This evening I headed out from my hotel again, a location in mind and knowing what I wanted already, Italian. As I walked in, “Sorry, our kitchen’s already closed.” It’s surprising how often I’ve heard this in Downtown Billings.
I wandered a few blocks down, Chinese didn’t look good tonight and nothing on the menu at The Rex spoke to my cravings. I rounded the corner, headed back to my hotel and there was Don Luis, hey look, people inside, eating! This seemed very hopeful for an open kitchen.
I am exceptionally leery of eating at any Mexican restaurant outside the Southwest because I have had bad meal after bad meal. Someone had suggested Don Luis before and i balked at the opportunity because of my numerous prior bad experiences. I got a really good feeling as I walked in the front doors, soda from Mexico right on the counter, this might work.
After several minutes perusing the menu I settled on something that included my all time favorite Mexican restaurant item, chili rellano. I believe it was the C5 I ordered, a chili rellano and beef taco with rice and beans. I also ordered beer battered zucchini as an appetizer.
The waitress brought the chips and salsa, I thought, “here goes” and dipped a chip in the salsa, flavor, actual flavor I would have hoped for, needed a little salt to bring out the flavors, but real actual salsa. This really was looking up!
There was only one3 waitress working this evening and she had me and a table with 13 people, they looked like they’d all but finished dinner. I saw my zucchini come up and where was my waitress, over at the counter doing something on the computer, several minutes passed and I was getting annoyed.
There was another girl, seemed like she was another waitress that just got off work, but think she recognized the look on my face and got my waitresses attention, the zucchini arrived almost immediately with an apology. She also asked if I wanted ranch, yes. I despise, DESPISE, ranch dressing…except with fried zucchini.
My waitress disappeared to fetch the ranch and somehow ended up back at the computer doing whatever she was lost in before. Now I was getting really annoyed. The light turned on, she grabbed my ranch and offered another apology.
I worked on my zucchini and noticed a plate appear, I looked around and except for the big table, there was nobody else the food could have been for, fantastic! I worked on the zucchini until I realized that if i had much more, there would be no room left for the chili rellano. I pushed the zucchini away and waited…waited…the seasons changed, or so it seemed. I was about to the point of walking up, saying forget the rest, I’ll pay for the zucchini and drink, when her light came on again. It looked like she was going back through each and every transaction that day or something.
So my dinner had arrived so i dove in. As I’ve said before, I almost always try the beans first because if a place can’t do something as simple as beans right, there’s not much hope for anything else to be good. These were…good, a nice mix of creamy beans with whole beans, pretty much exactly what I consider perfect beans. I sampled the rice, not as much punch as I’m accustomed to, but different and good. I think I ate all the rice right then and there. I tried the chili rellano and well, I grew up with Sonoran style food and this was Jalisco style. Not bad, just different than I’m accustomed to so I will not pass judgment one way or the other. Finally the beef taco, I hate when they say they’re serving beef tacos and then it turns out to be hamburger meat, especially unseasoned hamburger meat. This was actual shredded beef with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese all on a properly fried corn tortilla. I just cringe at the idea of flour tortilla tacos, flour is for burritos.
I was two thirds done when the full light came on, the waitress was still over there doing whatever she was doing, what horrible service I thought. I was already imagining what I’d say in this article. I watched the waitress as she distributed tickets to the big table. That’s weird, I though they were about to pay when i arrived?
Finally the people at the big table got up and the waitress came to see me. She apologized again and told me that only after she’d given them their combined meal ticket did they inform her that they all, all 13, needed separate tickets. It had taken her the half hour or so that I’d been there to sort that mess out. I mentioned that when I eat in a group we always tell the waitress upfront that we need separate tickets.
You know what, this I can understand, this I can forgive. Suddenly it was perceptible, my feelings about Don Luis improved. I had the misfortune of arriving just as my waitress was hit with something unexpected that would take her time to complete. I started to notice the decorations, the decor, nice, Mexican without being that over the top, gaudy, cheesy Mexican you see so often.
Would I go back, yes and next time I’ll try and be more patient if i notice my server spending a disproportionate amount of time at the computer, especially if they are serving a table of 13 people.