Hal Wastes His Wages

You’ve got to hand it to the good people at Taco Bell for having the cojones to feed us these lines, but I feel it’s my duty as a consumer to call them on it.A few weeks back they were pushing their “Chicken Caesar Salad Burrito,” featuring an ingredient that they referred to quite simply as “crunchy red strips.” Now call me old fashioned, but I like to know exactly what makes my strips both “red” and “crunchy.” I’ve heard people refer to vegetables as greens, but nowhere outside the realm of popsicles and Kool-Aid have I ever known red to be a flavor. Take that redness, make it crunchy and turn it into little strips that garnish a fast food, and I want answers.

Now in their latest ads, they tout the merits of a new “Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito,” which features a “Full ½ Lb. Of Flavor!!!” Oooh-a “full” “1/2” pound, eh??? How ’bout I just reach into my “genuine” “imitation” leather wallet and see if I can scrape together the buck for this fully half-assed con. But at least the “Full ½ Lb. Of Flavor” features real flavors, and not some ambiguous “sticky blue chunks” or “squishy green blobs.”

While I like to mock the Bell for assuming its target audience has the same level of intelligence as its employees, I have been known to make the occasional run for the border and I do somewhat regret the fact that there isn’t one geographically convenient to me. I won’t say the food is great, I’ll just say that it’s consistent, and I never like to use the words “experiment” and “Mexican food” in the same sentence.

Probably the safest way to pick a good Mexican restaurant is to eat where actual Mexicans eat. I developed this theory years ago while working in Cancun for a month and I got so sick from dining at tourist traps that I actually upchucked my Imodium. After recovering from that bout of Montezuma’s Revenge I decided only to eat where the locals ate, and it was then that I discovered the best food in the area came from the cheap roadside taco stands. There I had the ultimate in Mexican cuisine-a simple form of the taco, consisting of beef (I hope), pico de gallo (not the Tostitos crap we get here, but freshly diced tomatoes, onions and cilantro), hot sauce (to taste) and a squeeze of fresh lime wedge. I swear this was the only food down there that I could tolerate, and I have to say it even went down well after a night of cervezas and tequila-much like the savory, grease-laden chili dogs or fries with gravy we crave here after a good night out.

Ever since coming back from Mexico, I tried to find something close to this simple taco, but had never been able to get it just right. Either the sauce was to overpowering, or the salsa was out of a jar, or there were some strange, ambiguous crunchy red strips involved. I started to get paranoid, wondering if perhaps it was Grade-Z donkey meat that made those roadside tacos in Mexico so special. Then finally I found a place close by that pulls it off.

La Gloria de Mexico (602 Palisade Ave., Jersey City) offers a wide range of authentic Mexican food, including tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, as well as an assortment of specialty dishes you won’t find at an Americanized chain restaurant. The fact that most of the menu is en Español shows that the steady clientele can back me up on this one. The restaurant offers dine in, take out or local delivery.

So if you’re ever in Mexico, hit the roadside taco stands. If you’re ever in Jersey City Heights, hit La Gloria de Mexico. And if you’re ever anywhere that offers you “crunchy red strips” in a meal, hit the road. If they ain’t tellin’ what they’re sellin’, then I ain’t buyin’ it.

If you know how I can effectively waste $50 in the Metro-area, please write to:

“Hal Wastes His Wages”
c/o The Current
1400 Washington St.
Hoboken, NJ 07030
or email c_halleron@yahoo.com


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