Thursday, October 2, 2008

Santa Ana Blues

I'm currently in Santa Ana for the next ten days as part of a 17-member review team, associated with my day job. I've only been to California once before, and that was when I went to San Francisco in July for the RWA National Conference. So while I wasn't thrilled about the long flight out to the west coast, my boss assured me that he'd take me to see the sights, and we'd eat some fabulous, authentic Mexican food.

I love Mexican food.

You can tell me we're going to Hell, but if you tell me there'll be homemade tortilla chips, spicy salsa, and a salty Margarita waiting for me when I get there, I'll be the first one to sign up for the trip.

So tonight, we worked late and didn't head out to dinner until about 7:30. I hadn't eaten anything since 6:00 that morning. I was so hungry I would have foregone Mexican food just for something--anything!--to fill my stomach. The hotel recommended an authentic Mexican restaurant called Las Brisas. The office we were visiting also recommended this restaurant, so we figured it was probably a safe bet. I envisioned soft lighting, salsa music, maybe a man dressed in traditional Mexican dress, playing guitar and serenading us while we sipped on margaritas or sangria. Here's a picture of the Las Brisas restaurant at Laguna Beach:

This is not where we ate. After following some misguided GPS directions, the seven of us who had ventured out, ended up in a disgusting strip mall where the sidewalk was covered with old chewing gum and the public phone had been ripped out of the wall. A homeless man shuffled past the doorways which, by the way, were protected by steel bars. Neon lights flashed in the garishly lit windows and we all agreed we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. But no, there was the sign...Las Brisas. It looked more like this:
Inside was no better...Formica covered tables under flourescent lighting, and a walk-up counter where you placed your order. There were seven of us, and after laughing hysterically for ten minutes at the thought of eating here, we decided we'd do it. The menus were all in Spanish so I ordered the only thing that I recognized...Chilis of my favorites back in Massachusetts at our favorite Mexican restaurant, The Border Cafe. We sat at a table near the jukebox, and drank a beer while we waited for our food to arrive. On a table behind us sat the congealed remnants of a meal that had never been cleared. When our food arrived, it all looked the same...runny, gray beans, some dried yellow rice, and the main entree. I had taken just two bites of mine, when something got wrapped around my tongue that I couldn't swallow...a long, black hair, twisted around my chili rellenos...I was so grossed out that I couldn't eat any more, and I didn't dare send it back. To me, the food might as well have looked like this:
So while we all laughed, I noticed that none of us finished our meals, and instead concentrated on swilling our bottled beers. So this weekend, we're determined to locate a Mexican restaurant that will, hopefully, erase tonight's traumatic events and leave us with a more pleasant memory instead. Stay tuned...

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