I am notorious for saying that all food at family Mexican restaurants tastes the same. I am very predictable in my ordering habits as I usually order two enchiladas—one beef, one chicken—whenever we eat at a sit-down Mexican restaurant. I have scarfed down hundreds of enchilada/rice/bean platters in my day and, to be honest, whether I am eating at Azteca in Spokane, Fiesta En Jalisco in Missoula, El Sombrero in Walla Walla, or El Cerro in Myrtle Beach, my main course doesn’t taste that much different to me. Credit it to a taste bud deficiency on my part.
However, although I usually don’t detect a lot of taste variation with my enchiladas, there is a part of the Mexican restaurant dining experience that does stand out to me: the chips.
A Mexican restaurant can have an immediate impact on me based on the quality of the item that is brought out the moment you sit down. You better believe that in my eyes, not all chips are created equal. The perfect basket of tortilla chips can make me your customer for life.
So what makes that “perfect basket” of chips? Well, let’s start with temperature. If not piping hot, they better be at least warm. The illusion must be given that they just came out of the fryer, even if someone just popped them in the microwave for 20 seconds before bringing them to your table.
Second, thick chips win the day. I know many people prefer light and delicate but I want something that will allow me to dip it in salsa with minimum breakage. Third, let’s not forget about what should matter the most—the taste! A chip that is perfectly salted and very slightly seasoned with that fresh fried taste is the way to my heart.
Fourth, any basket of chips must be accompanied with a decent salsa. For me, I prefer a smooth and flavorful salsa over a chunky and tangy one. I enjoy anything that is spicy so if the salsa at the restaurant is going to make me sweat I won’t take any offense. Extra points to all restaurants that offer a red salsa and a green salsa.
Finally, I am a stickler for chips that are bottomless. I need to eat a basket right when I sit down followed by one while I wait for my food followed by one with my dinner. Servers who bring my table more chips before our current baskets are empty receive public recognition, a 5% increase in their tip, and the honor of knowing that we will likely be coming back to the restaurant.
Happy National Tortilla Chip Day, my friends. Is there a Mexican restaurant that you feel has the absolute best chips? Please tell me about it! Don’t Blink.