Bland Mexican

Gordo's Mexicateria is nice, clean and inexpensive. Too bad the food's basically tasteless.

The claim to fame of Gordo's Mexicateria, compliments of its former owner, is the catch phrase: "If you like chimichangas... if you REALLY like chimichangas..."

Well, I like chimichangas... I REALLY like chimichangas. So, I figured: What the hell?

I visited Gordo's on a recent Thursday lunch with Francis, The Weekly's intern. Gordo's is located in what's rapidly becoming a prime location, at the corner of Pantano Road and Broadway Boulevard, along with the new Home Depot and, soon, a Kohl's department store.

There's a lot to like about Gordo's. For one thing, the prices are cheap--$5.49 for all-you-can-eat lunch, and $6.49 for all-you-can-eat dinner. Even the à la carte prices are reasonable; tacos, burritos, tostadas, tamales, enchiladas, soups, fajitas, nachos, chile rellenos and, of course, chimichangas are available. (For the record, all of these items are available for carry-out and catering.) Plus, the atmosphere's nice and clean--if a little cheesy (fake clay roof tiles, for example) and bright; it had the look of an over-decorated chain restaurant. The service was great; all the employees we encountered were friendly and eager to make our dining experience as enjoyable as possible.

Too bad the food was not good.

Don't get me wrong; it wasn't disgusting, inedible or somehow poorly done (i.e. overcooked, etc.). It was just consistently bland. I understand that at buffet/cafeteria places, the food tends to be somewhat plain to appeal to the masses. But I have eaten at many buffets in my life--I lived in Nevada, the Buffet Capital of the World, for most of my life--and Gordo's takes the bland cake.

On my way through the cafeteria line, I got a little bit of almost everything: rice, beans, a ground beef taco, a beef tamale, a chicken enchilada, two chicken taquitos and several of the mini chicken chimichangas. Francis got most of the same stuff, with a cheese enchilada instead of a chicken one. He also got some of the squash soup, called calavacitas.

Looking at my notes from the review, the same words keep coming up: "bland" and "so-so." The beans and rice were almost tasteless. The shredded beef in the tamale seemed unseasoned. The same went for the chicken in the enchilada and the taquitos. Even the mini chimichangas, offered in both chicken and beef varieties, were bland as heck. The dough had more taste than the chicken--seriously. (In an odd twist, there was apparently a mix-up in the kitchen; twice I ordered both chicken and beef chimis, but both times I got only chicken ones.)

The entrée with the most taste was, oddly enough, the calavacitas soup that Francis tried. I had a few bites, and while it didn't knock my socks off with flavor, it was good. The zucchini and onions, mixed with just a bit of pepper, made for a mellow, but palatable mix.

Chips and salsa were also served with the meal. While the chips were nice and fresh, the salsa was incredibly spiceless. It made Pace Picante's mild stuff seem powerful.

For the record, Francis agreed that most of the food was bland. However, he seemed pretty high on his cheese enchilada, which he referred to as "pretty cheesy."

The folks at Gordo's also offer desserts: sopapilla, empanadas (apple or cherry), fruit chimichangas (apple or cherry) and fried ice cream. Francis decided to try the fried ice cream ($1.89) and I got an apple chimichanga ($1.50).

The desserts were the best part of the meal. Francis' fried ice cream, topped with an ample amount of whipped cream, was decadent and delicious. My chimichanga came topped with vanilla frosting, and it was delectable. The apples were fairly bland, too (few extra spices were added, it seemed), but the tasty dough and frosting made up for that.

We left Gordo's full, but not satisfied. This is a good place for parents to take their kids, or for people who like bland food (and there are plenty of folks like that out there). It's a nice place, and our server was as sweet charming as they come (if you get all-you-can-eat, you get the first go-around yourself, while the server gets seconds, à la carte items and everything else).

But if you like good, tasty Mexican... if you REALLY like good, tasty Mexican, go somewhere else.

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