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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Acapulco

Remember that old Onion story about the "Area Man Confounded by Buffet Procedure?" That was me Friday around noon at Acapulco near the Ramada on Center Park Road off south 14th St. I drove by because I was kind of curious to see if they were still open nearly a year after the last time I'd been there. The sign out front said they had just reopened and now had a weekday lunch buffet. I hadn't yet decided on where to have lunch so figured I might as well give it a try.

I walked in, sat down and was quickly greeted by a young woman who took my drink order. I then spent a couple of minutes scoping out the buffet. It was laid out in an L shape with plates situated between the two buffet tables. The shells, taco and tostada, were at the far right end of buffet near the salad and fruit. The beans, rice and meat were to the left of the plates.

I finally grabbed a plate and then walked to the end of the table to grab some shells. This is where I was first disappointed. There were 3 kinds of fried corn shells but no soft shells of any kind. I picked one taco shell and one sort of hybrid taco/tostada shell that was more like a little bowl. The shells did not stand up well to teeth, pretty much falling to pieces after one bite so I wound up eating variations on taco salad.

The beans and rice were pretty standard for a Mexican restaurant - soupy, refried pinto beans and orange rice. The meat selection was pretty good but nothing was hot. It was like the buffet table wasn't warmed up yet. There were two types of chicken - chunks cooked in a green sauce and shredded white meat cooked with peppers and lime juice. Neither were very good. The chunks were kind of tough and didn't really hold the flavor of the green sauce. The shredded chicken was on the verge of disintegrating it was so soft. There were chunks of pork simmered in something that didn't give any flavor to the meat beyond pork. It was very tender though. The steak fajita meat was also quite bland. There was also some grilled fish I didn't try and some cheese enchiladas that seemed to be mostly filled with air.

Luckily, Acapulco has several terrific salsas to spice up and add flavor to the meats. One was kind of spicy and heavy on the smoked paprika I love so much. Another was super thick, almost like spaghetti sauce, and the spiciest of the bunch although not hot enough to satisfy the hot sauce warriors out there. There was also a really nice fresh-tasting mild salsa. In fact, all the salsas seemed like they'd just been made.

As good as the salsas were, they couldn't really make up for the rest of the buffet. I'm not sure what I was expecting from a $5.99 Mexican buffet but hot food and good tortillas would have been at the top of the list. I'm tempted to try it again in a couple of months if they're still open just to see if they've improved since their recent reopening.

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