Who is Los Alazanes' target audience?
The awkward location, set nearly invisibly off South Broadway, does not lend itself to serendipitous discovery. Perhaps the resident travelers at the neighboring SpringHill Suites hotel find their way there? Or maybe, in the same vein, the locals and nearby workers know it's there and so come to eat, with or without families. Or possibly some diners are just folks who have discovered the restaurant's large portions of food at reasonable prices?
Whoever the clientele, the kitchen doesn't seem particularly concerned about serving authentic Tex- (or any other kind of) Mex. That's sad, not only because the cuisine of Mexico, when done right, is world-class, but also because Los Alazanes' space is rather pretty, with a pale blue sky painted on the ceiling and lots and lots of room to kick back and listen to 98.1 The Bull playing over the speakers.
It is hard to resist tortilla chips, a "bet you can't eat just one" vice for many of us, but these had a slight taste of old popcorn. I figured an order of guacamole ($2.50) might compensate for that flavor, but what arrived was more like a creamy avocado pudding, very salty, with dark green flecks that might have been cilantro.
To get a broader sampling of what the restaurant could do, I ordered a large combination plate called "El Grande" ($9.95). It was a medley of five dishes, each of which needed work.
Chalupas, little "boats" of masa, are the ideal vehicle for savory, spicy fillings and therefore are all about ingredients. They are not as exciting if all you get is basically an underdressed tostada: a hard tortilla with shredded iceberg lettuce, a small smear of bland beans and similarly bland guacamole. A taco, also served in a hard shell and reminiscent of a the kind you'd find in a drive-through, was filled with tough, boiled chicken.
The precise origins of the term burrito are uncertain, but I always pictured the metaphor of a burro, or donkey, carrying a heavy load ... in culinary terms, this means something that is generously stuffed. This burrito traveled light: just a few spoonfuls of frijoles in a rolled-up flour tortilla. The enchilada was merely a smaller version except with a corn tortilla and a bit of what resembled processed cheese.
Without a doubt, the strangest item on the platter was the chile relleno that had been deconstructed to the point of being unrecognizable and, I must say, unattractive. There was simply a mush of seasoned ground beef — not inside a poblano chile that had been roasted, battered and fried, but rather just garnished with a strip of green chile. It was merely a suggestion of chile relleno.
I had higher hopes for the plate of chile colorado ($9.95) but, honestly, it didn't taste like much more than beef fajitas smothered in a doctored version of store-bought salsa.
Both entrees came with the so-so beans, but also delicious yellow Mexican rice studded with corn kernels.
While I am the first to support local businesses, this meal left me thinking that some of the Mexican chains are better. Perhaps Los Alazanes was just having an off night? That is always a possibility.
I would be glad to learn that my experience was atypical because, while the worse thing about this job is having to deliver a less-than-positive review, almost equal to that is the food that prompts one.
Dinner for two, with drinks and tax but not tip, was about $32.