Saturday, May 7, 2011

Los Ocampo - St. Paul, MN

D.Rough called me and told me she and Rita were going to meet me at Los Arcos (it's one of our favorites - thank you, OurManFlip), and I should join them. I hopped in the car and headed there. While I was in the parking lot waiting for them, she called back and said change of plans - a handful of roller derby people were going to Los Ocampo in St. Paul and I should meet them there. I hadn’t eaten at this location, since I think it’s fairly new. But I’ve been to the Taqueria Los Ocompo in the Midtown Global Market and just thought it was alright. I was certainly willing to give it another shot – perhaps with something different this time.

A lot of things look good on the menu, so it took me a while to decide. I finally went with the Pork Pozole, since I’ve been talking about having some for months. I also got a standard margarita, since it was getting close to Cinco de Mayo. D.Rough got a Huarachazo combo and a coconut margarita. Which, we found out a few minutes later, got translated as a Coke and a margarita. Hilarious. And we were unable to finish all of the random cokes on our table. The server was REALLY awesome though and had some fun with us the whole meal. Great guy with a fun sense of humor.

The margaritas and chips and salsa arrived at our table a short while later. The chips and salsa are pretty standard, but really hit the spot. I really thought we’d go through more baskets of chips than we did, but I think we were all talking so much, we didn’t have time to shovel chips into our maws.

While we were waiting, we noticed almost everyone in the restaurant was watching and LOUDLY responding to America’s Funniest Videos. Yes, the Tom Bergeron show with amusing clips of kids whacking their fathers in the nards. I’m not kidding you when I say it was like a trained studio audience with everyone laughing and “owwwwww”ing at the same time. For the entire show. I’ve never seen anything like it. Classic.

The food arrived and looked really good. This was actually one of the best looking bowls of Pozole I’d seen in a long time. Plus it comes with more stuff than any place I’ve ever been. It comes with a plate of garnishes for the soup – onions, lettuce, limes, avocado, radishes, and a small cup or chilies and oil. THEN, it also came with two tostadas with beans and avocado on them. This is all in addition to the giant bowl or red piping hot soup they had just brought. We ran out of room quickly at our table, so we had to consolidate.

If you’re not familiar with Pozole, then GET familiar with it. It is delicious and hearty broth with pork (usually) and hominy in it. Be careful when you order it though. Some places use a more traditional recipe with really scary random pig parts – just warning you (chew fast and power through it, I say). This was nice chunks of recognizable pork and a lot of hominy (which is just corn, so don’t be scared by that). I added everything on my accoutrements plate except for the onions and dug in. I was surprised the broth wasn’t more flavorful. I was a tad let down. I added more of the chili to spice it up a bit and it just got spicier, but didn’t add anything flavor-wise. It was a little greasier than I’ve seen and just a bit on the flat side – not bright and flavorful like I’ve had. The meat was sort of the same way – usually it absorbs the flavor of the broth, but since there wasn’t enough, it didn’t work out so well. Of course, that didn’t stop me from eating the entire thing. Hahaha. It just wasn’t mind blowing.

The same went with the tostadas – they were fine and filled me up the rest of the way, but they weren’t anything to rave about. They were just alright.

I tried a bit of D.Rough’s Huarachazo – a flat oval of fried corn meal piled with traditional Mexican food toppings like an open faced taco on a corn meal shell. I’ve had their huarache before and it too was just ok, so I was hoping for something better than what I had previously. This followed suit with the prior experiences, however. The same just-ok flavor without much to write home about (which technically IS what I’m doing, but you know what I mean). Everyone else seemed equally OK with their food, but no one raved about it or proclaimed they would have this restaurant’s babies.

On our way out, we passed a coat/hat rack with 4 or 5 sombreros hanging on it. D.Rough asked if she could try one on, and I told her “No!! Those belong to people eating here!!” Yes, I probably overstepped a line there, but sometimes you just have to throw it out there for a laugh. It’s a small price to pay for comic genius.

Top 5 things about Los Ocompo
1. Really good server
2. Extremely large portions, including the beers
3. Expansive menu – one of the biggest I’ve seen
4. The people LOVE their AFV at this place
5. It is actually a fun lively place and the employees genuinely seem happy to be there. Thank you!

Bottom 5 things
1. Flat-tasting Pozole
2. Plain-tasting Huarachazo
3. Average Tostadas with large slice of uncut avocado that should have been cut even if it ruined the look of the thing so you can actually eat it (yes, I know that was unnecessarily lengthy)
4. We should have ordered the white queso chorizo dip for our chips. I think that would have made my day better. Rita, D, and I love our meat dips.
5. I think the margarita could have been stronger, but I’m pretty much always going to say that

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