Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Enchilada April

I miss the Bird. The Bird was my name for the original downtown Dallas flagship restaurant of El Fenix. Every major city in the southwest has an El Fenix. Its name changes from city to city. In Los Angeles, it is called El Chollo. In San Antonio, El Fenix has several different names, depending on one's personal elitism and one's sense of moral purity. El Fenix is all about a primordial Tex/Mex restaurant, from a time when Tex/Mex food was as novel as sushi in the suburbs in 1972, or pizza in the suburbs in 1946, or Afghan food in the suburbs today.

The Bird is still in downtown Dallas, near the cut-off to Waco. It's possible to walk from a downtown office building to El Fenix. I've done it many a time. It's got refried beans and rice and enchiladas and tamales and sopapillas and lots of dishes with words like grande in them.

When I was a young lawyer, and we all worked way too hard, but others of my compatriots worked even harder than I did, we were apt to hit seven or eight in the evening, and I'd suggest we go to "that noble Bird".
Then we'd make our way by foot or car to El Fenix, and chat over chips, salsa and then Tex/Mex. As the days lengthen, I'm reminded me seeing the dusk away in a dark restaurant, with tamales handy.

I used to have a theory, completely scientifically unsound, that if I ate a hearty Tex/Mex meal once a week, it had a curative effect. In fact, I perhaps had no in-take of deleterious fat as pervasive as those El Fenix meals. In my mind, though, the spicy food saved my soul, and possibly my digestion.

I worry about the rarification of the palate. When I was a kid, a TV dinner from the Patio brand people was the height of Latin-American cuisine. Now I am apt to recite subtleties in food in different states in Mexico. But for my abstemiousness, I would run the danger that one day I would be like a sad wine-drinker, reduced to chit-chat about vintages.

Yet El Fenix was a place in which I left behind my worries. In El Fenix, no partner nin the firm ever gave me a just come-uppance for my supposed manifold sins and wickedness. No date went awry in El Fenix, and no hearts were broken. Indeed, those were remarkably austere times, given that chili con carne could be involved. Nobody ever told me the kind of things they told me in social settings, like the woman at once dance club who offered me the constructive criticism that I should not wear my glasses for fear of looking "too intellectual". In El Fenix they had a fruit punch, and a tart salsa, and beef enchiladas from Heaven.

When I eat Tex/Mex now, I order carefully to stay within a pre-planned progam of dietary choices.
I have not dined at the downtown Bird in years. Yet when I finish a stressful day, I remember a solace from stress, and my youth rises from the ashes, if only for a moment.

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