new Mexican option in Kingston
Wednesday, January 28 2015
In Uptown Kingston at the southeast corner of Wall and Front Streets is a piece of commercial real estate that is now housing the third restaurant that has occupied it since we moved to the area in late 2002. The first restaurant was a mediocre Chinese place ("Chop Suey") where a small group of us went to celebrate immediately after Gretchen and I got married at Family Court. We soon found better places and gradually stopped going, though we felt guilty about it. Then the Chinese restaurant moved out and was replaced by a surprisingly-good Indian Restaurant ("the Kingston Indian Restaurant") that was actually run by Bangladeshis. But eating there wasn't always pleasant (particularly when it was busy) due to their procedure of spraying WindexTM on the glass-covered tables as part of the process of cleaning them. The chemical fragrances in Windex clash badly with the spices used in pretty much all Indian styles of food. Eventually a better Indian restaurant opened on Albany avenue, and we stopped going there, though again, we felt guilty about it.
Recently the Kingston Indian Restaurant closed down and quietly moved out, soon to be replaced by a new Mexican restaurant. This was exciting, because we've had a greater need for a good Mexican restaurant than we have for an Indian restaurant where WindexTM often wafts over the curry. Gretchen had checked out the menu and it didn't seem particularly vegan friendly, but we thought we'd give it a try tonight to see if it might be a good venue for my birthday. I like to celebrate my birthdays at Mexican restaurants.
When we walked out of the 14 degree evening into the large dining room, there was only one occupied table: a little girl, a woman, and a man. In any other context the woman would have looked fat, but next to her morbidly-obese husband, she looked positively fetching. That man probably gets his money's worth when he goes to a buffet, but there is no buffet at the new Mexican restaurant, so tonight he was single-handedly paying the bills.
Alberto our waiter was a young man with black hair, hipster glasses, and a gloriously unprofessional manner. As we looked over the menu in search of alcoholic beverages, he said that the place didn't yet have a liquor license, "which sucks." Though apparently of Mexican parentage, he was fully Americanized. Later he would tell us that he doesn't even like spicy food.
We explained that we are vegan, and Alberto immediately volunteered that this wouldn't be a problem, that his mother (working in the back) could make anything vegan and that he himself had even been vegan for a time.
There had been chips and salsa brought to the table, and because neither had been especially good, we were a little worried about how the food would be. That all changed when Gretchen's black bean soup arrived. (Why hadn't I ordered any, and why, when I'd neglected to, hadn't Gretchen reminded me? I always get the black bean soup when it's available!) It was so good that I had to help her finish it. (Alberto explained that it was partly made from scratch and so ordering it this late would take too long.) Then came my vegetable burrito and Gretchen's vegetable tamales. I'd gladdened the heart of Alberto's mother by telling Aberto that she should feel free to spice my burrito up, so it was aflame (though not excessively so) with habañero heat. We both agreed our meals were delicious.
When Alberto's mother came out from the back, we explained that we'd like to come back to celebrate my birthday, and maybe have them prepare us lots of vegan food family-style. We'd also have to bring our own pitcher of margarita and six packs of the kind of beer I like to drink.
We learned a lot about Alberto and his mother. They said that the of the reason they're so adept at making vegan food is that they're members of a protestant Christian sect that goes vegan for 21 days every year (near Lent). They live in Phoenecia, and Alberto is in the process of transferring from Onteora to Kingston High School, a huge downgrade in quality. To make his classload easier, he's taking Spanish, though this means he knows much more Spanish than his teacher. Occasionally tonight Gretchen would jump into the conversation in Spanish, and Alberto praised her accent, saying it wasn't tan fuerte.
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