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Texas Enchiladas

Enchiladas, part 2

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Enchiladas, part 2

avi | Oct 3, 2003 11:40 PM

Having read Hungry's Sept. 27 posting about his special solomente enchiladas needs, I decided to take my own advice and eat at Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen. So I took my copy of Rudyard Kipling's Collected Poetry in case I had some time to read, and headed to Houston's far, west end of Westheimer.

Things are good for Sylvia's these days. It has moved to a big, colorful place, clean and upscale. Kind of a less crowded and quieter Tiempo, if you will.

And Sylvia is there indeed, doing great pr - circulating, greeting, kissing and hugging her repeat customers, looking great in a svelte black dress and draping matching sweater. She was by far the best looking women in the lunchtime crowd. What's more, as Tevya fantasizes in Fiddler On The Roof, she was obviously in her element …"shouting at the servants day and night." Woe to the waiter that does not refill the ice tea quickly enough. Beware, busboy who is slow to clear a table. Refill your chips, senor? Pronto, pronto … “Tote that barge!" "Lift that bale," you gets a little drunk an' you land in jail” – oops, sorry, wrong allusion.

I certainly don't begrudge anyone success, not with 15 types of enchiladas to pick from, all named after Valley and Mexican cities - mostly appropriate, too. Take, for instance, the "Crystal City" spinach enchiladas. Crystal City is, after all, the spinach capital of, well, probably, the world. "Tampico" celebrates shrimp - camarones - as do the namesake enchiladas. "San Miguel" enchiladas are "Suiza", that is, Swiss. I thought they were supposed to be shredded chicken topped with a pinkish/white cream sauce, a veritable lake of calories and cholesterol. Sylvia's version is topped with a thin, light, tomatoey liquid... but, my waiter insisted, every one makes it a little different, just like the variations in the color of the tortilla chips in the tortilla soup, si? Fine by me, as it did taste kind of all right, but just like everything else I tried there, BLAND.

Why bland? Because Sylvia’s seems to be segregated in the conventional old fashioned sense, like some holdout bastion of southern gentility: the staff is Latino, the diners are Gringo. And the food, of course, is geared to the tall blue-haired ladies and their pale escorts who dine there, not to the staff who are not paying guests. You can call your dishes whatever individual names you like, but if they all seem to have the same personality …? Henry Ford famously said: "You can have whatever color you want on your Model T, just as long as it's black".

And even more to the point, as I discovered in my reading, Kipling, though no progressive, was right after all:

Oh, North is North and South is South, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither North nor South, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong enchiladas stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

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