Late Night Scene: Spanish Flower

When it comes to restaurants, I generally think costumes are a bad sign. It says to me that instead of getting, for example, Mexican food, you are getting "Mexican food." So when greeted at Spanish Flower by a young woman in a Three Amigos version of traditional Mexican dress, I'm amused (okay, very amused) but a little disappointed.

Tables of young-ish white people line the walls, but we are seated in the middle of the room. It's a little bit unsettling, and adding to the impression that we are the center of attention is the fact that we seem to have two waitresses. Their timing is so uncomfortably off, it's almost comedic. One takes our drink orders and asks if we want queso, and as soon as we decline and Waitress No. 1 disappears, Waitress No. 2 sneaks up on the other side to see if we'd like any chile con queso. Kids in Mexico hawking chicle on the beach could learn a thing or two about persistent sales tactics from these smiling servers. Of course, viewed less cynically, it could be just an overeager attempt at good service -- the offers of refills are so frequent, I'm almost convinced there will be an upcharge for them, but I'm happily proven wrong when we get the ticket.

The horchata is light and tasty, but the first food on the table is a basket of thick, dry, almost inedible prepackaged chips and some bland, watery salsa. The main dishes arrive. The beef, spinach and mushroom quesadilla is fresh and delicious, and the tacos al carbon are simple (no grilled onions or peppers here) but good, even though the refried beans are a little bland and the meat is tough. An order of tamales -- hold the chile con carne, add a little cheese -- comes out covered in a bright-yellow mess of melted cheese that obscures the tamales themselves.

Around midnight, several tables are pushed together for a big multigenerational group, complete with young kids who are not going to be focusing well at school tomorrow. It's our cue to head out, past the shiny papel picado and the Spanish tile and the costumed waitress putting fresh tortillas into a wicker basket. Adios, "Mexico."

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