meals in the last week or so in the - a burrito dinner at El Arroyo on 5th Street in Austin and enchiladas and tacos at Garcia's Mexican Restaurant in Round Rock.

There's no place like home . . .

Ok, I'll buy tequila as a marinade, but as for a cocktail give me bourbon or rum.

I believe that the people who started the Austin Grill chain had connections to the original Chuy's on Barton Springs Road in Austin, so they may want give it a shot.

I've been very impressed by Los Portales near BWI.

In Columbia, Zapata's is very authentic, unpretentious food.

RoCK: For whatever reason your comment reminded me of Bob Edwards' recipe for a mint julep from the NPR cookbook. "Pour straight Kentucky sou mash bourbon over ice in a sturdy glass. Think about rows of mint in a garden. Think about the mint left on your pillow in a comfortable hotel room at the end of a long day on the road. Think about the United States Mint churning out coins that are used to actually buy things. Think about any kind of mint you like, but don't let any of it get near the glass."

Oh, Canon, mornings just aren't the same without Bob Edwards, are they?

Dahlink ... Amen to that! What's just as sad is that his weekend interview show just doesn't approach the quality of his Morning Edition work. There are those people who are better in 8 minutes than they are in 45. (I aspire to 15 myself.)

I use to live in AZ use to work at a Southwestern restaurant, Z Tejas Grill. The salsa from Austin Grill was the only thing that was good. Pachanga Grill is not close to Tex Mex or even Mexican. I ordered a carne asada and it was just a grilled steak. It wasn't marinaded at all. I heard Gina's Cantina off of Veterans Highway is awesome. I have yet to check it out. A hispanic woman recommended it.

My gf's mother gave us a "special spice" that is essential for her delicious soups/stews. I'm pretty sure its straight MSG.

Canon, your Bob Edwards story makes me miss him even more.

Canon, your Bob Edwards story makes me miss him even more.

For decades Old Bay was loaded with MSG. Only recently did they remove it and boost the salt content. That's why I used to always use the MSG-free JO seafood seasoning.

Old Bay is a whore.

We just at El Nayar (the one in catonsville not on Rt. 1) and were very pleasantly surprised. I gather it's technically Mexican not TexMex, but everything was very good.

Well Matt, not to be an informal Richard but it was probably good because it was NOT tex-mess.

OMG -- I recently picked up a can of Old Bay labeled "30% Less Sodium than our Original Old Bay® Seasoning." Your comment makes me wonder which original formula they mean.

I too am a JO fan, though you'll also find Costa's and Wye River Black in my cabinet. I got the Old Bay two weeks ago because every recipe for Frogmore Stew that I could find called for it by name.

This is a hike from Odenton, but well worth it for great Tex Mex: Rio Grande Cafe in Bethesda (and Gaithersburg). Excellent fresh made food. I don't know why they won't expand to Baltimore already, I'd even accept Columbia.

As far as MSG causing migraines - it def does! I have had migrines for yrs and after eliminating MSG from my diet, along with nitrates and some other foods, I have had much improvement. See "Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain" by Dr David Buchholz from Hopkins for more and/or proof.

I found that eliminating employment from my life got rid of the migraines.

(More seriously, MSG has nothing to do with mine, and taking feverfew daily helped, before I left EDS and stopped having 4 or 5 a week.)

If you eat any processed food you are getting MSG. The Bush FDA allowed it to be added to products without specify it on the label. They even allowed it to be added to YOGURT(!) as "natural flavoring". Gad zooks

I really don't understand the attraction of margaritas or tequila for that matter.

Oh, RoCK, Honey, I'm so sorry for you!

The next time you want a margarita make it with brandy instead. It's called a sidecar and it is vastly superior to a margarita even if you're using so-so brandy. Basically a margarita was adapted from the Sidecar. Yes ROCK nobody really likes tequila. IT doesn't blend well with anything. It's a dumb macho thing and it tastes like gasoline

i used to think the same thing about tequila but then found a nose for patron silver (or platinum when someone else is buying). it tastes pretty fruity and it's smooth enough to have on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. yum. a friend brought some mezcal back from oaxaca and it was thoroughly enjoyable as well. branch out passed the cuervo and you might find something worth drinking as well.

Top-shelf margaritas are good, since they use good tequila and top it off with a shot of Grand Marnier.

Good morning class. Did I miss anything? I was canary shopping in Delaware.

Woo hoo another sidecar convert. My evil plan is working.

I have been enjoying a sidecar mucho this summer. My buddy Carson at Chiaparelli's makes a fine one. I never thought about that, it IS a margarita with brandy. It's amazing that you can combine rail ingredients that create some kind of voodoo synergy that tastes so much better than the components. My preference is to use sour mix sparingly.

Sidecar fever – catch it this summer.

sour mix and rail brandy? i'd sooner sip on rat vomit.

is this a high school senior week blog or something? how about catch the dark & stormy fever? or caipirinha fever?

I know boh, I know. But it somehow works. Yes, fresh lemon juice, cognac and Cointreau are preferable but somehow it works. By rail brandy I mean E&J. There may be worse ones. I did some research Sessa's blog a few months ago. I suffer for the blogs. Ugh, wait until you read my latest experiment.

Gal pal Kimmer1850 swears that Metaxa is good in a sidecar too.

Hey, I made the Negroni the in-drink of summer five years ago. The sidecar will have its day! Now I have to convert hipster-babe Kiki.

Dark n Stormy, why that's my drink for the summer of 2009. I enjoy a few of those while I relaxing around in my pink and green.

Just so you know,

Has Obama reversed the decision to allow MSG?

i'm going to revive the rusty nail as the winter drink of '09/'10. i tend to go a little light on the drambouie.

mmmmmmmm rusty nail and tex mex :p

Sounds like a plan boh. I had a Rusty Nail once and it was way too sweet. Maybe less Drambuie.

you might enjoy the Golden West Cafe in Hamden or Los Amigos on Harford Rd in Hamilton...

I had a Rusty Nail once and it was way too sweet. Maybe less Drambuie.

I would think that diagnosis is correct, as no cocktail is ever sweetened up by adding more Scotch.

no cocktail is ever sweetened up by adding more Scotch

Drambuie (that's tricky to spell) is made from Scotch, though, isn't it?

Rusty Nails are my wife's cocktail of choice. They're way too sweet for my taste.

Drambuie is made of up Scotch, Honey and 11 secret herbs and spices.

Drambuie is made of up Scotch, Honey and 11 secret herbs and spices.

I think that's KFC

Drambuie is made of up Scotch, Honey and 11 secret herbs and spices.

Scotch and ketchup?

I can't believe that no one responded to pat's recommendation of Golden West!

i like just a splash of drambuie in a rusty nail. i think the standard recipe is 2 parts scotch to 1 part drambuie or 1 to 1 but that's way to sticky sweet. just a coating on the rocks goes a long way.

on another note, if you like sticky menus, fruit flys, an apathetic greaseball hipster waitstaff, and looooooooong waits, the golden west is your kind of place. the food isn't bad though. at least they've got that going for them-- which is nice.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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