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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life is Like a Wet Burrito at the In-Between Bar

We drove by the restaurant...if you could even call it that. The football-size parking lot was nearly deserted. Grass sprouted up through all the cracks in the asphalt. The exterior was a muddy gray and screamed for a new paint job. There was no sign. Well...there was a board on the front with letters, but it was so dirty we could not make out the wording.

Even so, we knew this was the place. We'd been here before about six years ago and enjoyed a memorably delicious Mexican meal. Back then it was not actually a designated Mexican eatery. It had been owned by an Italian guy. But they served to-die-for enchiladas and burritos. Go figure. Today, it was high noon. We were in the neighborhood. And we were craving Mexican food. We decided to take a chance.

After entering the front door, we were blinded by the darkness. It was so dim inside, our eyes took a while to adjust. When we finally got our visual bearings, we saw that the place was practically empty. Only one table was occupied by four people. The inside was huge. It reeked of millions of stale cigarettes from years gone by, even though smoking was now outlawed on the premises. Dozens of tables and roomy but worn, vinyl-clad booths were vacant. There was a big, long mahogany bar, a bunch of pool tables and a stage. We saw no servers. At this point we considered leaving.

Suddenly from out of the darkness, a waitress appeared carrying a yummy looking pizza for the foursome at the table. She acknowledged us and suggested we could sit anywhere. We recalled that there used to be a charming outdoor garden seating area and we asked if it was still in use. The young woman cheerfully escorted us to the far end of the dingy dining room and opened a door to a lovely, alfresco patio with fresh, clean air, plenty of tables and tall sun umbrellas. It was a perfect weather, blue-sky, end-of-summer afternoon. Yet, nobody was outside. We had the garden to ourselves. By this time we were feeling adventurous so we plopped down at a table, opened a faded green umbrella to shade off the sun and decided to order.

I couldn't help but stare at our server. She was covered in tatoos. Hell Kat was emblazoned across her forearm. She had these weird, round, bright blue, ring-like things pushed through her ears. The effect was that they created a hole in her lower ear lobes big enough to shoot giant marbles through. Yet, she had a pleasant face and a perky smile and was very friendly.

The place offered a $5.00 lunch special. We each ordered a half burrito, no rice or sides and a light beer. We figured a small burrito would not be too filling but hopefully satisfy our crazy Mexican food cravings.

Hell Kat was back in a flash with icy cold beers, chips and salsa. The chips were homemade, large, flavorful and crispy and coated with an unusual but very tasty chili powder mixture. Yummo!  Since she had no other customers, Hell Kat, chatted with us for a bit and told us that the place had undergone several owners over the last few years and lots of name changes. At one time or another, it was called 36th Street Bar. Then Larry's. Then Frank's. Both Italian fellows who had a peculiar affinity for Mexican food. Now she said it's the In-Between Bar but they haven't changed the sign out front for years.

We asked how the place could possibly remain in business since there were virtually no lunch goers except us and the 4 folks inside. She said most of their business was in the evenings and on weekends with Kareoke, sixties rock bands, boomers and a hefty biker crowd. Ahhh, so that explains it.

In no time, Hell Kat returned with our half burritos. Half portion? An understatement to be sure! On an oversized dinner plate, sat an enormous, steaming hot wrapped tortilla...the size of a football...fully loaded with enough beef and cheese and sauce to feed a ravenous gang of bikers. A scrumptious red sauce smothered the burrito but left just enough room on the side for freshly cut lettuce strips and rosy, ripe tomatoes. We dived into our food. It was out of this world delicious. It even surpassed the memorable meal we had there six years ago. Amazing.

Between bites, we pondered how the place could afford to serve such large helpings and cram their burritos with such delectable meat/cheese fixings. Most likely the cook was a different one from previous years. But those wet burritos were still the best-tasting wet burritos we've ever had. It seemed a shame that the establishment was so run down. We pipe dreamed about how we could buy it, refurbish it, paint the outside, add lots of flowers and white table cloths and come up with a clever name. Then it was time to go. Hell Kat gave us take-home boxes. We loaded up much of the food we were too stuffed to finish, left her a hefty tip and fumbled our way back through the gloomy interior out to the car.

Later, it occurred to me just how much life is like a wet burrito at the In-Between Bar. Sometimes you have to forge through the darkness to get to the good stuff...because it's often in the most unexpected places. But always worth taking a chance. Sphere: Related Content


Fran Hill said...

Life is Like a Wet Burrito should be the name of a song. Only .. what would rhyme with burrito? Maybe it would have to be 'Life is like a Burrito that's wet'.

Tom said...

Isn't it grand when you stop at an unlikely place and it turns out to be a super surprise. Doesn't happen often -- but I guess that what makes it so special when it does.

Btw, been enjoying your Wild West Adventure, esp. since we're planning a trip for next year, altho' we intend to go a little father south and stay at a little lower altitude (since we, too, are flatlanders).

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

What a great story! And I think you're right, we have to take a chance, go outside our comfort zone, plod through the darkness, in order to find some surprisingly delicious moments. When I was much younger, I craved going to expensive fancy restaurants. The experience was never as delightful as what you've just described.

Susan Anderson said...

Sometimes those hole in the wall places are best of all.


Lo said...

I gotta have one of those you think they deliver?

ivorybow said...

I am a Texan, who has been living in Romania for 3 years. I do love it here, but your story reminds me of some of the things I miss...the little hole in the wall Mexican restaurants all over Austin. Now those are places for good eatin'!

Anonymous said...

The reason why the place is still in some sort of business AND making somewhat of a profit is simply because the owners did NOT fix up the joint. That keeps the overhead low.

In a restaurant, all that matters is the food when you get right down to it. No matter the ambiance, serve horrible food and lose all your customers. That's Restaurant 101.

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