Restaurant Reviews

Cafe? On Aisle One.

Page 3 of 3

And I didn't have even that when I stopped in at Fiesta. You didn't ask, but here's the story, okay? I took my girlfriend to the airport that morning and watched her leavin' on a jet plane / don't know when she'll be back again. It was a bad morning, and it made me hungry, so I stopped off at Fiesta, which has two groupings of eat-in tables, one by the coffee bar and the other on the opposite end of the store close to a prepared-food counter that had all the usual stuff, including some suspicious looking "40 percent off" sushi. There were roasted chickens, fajita meat, fried fish, fried chicken, burritos, egg rolls, corn dogs, some chunky greasy-looking beef things, sweet and sour chicken, corn, assorted veggies, beans and rice. There was also a menu heavy on the Mexican selections, with enchiladas, gorditas, flautas, quesadillas, tamales, caldo de res, pozole, menudo, barbacoa, carnitas, chicharron and Joya and Jarritos sodas. The decor is red and white tile with hanging paper hats, and the glass cooler sparkled with gelatins and puddings and clear plastic tubs of salsa.

It should have been festive as hell, but all I wanted was comfort food. One of the three platters offered on special was fish, two pieces with two sides -- I picked the kernel corn and a vegetable mix of steamed cauliflower, carrots and broccoli. The corn was hot and little more, the vegetable mix too tough for my plastic fork and the fish was stale. Later, I thought to ask what kind of fish I'd eaten, but the woman who'd served me, unlike Wendell Berry, had no earthly idea what was on the plate.

It hardly mattered. I barely put a dint in my heaping helping, so distraught was I over the loss of a favorite dining companion. Maybe I would have enjoyed my solitary meal more had I been more chipper, had a stiffer upper lip about the whole departure thing. After all, grocery stores have traditionally been, and for all I know may still be recommended as, suitable pickup joints for singles cruising the aisles. But like all pickup joints, from President and First Lady to Emo's, they can be incredibly sad and lonely places.

So if you eat in a grocery store, choose your food carefully (and go before the steam trays have crusted their contents). And for Heaven's sake, take a friend.

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Brad Tyer